Tai Kwun Contemporary's Artists' Book Library

Tai Kwun Contemporary's Artists' Book Library

Date & Time

Tue–Sun | 11am–7pm

Location

JC Contemporary

Price

Free of charge

General

The Artists’ Book Library is an ongoing collection of Asian artists’ books and an integral part of the Arts Programme of Tai Kwun Contemporary. Artists’ books are publications that have been created as artworks, in which artists use books as a medium of artistic expression. Often published in limited numbers, sometimes even unique pieces of art, artists’ books challenge the idea, content and form of traditional books. Tai Kwun Contemporary's Artists' Book Library is open and accessible to the public, free of charge, as a source for learning and research.


Displays

CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD: FROM KARY, TO HIRAM | QUEER READS LIBRARY_CORNER | 24.12.2022–10.04.2023

CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD: FROM KARY, TO HIRAM

It's 1996 in Hong Kong. You're a photographer and artist who cuts your teeth in London and returns to your home city to make your big comeback. Many people are returning to Hong Kong at this time. You're going out every night to hit the gay clubs with your friends. Your name is Kary Kwok. One night at the club Works, you are introduced to a fashionable artist working in design and conceptual art, around the same age as you. He dresses impeccably, in chic brands; he also pens sharp exhibition reviews for the South China Morning Post. His name is Hiram To, and sparks fly immediately. You have the same taste in music, film, and art. You both live in Causeway Bay. A whirlwind friendship ensues. This is your story. By 2001, Kylie Minogue is blasting every speaker in the city, "Can't Get You Out of My Head...." Kary and Hiram have been teaching together, working together, showing art together, and of course, dancing together. In 2017, Hiram leaves this world all too soon at the age of fifty-two. This display can be read as a love letter: From Kary to Hiram.

Curators: Queer Reads Library (Beatrix Pang and Kaitlin Chan) and Kary Kwok.

Special Thanks: Elaine Lin (Asia Art Archive), Phoebe Chuk, Diana Lin, Pia Ho, Franko B, and Tai Kwun.

Images courtesy of: Queer Reads Library

QUEER READS LIBRARY_CORNER

A display with thirty new book titles inspired by Myth Makers, including special selections by Queer Reads Library (Kaitlin Chan, Rachel Lau, Beatrix Pang). The title refers to the "corner" where most of Kary Kwok's self-portrait photos were shot at his 1990s studio flat in London. Conceptually, "corner" also represents subversion, infinity, empowerment, and resistance to power and control.

Featuring publications by: 6699 Press, Acudus Aranyian, Against Nature Journal, Aki Hassan, Ashley Franklin, Becca Tobin, Bruno Zhu, Datura Magazine (editors: Sunmi Flowers + Mar Julia), Dream Babes 2.0 (curator: Sin Wai Kin), El Sub, Gorgeous Glam Gays, Singapore, Hiram To, Ho Tam, Holok Chen + Small Tune Press, Kary Kwok, Loneliness books, Manbo Key, Mimi Wong, Mixed Rice Zines, ourself zine, Oscar Chik, Pseudonym Jones, Pui Yin Cheung, Ren Hang, Sarula Bao, Shiloh, TransFighters, Oakland, Xiyadie, Yau Ching, Zairong Xiang

Curators: Queer Reads Library (Kaitlin Chan, Rachel Lau, Beatrix Pang)

Images courtesy of: Queer Reads Library


Love Books By Artists

#LoveBooksByArtists features selections from the Artists’ Book Library—a growing collection of Asia-centred, artist-driven publications—and through its programme of talks, live events, displays, editions, workshops and special projects highlighting books as a medium of artistic expression.


Pipilotti Rist Apricots Along the Street

Pipilotti Rist, Apricots Along the Street (2001).
For more images, please click here.

At first glance, apricots don't appear on the cover of "Apricots Along the Street" (Scalo, 2001), by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. Yet closer examination reveals how the fruit spells out the full book title and the artist's name as alphabet soup letters, running along the backside of Rist's outstretched hand. Her facial profile, also visible as she playfully sticks out her tongue, is set against a sky-blue backdrop, and completes Rist's vision. As she states in the book: "It was a dream: licking pasta letters off the back of my hand."

The back cover portrays Rist as well, this time "trapped", as it were, beneath the floorboards of her 1994 video installation, Selbstlosim Lavabad (Selfless In The Bath Of Lava), whereas the book's spine depicts the dense floral array of a blossoming apricot tree, binding both covers.

Rist's scrapbook aesthetic continues inside, where fold-out and pull-out pages, stickers, and multiple images and texts are collaged together—in short, an artist book that is part catalogue, compendium, diary, document, and resource. It also poses the question: can a book be performative and unfold in time?

"Apricots Along the Street", which was featured alongside other artist publications for the exhibition, Behind Your Eyelid, provides one answer. From cover to cover, Rist's book is a sensory journey that, as with so much of her art is bursting at the seams. It also shows an impulse to share what she has retained through her art along with the promise of what an artist book can be, both for their creators and those who engage with them, in the process.


Chihoi Good Afternoon Hong Kong!


Chihoi, Good Afternoon Hong Kong! (2017). For more images, please click here.

Exploring "Good Afternoon Hong Kong!" (nos:books, 2017) evokes the experience of "unboxings" by netizens introducing the latest mobile phone or tech gadgets online. For Hong Kong artist Chihoi, this starts with a cardboard container barely bigger than a matchbox. Replete with vivid text and illustrations, its exterior and inside flaps effectively advertise the treasure trove within, including a "full colour slide viewer" in the form of a miniature plastic toy television. Sourced from a traditional factory in Germany, its retro style recalls Hong Kong's heyday as an electronics hub beginning in the late-1970s, and where "8 splendid views of Hong Kong unseen on TV" can be seen and "read". The box also contains a zine in the form of an instructional guide. Entitled "Notes on the Eight Scenes" Hong Kong's airport, Mandarin Oriental hotel, Pak Sin Leng Mountain, former Star Ferry Clock Tower and other sites, serve as backdrops to relay stories of personal and communal displacement amid the challenges of changing times. In the end, Good Afternoon, Hong Kong! is a time capsule depicting virtual travel through an analog lens. In so doing, it simultaneously "unpacks" a vision of what an artist book can be.


Haegue Yang VIP’s Union 2001–2018

Haegue Yang, VIP’s Union 2001–2018. Courtesy of BOM DIA BOA TARDE BOA NOITE. For more images, please click here.

How are the VIPs of art institutions defined? The Korean artist Haegue Yang's playful and idiosyncratic answer comes by way of "VIP’s Union 2001–2018", a publication produced on the occasion of her 2018 exhibition at Austria’s Kunsthaus Graz. Yang, who frequently incorporates everyday objects in her practice, presents chairs and other furniture, borrowed from over 100 people, in two phases: initially, as functional seating throughout the art space and then within a non-interactive setting. Here “VIPs” also serve dual roles: as exhibition lenders, and through their possessions, some of which are shown “tipped over, scattered”, the installation emerges as a collective portrait of art institutions and their surrounding cultural ecology.
The publication also addresses the operation of the cultural complex. Besides loan forms and a genealogy tracking past installations, reflective surface treatments implicate readers within its pages that deconstruct the documentary function of exhibition catalogues in a conceptually witty way.


Kaitlin Chan drawing me, drawing you

Kaitlin Chan, drawing me, drawing you (2021). Photo: South Ho. For more images, please click here.

Self-described cartoonist Kaitlin Chan has created the zine, “drawing me, drawing you” (2021), following one afternoon of the most recent edition of BOOKED: in which the artist conducted five-minute portrait sessions. During this live event, visitors were invited to have their portraits drawn by Chan, and at the same time to draw Chan themselves. Visitors could keep their portraits from Chan, in exchange for their own rendering of the artist. Inspired by the current Artists’ Book Library display, Self, as Portrait, the live drawing session and resulting zine are an experiment in looking, mutual participation, and the exchange and trading of mini-artworks.


Pratchaya Phinthong Disasters


Pratchaya Phinthong, Disasters (2015). For more images, please click here

Tai Kwun Contemporary’s curator Xue Tan selects "Disasters" (onestar press, 2015) by Bangkok-based conceptual artist Pratchaya Phinthong who is continuously thinking of how to present values and systems alternatively, this time in book form.

The book contains one stunning piece of gold leaf—the heavenly colour of Thai temples and the historic symbol of the world’s banking system; for many, this suggests corruption. This value of the gold leaf taken from Thailand equals the cost to produce the book in France. It sleeps inside the otherwise blank pages and enclosed within cover images detailing an earthquake in the Philippines, the catastrophic effects of which are mimicked by the simple action of opening the book, which turns the gold into dust.

Phinthong’s book "Disasters" hints that all matter, good and evil, is connected.

Pratchaya Phinthong, also in the exhibition "My Body Holds Its Shape", is among several artists in Tai Kwun Contemporary exhibitions whose artist books are featured in the Artists’ Book Library.


Chi Tsai Ni Topology in Bed


Chi Tsai Ni, Topology in Bed (2015). For more images, please click here

"Topology in Bed" (nos:books, 2015), a palm-sized book by the Taiwanese artist Chi Tsai Ni, presents a photographic series of peculiarly arranged pillows and duvets on an otherwise empty bed. Together with the photographer Etang Chen, Chi Tsai Ni documented these unintentional temporary sculptures recreated from memory.

The story goes like this: from around 1989 to 1999, Ni's daughter would, after returning home from school, find her parents' bed strangely arranged—duvets rolled up, intertwining and overlapping with pillows in geometric or organic forms, never repeating themselves. Prodded by his daughter, Ni recalled his younger days­ of travelling with friends and lodging by mistake in a "love motel". There they found a pile of "blanket-mountains" intended as naughty innuendos, and that would later become Ni's inspiration to recreate this for his wife. Ni's recreations of these tongue-in-cheek sculptures, presented matter-of-factly in the book, result in an awkward, humorous, yet loving peek into the ultimate taboo—your parents' bedroom.

"Topology in Bed" was printed in 500 copies by nos:books, an independent publisher founded in Taipei in 2008 by artist Son Ni, who was later joined by Hong Kong artist Chihoi. Focusing on close collaborations with conceptual artists, they produce publications that push the physical form of the book, making each limited edition a work of art in its own right.

"Topology in Bed" was chosen by Eunice Tsang, Associate Curator of BOOKED: Hong Kong Art Book Fair. Along with the Artists' Book Library, Tai Kwun Contemporary also engages with the interstices of "art" and "publishing" through its annual art book fair, as well as a number of commissioned artists' books, special projects and public programmes.


Water With Water Orientalism Z to A


Water With Water, Orientalism Z to A (2019). For more images, please click here

Produced in an edition of 50, "Orientalism Z to A" (Edition One Books, 2019) presents a reverse-alphabetical re-ordering of the words in Edward Said's "Orientalism" (1978). Created by Doha-based experimental publishing and visual research project Water With Water (W/W/W) following their 2018 residency at DesignInquiry, W/W/W ended up with this simple counter-alphabetical organisational system after sorting and re-sorting, re-ordering, and re-searching "phrases, sentiments, and other curious combinations" in Edward Said's "Orientalism"—an influential treatise on the enduring discursive hold of assumed Western civilisational unity and superiority. In a way, "Orientalism Z to A" works in the vein of literary puzzles, riddles, and interventions, from ancient antecedents to Surrealist, Dadaist, and concrete poetry. One might also be reminded of OULIPO works, such as "La Disparition" (1969) by Georges Perec, where the entire novel was written without the vowel "e". It might be helpful to think of "conceptual writing" as elaborated by Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith: to treat texts as "literary ready-mades" that undergo a set of procedures, generative instructions, or constraints.

One thus does not read the work as much as think about the idea of the work; one seeks not to be sentimental or romanticise "creativity" or "originality" per se but rather to engage texts materially. In this sense, "Orientalism Z to A" is at once a sly comment on orientalism—the "reverse" order furthermore references how the Arabic script is read from right to left—as well as a conceptual yet experiential sensation of texts in an age of informational processing. "Experiential", for one, can mean having favourite sections in the book.

"Orientalism Z to A" was selected by Daniel Szehin Ho, Editor & Project Manager, and Director of BOOKED: Hong Kong Art Book Fair. Along with the Artists' Book Library, Tai Kwun Contemporary also engages with the interstices of "art" and "publishing" through its annual art book fair, as well as a number of commissioned artists' books, special projects and public programmes.


Popo-Post Art Group Real Estate Zine: Bedtime Story


Popo-Post Art Group, Real Estate Zine: Bedtime Story (2019). Courtesy of the artists. For more images, please click here

Headquartered in WhatsApp group chats, Hong Kong's Popo-Post Art Group rejects the comforts and demands of a physical studio. In opposition to how the logic of finance and real estate limits possibilities for affordable places to live and work, Popo-Post Art Group makes use of idle and underrated spaces for their creative endeavours. Here is their guide for some real rest and recuperation.

This week, Associate Public Programmes Curator Hera Chan selects "Real Estate Zine: Bedtime Story" (2019). The zine takes the bed as a unit of measure, with the idea having evolved from a 'bed-sized' exhibition based on the premise of a model home. Thinking of the bed as a measuring device, or as a saleable lot, what kind of inhabitation is possible within this scaled-down rectangle? The zine offers up answers, with in-depth analyses of sleeping positions, bedtime literature reviews, and practical how-tos—including tips for falling asleep and dreaming sweet dreams. This is the first publication made by this emergent artist collective, and indicative of other Hong Kong-based art groups that frequently produce small-scale zines, related ephemera, and pop-up events. 


Last year, Popo-Post Art Group took part in "Under-Cover: Investigations in Art Publishing", a programme series curated by Hera Chan, Ingrid Pui Yee Chu and Louiza Ho.


Fiona Tan Vox Populi


Fiona Tan, Vox Populi (2006–2012). Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery. For more images, please click here

Like much of her art, Indonesian-born, Amsterdam-based artist Fiona Tan plays both "the traveller and the anthropologist" as a way to explore what curator Lynne Cooke calls, "the means by which self-awareness [and] self-understanding may be construed" in her book works.

This includes Artists' Book Library and BOOKED: Project Manager Ingrid Pui Yee Chu's selection: "Vox Populi" (Book Works, 2006-2012). Tan's photo book series—"voice of the people" translated from Latin—traces her visits to Norway, Sydney, Tokyo, Switzerland, and London to produce five pocket-size publications with accompanying texts over six years. Evoking family albums and travel guides, colour snapshots are grouped in sections: "Home", "Nature", and "Portraits", which draw comparisons between the cycles of life in different communities and countries. Produced before the current travel and border restrictions, they also hark back to the unguarded moments of lives lived beyond the lens.

Last year, Tan took part in "Under-Cover: Investigations in Art Publishing", a programme series curated by Hera Chan, Ingrid Pui Yee Chu and Louiza Ho.


Jimi Tsang Moments in Limbo


Jimi Tsang, Moments in Limbo (2015-2018). Courtesy of the artist. For more images, please click here.

Hong Kong artist and self-taught photographer Jimi Tsang explores the living conditions of a city perpetually in flux. The Hong Kong he portrays appears calm on the surface—and yet the sadness and tension of the city seeps through in his formal compositions and subtle observations of facial expressions and gestures. Echoes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Daido Moriyama, and Bruce Gilden emerge in the artist’s unflinching depiction of pre-and post-Handover Hong Kong.

Associate Curator of Education & Public Programmes Louiza Ho selects "Moments in Limbo", a 40-page, self-published photo-based zine by Jimi Tsang, printed in an edition of 150. The zine artfully and powerfully compels us to observe attentively, and brings us on a journey to the uncertainties of the future. The balloon on the cover encapsulates the state of affairs: something that symbolises joy and celebration is now frozen. Does this evoke something celebratory—or something in limbo?

Last year, Tsang took part in "Under-Cover: Investigations in Art Publishing", a programme series curated by Hera Chan, Ingrid Pui Yee Chu and Louiza Ho.