Katie KerrDwelling in the Margins: Art Publishing in Aotearoa
Submission # 18
Self-initiated – Tāku kaupapa
Identity – People & Culture
Identity – Place
Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau
On the periphery of Aotearoa New Zealand’s publishing scene, there is a cottage industry of small press publishers that are pushing the boundaries of book-making. From this rich set of makers come books that are inventive, attentive and thoughtful. Books that can be genre-bending and indeterminate. Books that exist as beautiful objects, made to be admired rather than mass-produced. Despite the huge costs of printing, and even bigger challenges of distribution, alternative publishing in Aotearoa is thriving.
Published by experimental publisher GLORIA, 'Dwelling in the Margins' introduces the leading figures of independent publishing in their own words. Through a curated collection of stories and essays, thirty practitioners reflect on their craft, speculate on the changing landscape of book-making, and imagine alternative frameworks for the future of publishing.
The book is the first of it's kind in Aotearoa, and the third experimental paperback produced by editor and designer Katie Kerr. The size of a Penguin classic, with 318 pages, the book is small in format but bold in thought.
Reviewer Kiran Dass says: "Every aspect of Dwelling in the Margins is a triumph. The writing is from a variety of angles, voices and experience which is illuminating. The production itself is gorgeous from the zing of the canary yellow cover, the elegant typography and layout and beautiful photographic spreads... While the book offers us an insight into a niche branch of publishing as an alternative to commercial publishing, there is also much inspiration for imagined futures and possibilities."
The kaupapa of the project is to build critical and archival structures around a discipline-spanning practice. It endeavours to evaluate the past, consider the present and speculate on the future of art publishing in New Zealand and by doing so, review the distinctive identity of our local independent publishers. In these uncertain times, this book hopes to understand the changing landscape that independent publishers work in, as well as reimagine alternative frameworks for publishing in the future.
The effect of COVID-19 on publishing became apparent in the first weeks of lockdown with the closure of Bauer’s local publishing arm. The swift goodbye prompted us to reflect upon local publishing and wonder what a sustainable future looks like. Seeking radical and effective alternatives to commercial practices, art publishing in Aotearoa has a rich history, allowing artists autonomy and a platform for their own or a community’s work. Small presses, past and present, experiment with alternative modes of production and distribution, operating within tight parameters. The project hopes broaden the understanding of these frameworks and inspire others to pursue publishing as an art-form.
Finally, the project is also centred around strengthening a community practice. First by providing space for discourse around art publishing, allowing conversation, reflection and questioning of the craft. And secondly by supporting art publishers in more practical ways — payment of an writers fee during economical upheaval, exposure of their press to a wider audience and the support of a community that exists beyond the pages of the book.
'Dwelling in the Margins' is part of a series of paperbacks produced by Katie Kerr and published by GLORIA Books. Founded by Kerr and Berlin-based photographer Alice Connew, GLORIA is an intercontinental publishing platform for artist-made books, functioning as an experimental research facility to explore an interdisciplinary approach to publishing. The designer is heavily involved in every step of the process, producing objects that express a singular intention — from concept to design to print. By doing so, a question is posed: What happens when the designer has ownership over the publishing process?
The books place equal weight on design and content. Extensive design research is undertaken for each publication, exploring ongoing enquiries of the maker. For Kerr, this project is part of a wider investigation into the format of the paperback book. It nods to designers like Quentin Fiore and Richard Hollis who departed from traditional layout and played with alternative ways to engage the reader. In today’s world of the designer who applies themselves to anything, this methodology focusses on a single format to develop a repetitive, craft-like practice.
Furthermore, it is a reflection of a design practice that exists in the margins — in the space between client work, teaching and motherhood. It's a product of 2020, made to the background beat of politics and protests; produced during multiple lockdowns. It was designed in sync with naptimes, to the rhythm of laundry loads.
And it's canary yellow cover is screen-printed on vinyl — no mean feat!
A deep reflection on a niche yet philosophically important part of the publishing industry. The publication carves space for the designer/artist/community to research and experiment the content and overall process. The witness of one particular moment in time for the independent publishing industry of Aotearoa.
Credits & Collaborators: Designer - Katie Kerr Editor - Katie Kerr
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