Re-reading the artist’s book : tracing the publishing practices of Ruth Buchanan, Michael Stevenson and Frances Stark.
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Focusing on a small group of publications by Ruth Buchanan, Michael Stevenson and Frances Stark, this thesis explores a space of practice around the contemporary artist’s book. Since the term ‘artist’s book’ emerged in the late 1960s, critics and practitioners have emphasised the fraught, in-between nature of the medium. Despite its continuing appeal, there has been little critical discussion that considers how the idea and legacy of the artist’s book manifests in the work of specific artists in the early twenty-first century, and, in turn, what this can articulate about contemporary art publishing culture. Produced between 2003-2013, the works examined provide insight into a period where there has been an unprecedented resurgence of print-based artworks and independent publishing projects. By examining the books of these three artists, the thesis charts an area of shared interest, discussing some recent modes of enquiry at the margins of different fields, disciplines and knowledge economies. It positions the artist’s book as an even more difficult and expansive concept than it once was. The thesis locates the objects in question within a broader field of practice, excavating the politics and momentum of their production, dissemination and the way they address future readers. In doing so, it reflects on how publishing is playing a more discursive role in a global, digital art landscape, and is intertwined with the complexities and ambiguities of contemporary practice itself.