Interview with Celeste Fichter by Terence Hannum
Give us a brief history please. When did you start as making art books/zines, where are you based and what would you say are your guiding principles to making your publications?
I am a Brooklyn based mixed media artist – working primarily with photo, video, installation, collage, drawing, and objects. I started making books in 2013 almost by accident when a drawing turned into a series of drawings that then turned into a book.
After making a dummy of that first book (The Inactivity Book), I started looking into how to get it published and learned after much research and many rejections that self-publishing was the way to go. To date I’ve made about 20 books that range from homemade to print-on-demand, from very limited to open editions, from 12 to 88 page books. While I have no guiding principles in terms of self-publishing per se, production wise I try to always make things as simple and as inexpensive as possible and content wise almost all of my work is about language in general, word play specifically.
You seem to make a wide variety of work, from drawings, photographs and installations – what determines making a book versus an installation or photo series?
Generally when I get an idea for a piece, the idea dictates what form it should take – usually a straightforward process. Sometimes though an idea for a piece can take on more than one form and when that happens I view each as a discrete and separate work.
For example, I recently made a drawing that is essentially a very long sentence on a single piece of grid paper. Later I proposed an installation of that same long sentence written in a straight line 70 feet long, around the perimeter of a gallery. Later still I made a 12 minute video based on the sentence using almost 1000 jpegs culled from the internet to illustrate each word or phrase contained in the sentence.
I added text-to-speech voiceover from the operating system for audio. So in the end the idea of one very long sentence became three things; a drawing, an installation, and a video. If I were to make a book based on this idea, it would be its own thing and takes its own form.
Why printed material? What is it about the physical over the digital? Do you augment your work with web based approaches (please provide us with links – if so)?
There is something delicious and old fashioned? and beautiful about the book as an object, something that has a smell and a texture, something that doesn’t have light coming from within it.
I love the object-ness of an artists book. At the moment I’m kind of fascinated with display and storage, how and where we keep art books and zines in our homes. Because self published material is often thin, small, irregularly shaped, or otherwise awkward physically – they get lost on normal book shelves, wedged between paperback novels, monographs, exhibition catalogues, textbooks, etc.
It seems a disservice to art books and zines to treat them the same as we do our other books, they are not the same and deserve their own space. Ebooks and the like obviously don’t have this issue to contend with!
What are you most looking forward to seeing at the Open Space Prints and Multiples Fair?
I’m looking forward to seeing the range of new work by fellow exhibitors. I love that there are as many different kinds of publications as there are the people that make them. To me, its this variety and energy behind it that make this fair exciting. Also at the end of last years fair, PMF VI, we all clapped together. That sense of community is meaningful.
Was there a publication, zine, print or multiple that got you into creating or printing these yourself? If so, what was it? Do you still have it?
While there is not a specific piece that inspired me to start making art books, I’m inspired by the generations before me who created the likes of Printed Matter (https://www.printedmatter.org/) and Art Metropole (https://artmetropole.com/) and brought conceptual art into book form, etc. Closer to home, I was inspired by my uncle, an artist who made books in late 70s & early 80s, all of which I have looked at repeatedly over the years.
Please check out Celeste Fichter at the Open Space Publications and Multiples Fair, April 9th and 10th at the Baltimore Design School. Both Terence Hannum and BmoreArt will be participating in the PMF so please stop by and say hello.
Author Terence Hannum is a Baltimore based visual artist and musician who performs solo, with the avant-metal band Locrian (Relapse Records) and the dark synthpop duo The Holy Circle. Hannum is an Assitant Professor of Art at Stevenson University. He has had solo exhibitions at Guest Spot (Baltimore), Western Exhibitions (Chicago, IL), Stevenson University, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Gallery 400 at UIC (Chicago, IL). And in group shows at TSA (Brooklyn, NY), sophiajacob (Baltimore, MD), Allegra La Viola (NYC), City Ice Arts (Kansas City, MO) & Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (New Orleans, LA).