Body of Books

Body of Books: The BAS Collection
An essay written for Collectorspace Publication #8  

 

Part 1: A History in B, (to be read out loud)

 

….Brush off poppy seeds. Capture a warm memory. Change your eye color. Cross Canada shopping. Do compound exercises. Don’t be all business. Wash away perm dryness… Put time on your hands! Get away from the pill. Plant some mini-tulips. Escape the daily grind. Live the sporting life. Don’t blame your hair. Expect the unexpected.[1] New York, around the year 2001. There was a book called “A 1000 things to do” by Claude Closky, and probably there was a book called “Cahiers d’Images” by Céline Duval and Hans-Peter Feldmann. Certainly there was a newspaper, called “Corrections and Clarifications” by Anita Di Bianco. They were kept together, not because they were inseparable or even needed each other very much but because together they represented a possibility, a form of thinking, and a manner of making. Keeping them together confirmed they were not a singular, one-off phenomenon, but a category.

“With the handwritten books, Closky makes piles. With the multiples, he unravels, draws out, and exhausts all possible combinations. Yet the notebooks and multiples quite often reveal the same preoccupations.[…..] The book is a product of thought as well as a vector linking the author and the reader. One “writes” or “reads a book” as one “drinks a glass,” according to the same metonymical shortcut that confuses content and container, work and “publication,” “volume” and its contents. It was this double game that brought Closky to the artist’s book. [….] As single editions, books are condemned to confinement, to be distributed clandestinely and exhibited under glass. Multiple editions can be read more widely, which breaks our fetishistic relationship to the object while giving it the undeniably hypnotic status of industrial product; that is, of an object resulting from a more or less long series of mechanically produced transformations (a sterile object, produced by a machine, which itself was made by a machine, which…).” [2]

Some more books were added, but not too many; they had to fit in a bag and they couldn’t weigh too much—a portable category. In 2002 the bag with the books traveled to Amsterdam. The body started to expand, because it was introduced into an environment where this manner of thinking, this category, was thriving. It was a shared discovery—for some perhaps a common code. Not all books that were offered for the bag, made it into the bag. They were kept, so as not to snub the book nor offend the kind donator, but separately, a second bag, a limb “hors catégorie.”

“Through similar force of habit, the term ‘catalogue’ designates any publication produced to accompany an exhibition (even if it has neither the form nor the taxonomic aim), and ‘slim volume’ is the term used for a short book of poems with only limited distribution. Due to ignorance or neglect, the term ‘artist’s book’ continues to conjure up principally the image of a hand-painted book, a book-object, or perhaps even a collector’s piece, but certainly not a banal offset-printed edition of five hundred to a thousand. For the printer, who happily has no feelings one way or the other, any bound collection of a few pages is termed a “brochure” – a definition unlikely to be put into question.”[3]

…Practice like the pros! Recharge an active dog. Put style in your step. Request itemized bills. Care for indoor plants. Stay free in Las Vegas. Pull out your lip balm.[4]  In the year 2005 the bag moved to Istanbul. The body of books tumbled out of the bag and it finally began to stretch its limbs. It was given a space in a place, and a place in space, as BAS opened its first doors in Șișhane, Istanbul. Fasten your seatbelts. Plump out facial lines. Grab life by the beans. Add spice to your life! Go on a balloon safari.[5]

The first books to come out of the bag were the ones that had been in there longest: “Artists’ books and videos conceived by documentation céline duval combine classification, editing, re-mediation, and re-circulation of images, with a view to a kind of artistic anthropology of visual culture. […]  While introducing a documentary bias into her works (Les Photographies du géologue and Les Images de Thouars bavardent, videos, 2014), the artist also pays every greater heed to the plastic, not to say pictorial dimension of the images which she appropriates and whose cultural and social representations are reliant on visual forms and constructions.“[6]

Get your head together. Carry a winning smile. Fill the social column. Don’t work in the dark.[7] It is no coincidence that the first books in the collection are what they are. Each in its own way represents a state of mind. Corrections and Clarifications is a newspaper-in-progress, an edited compilation of daily corrections to international news printed in English-language newspapers. A chronological catalogue of repetitive lapses in naming and tanglings of catchphrases, Corrections and Clarifications hints at a more than incidental relation between news misspeak and consolidated media interests.”[8]

In the same year that the books found their space in Șișhane, I first met Banu and BAS and the body of books. It had just arrived, it was still quite scrawny, even a little heart-breaking, this bundle of parts that had been scraped together and hoarded, now tentatively spread out across some spindly structures, offered up to anyone who would give it the time of day. It was generous, eager, impatient, frail, meticulous, hospitable. Take a summer vacation. Wrap up in a wink of time. Start a stable career. Take time to make time….[9]

The fact that there was now a space, had a huge impact on the collection. It started to snowball, people passing by bringing books of their own and packages arriving from all over the world. The body itself, as bodies do, had a magnetic effect, attracting more books with books, through affinity, familiarity, similarity, or through coveted familiarity or similarity. But attraction also works through oppositeness, or dissatisfaction, a notion of something lacking and the desire to add. The BAS body incorporated what was offered without losing its firm focus on the category, simply by ordering and arranging in space its head, its torso, and its limbs, some limbs loser from the body than others. Resolve an inner conflict. Put on some sun scream. Make it simple, stupid. Keep beaches beautiful.

 

In 2006 BAS, Banu and I became more firmly entangled, as we embarked on a production project called Bent, editing, producing, and disseminating 10 artists’ books in total, by different artists and art collectives from Turkey. Besides Bent, BAS engaged in other collaborations, producing and publishing researches, artists’, and other books. Because of these publications and the need to disseminate, BAS began to travel to art-book fairs in New York, Paris, London etc., recently even to Mexico City. The fairs contributed substantially to the further expansion of the body of books, as there, books were the currency with which to barter and broaden the scope of the collection.

Besides being fields for hunting and gathering, the fairs also brought people from everywhere you can imagine into contact with BAS, resulting in a far flung circle of friends who order and contribute books, visit BAS when they travel to Istanbul, or invite BAS and Bent for a host of presentations, exhibitions, talks and projects. Sell your house online. Dress better for less. Think before you speak. Achieve all your goals. Shop the world by mail. Uphold your reputation.[10]

 

Although basking in this bright global gaze was fruitful and formative, BAS would be pointless unless it confronted and engaged with its own physical and local context. A period of self-reflection ensued, and a product of that scrutiny was the decision, or the realisation which occurred sometime around 2009, that a production without a discourse would always teeter on the brink of being a hollow exercise. As a consequence, BAS shifted its focus from production to more discursive events and projects. Learn how to multiply. Don’t be disappointed! Make sleep a priority. Put the world on hold. Show your true colours.[11]

Discover another world. Do something delicious. Face up to your future.[12] Unchangingly, at the core, the backbone and the base-structure continues to be a body of books that began in a bag, brought together by one person’s obsession. There have been interns, volunteers, and collaborators involved with BAS, but even so it still mainly evolves around that person, being Banu Cennetoglu, its founder and initiator, the driving force determining its mental and physical framework, and its critical conscience. Being an intrinsic part of Banu’s practice, BAS is an element within a constellation of other elements, of artistic production, research and an exhibition-practice. Therefore the project falls under the same scrutiny for urgency and necessity, and that “personal” and artistic scrutiny exists under the pressure of the complexity of BAS’s immediate geographical, social, and political context. The project was and is therefore always suspended in between conflictuous internal and external forces. Forget science fiction. Drink plenty of fluids. Exercise without angst. Find the time you need.[13]

 

The conflict of internal forces came to a head around 2013. A recurring desire to stop, quit, break, change the confines of habit, to resist existing for the sake of existing, and unresolved (perhaps unresolvable) plaguing questions on the who-for, where-for and the why of the BAS project, caused it to almost grind to a halt. It did not however close its doors and besides continuing activities concerning Bent, the work of Masist Gül[14] and sporadic collaborations, other less spectacular, more reflective practices developed, such as a monthly reading group: a group of varying but consistent formation that gathers every month around one of the books in the collection to read, analyze, contemplate, and to consider that object.

The possibility of closing, temporarily or permanently is as yet unexplored. A different option, and a potential “emancipation” of BAS from Banu and her practice, is now about to be embarked on. From June 2016 on, for at least one year, BAS will be laid in the hands of Yasemin Nur and Seçil Yersel. Forget exotic imports. Get a free travel bag. Don’t just make dinner. Reveal your best skin. Get the best fake tan. Send yourself to camp.[15]


 

Part 2: Scoring the collection

 

Since the day in 2005 that I first entered BAS’s space in Șișhane, I have spent intense moments up close and personal with the body of books, and more recently with vast amounts of space and time between us. In order to reconnect to the collection, but also to choreograph interactions between the human bodies at BAS and the body of books, I sent several scores to be performed in or with the collection.

 

Two scores:

Day 1, Tuesday 15th of March 2016

The Middle of the Middle

 

-Decide on which direction is the right direction for you to make a complete circle of the space (so f.e. starting left of the door as you come in, making your way clock wise past all the book cases/shelves/tables until you reach the door again. Or counter-clockwise, or starting from the desk, or the window, etc., whichever makes most sense to you).

-Place yourself in front of every book case/structure. Decide which is the middle of that structure, take out the book or object that is in the middle of the middle, and let it fall open at its middle page. What do you see?

-Do this for every structure including tables until you are 1. fed up, 2. have run out of time or 3. you have come full circle.

Day 2, Wednesday 16th of March 2016

A companion for the day

 

What to do:

Choose a book from the collection. Any book. The book will be your close companion all day today. Take it with you whatever you do. Keep it in your line of vision or otherwise be in physical contact with it as much as possible: have it on your desk as you work, take it out of your bag and hold it when you’re in a taxi or walking down the street, but it on the table in the café or restaurant, on the kitchen counter as you cook, on the table whilst you have dinner, beside your bed whilst you sleep…

Things that could happen:

You may choose to talk to your companion. It may talk back.

You may choose to arrange your day a little differently so that it is more interesting for your companion.

You may get annoyed with it.

You may introduce it to someone else.

They might talk to it.

It may get damaged, or worse: lost…

How to finish

When you get in again tomorrow morning, assuming your didn’t lose it, put the book in a place that feels like it’s the right place for it to be.

I received a video, thirteen photos, and 53 text messages on WhatsApp, documenting Banu’s interpretation of these two scores. The Middle of the Middle produced a journey through a cross section of the collection, through old and new, heavy and light, recently acquired books and old acquaintances. And we now know the exact measurements of all the support structures at BAS. 

A metal structure is divided into two halves. Please do not place drinks on the vitrines or books. It is lit from the inside or from the back, so that the figure moving around in front of it is a silhouette. The structure has shelves. The objects—rectangular stacks on the shelves—are lying flat; from this angle I can only see their slit sides.

On the wall behind the structure is a shimmering foil, gold or silver, and a cowboy-girl with glasses asks to be taken to the curador.[16] Then there is a window, it has thin bars, the lines do not align with the stripes of the chaise longue, and a skinny palm tree is eccentric.

There is a determined crack where the wall and the ceiling meet.

In the middle of the middle of the left structure is a double black star[17] that is a very old friend. In the middle of the middle of the right structure there is a small book with, amongst many others, two images of a mouth. They can look like vaginas if you hold them the right way.[18]

The next viewpoint introduces a completely different perspective, looking down, perpendicular to the shelf. There is an array of mostly white books with black lettering, one year, the birthday, the future, and under the arm to death are amongst them[19]. The shelf supporting them is transparent. It is in fact a draw that can be pulled out. Between the books I catch glimpses of other books floating beneath, and the grey carpet beyond.

There is a publication that has the colour of an old fashioned beige envelope, which has to be opened by unhooking a small string, making a quick circular gesture.[20] Another book has things between the pages, something that looks like a used black glove,[21] and there is a future dictionary[22]: Patricide will come to mean the act of killing ones (obsolete) father, a term used during the human physical annihilation era, ending in the 21st century…

Of the next structure, the middle shelf slides open. Passing over SERVICE[23], moving to the 75th centimetre takes us to Woodstock[24] and to dark black and white photographs of urban scenes that could be anywhere, any town, any country[25].

The last structure is a low one. The measuring process is crooked and brings to view a Radical Journal of Shimming[26] and some Pages[27]; page number 4 is a voice.

 

A Companion for the Day led Banu to take a book home;

There is the chaise longue again. The book[28] is resting on a pile of newspapers lying on the chair. The letters on the book are staring straight up. I imagine it is waiting to be picked up. It has a bottle of water beside it. 

It lay with her on her bed,

There is a picture of a bed: birds eye view, a white bedspread with an implicit circular pattern. Lounging lazily on the bed are a wallet, a lip balm, a receipt, a grey leather pouch and the book. Four pennies push down heavily on the downy duvet. The book lies slightly apart from the other objects, it barely makes an indent.

and it accompanied her to a restaurant. She introduced it to someone, who was attracted to its design, but this design also makes the book hard to read they realized. There was some annoyance, but this was cushioned by its content. Back in BAS, it was given a new place in the space.

The new place is upon a record player. The orange of its letters is very different from the orange of the purple and orange memorial album.[29] The face in purple looks us in the eye whilst behind his right ear we can read that the midheaven mission of the library has to do with giving allowance, with springing the suppressed.[30]

New alliances were formed. A limb was lifted, the body shifted its position

                                                                                                              just

                                                                         significantly

                                                                                                 slightly



[1] Extract from “A 1000 things to do,” by Claude Closky, 1994-1996,
black and white offset, Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, 64 pages, 21 x 15 cm.

[2] From the website ww.closky.info, under Frederic Paul, extracts from the text: A BODY HAIR FOUND ON THE GROUND, Frédéric Paul, in "Claude Closky", Paris: Hazan, 1999 (excerpt pp 9-15). Translated from French by David Wharry.

[3] From the website ww.closky.info, under Frederic Paul, extracts from the text: A BODY HAIR FOUND ON THE GROUND, Frédéric Paul, in "Claude Closky", Paris: Hazan, 1999 (excerpt pp 9-15). Translated from French by David Wharry.

[4] Extract from “A 1000 things to do”, by Claude Closky, 1994-1996,
black and white offset, Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, 64 pages, 21 x 15 cm.

[5] Extract from “A 1000 things to do”, by Claude Closky.

[6] CRITIQUE D’ART: actualité de la littérature critique sur l’art contemporain, n°44 printemps/été 2015, p. 104-108.

[7] Extract from “A 1000 things to do”, by Claude Closky, 1994-1996,
black and white offset, Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, 64 pages, 21 x 15 cm.

[8] Text taken from http://www.stuk.be/en/corrections-and-clarifications, CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS, Anita Di Bianco.

[9] Extract from “A 1000 things to do”, by Claude Closky, 1994-1996,
black and white offset, Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, 64 pages, 21 x 15 cm.

[10] Extract from “A 1000 things to do”, by Claude Closky, 1994-1996,
black and white offset, Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, 64 pages, 21 x 15 cm.

[11] Extract from “A 1000 things to do”, by Claude Closky, 1994-1996,
black and white offset, Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, 64 pages, 21 x 15 cm.

[12] Extract from “A 1000 things to do”, by Claude Closky, 1994-1996,
black and white offset, Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, 64 pages, 21 x 15 cm.

[13] Extract from “A 1000 things to do”, by Claude Closky, 1994-1996,
black and white offset, Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, 64 pages, 21 x 15 cm.

[14] Masist Gül (1947-2003) was an Armenian artist who was born and lived in Istanbul. He made his living in cinema, working as an extra in more than 300 films. He made collages, drawings, and copper gravures, wrote poetry, painted portraits and drew graphic novels. None of this work was published or exhibited during his life. During the 80s he conceived and made by hand a series of 6 books entitled Kaldırım Destanı – Kaldırımlar Kurdunun Hayatı / Pavement Myth – The Life of the Pavement's Wolf, using a periodical comic book format. These, we reproduced and published as facsimiles of the originals as Bent 001 1-6. BAS is the caretaker of a collection of his original works on paper, copper and books. The collection has been exhibited on various occasions, most recently at the WKV Stuttgart, in the exhibition “the Beast and the Sovereign”.

[15] Extract from “A 1000 things to do”, by Claude Closky, 1994-1996,
black and white offset, Galerie du Jour agnès b., Paris, 64 pages, 21 x 15 cm.

[16] Sophie Nys, Take me to the Curador or A Poster a Day Keeps the Curator Away, 2005.

[17] Banu Cennetoğlu, 15 Korkutan Asyalı Adam – 15 Scary Asian Men, 2005.

[18] Isabel Carvalho, Crónicas escritas por autoras anónimas, 2009.

[19] Pierre Huyghe, One Year Celebration, 2006.

[20] Gülçin Aksoy, Duble Hikaye, 2014.

[21] Daniel Knorr, Cudesch d’Artist, 2009.

[22] Jim Drobnick, Rudolf Baranik’s Dictionary from the 24th Century, 1990.

[23] Martha Rosler, Service, 1978.

[24] Haktan Özer, Woodstock, 2010.

[25] Nobuyoshi Tagaki, Deep#1, 2010.

[26] Journal of Radical Shimming, Issue #5, 2009.

[27] Nasrin Tabatabai & Babak Afrassiabi, Pages (#1, #2, # 3, #4), 2004–2005.

[28] Siyah Bant, Sanatsal Ifade Özgürlüğü Kılavuzu, 2016.

[29] Sunfoot, Chris Johanson, Brian Mumford, Ron Burns, Purple and Orange Memorial Album, 2012.

[30] “The Brautigan is a Taurus” by Genevieve Jacobs, originally published in The 23 (Volume 2, Number 3, June 1992), a quarterly newsletter by The Brautigan Library.

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