This week’s Bookshelf comes courtesy of R. Gerald Nelson, whose studio Making Known (which we originally stated was "one hell of a place to spend time getting to grips with ‘a noisy kind of knowledge.’ "), publishing arm Edition MK and personal site LoR/E (Library of Reading/Essays) all concern themselves with a dissemination of design practice within a critical, visual platform. His bibliography matches the thoughtful, content-rich nature of his various platforms and acts a contextual starting block for his own practice.
The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography, 1960–1982 Douglas Fogle
As a comprehensive exhibition catalogue that examines the experimental uses of photography and its manifestations within such movements as Conceptual Art, Process Art, and Arte Povera from the 1960s to the 1980s, I have often returned to this book to revisit and gain a further understanding of how artists were using the photographic medium during this period. Even as designer, I’ve found value in studying the way in which those artists created images and of how those images were able to convey their messages and ideas (as opposed to simply using the medium for documentary purposes) and of how such a practice brought fundamental questions about photography to light. The large catalogue is permeated with many great readings, artist statements, and excerpts. A personal favorite: the collection of statements (from the likes of Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord, Susan Sontag, and many others) regarding photography and the image, compiled by Sarah Charlesworth and Barbara Kruger in 1983, titled “Glossolalia.”
The Regime of Visibility Camiel van Winkel
Camiel van Winkel opens his 2005 book, The Regime of Visibility, holding nothing back (“There are too few images. …Today’s culture is determined by a visual shortage, rather than visual excess”). And in the first paragraph alone, he delivers a barrage of seemingly contradictory and radical ideas (i.e., “Images may be present everywhere, but as a social force they are less powerful than the imperative to visualise”) that pull you in and leave you wanting to read more. Simply put, this is a book that I highly recommend to anyone who produces anything visual. There are, no doubt, countless writings on the powerful effect of images and visual culture, but van Winkel’s book stands out in my mind because it so thoroughly surveys “the regime of visibility”— from the extremes of high art to mass/pop culture—without the use of overbearing and academic language. What I also enjoy about this book is that van Winkel presents his discourse by way of citing many familiar artists, icons, movements, and ideas: from Jeff Koons to Wim Crouwel, reality television to The Matrix, Kate Moss to Cindy Sherman, fashion photography to conceptual art, and more.
For the blind man in the dark room looking for the black cat that isn’t there. Anthony Huberman
Whenever I spend time with this book, I am always enlightened and amazed by the effectiveness with which the book’s message and content (written by Anthony Huberman) are presented as well as by the inventiveness of its design (crafted by Will Holder). Huberman unravels his thesis—dealing with such omnipresent subjects as speculation, knowledge, confusion, curiosity, interpretation, and nonknowledge as they all relate to art—using stripped-down language in combination with a fascinating mix of analogies and stories that allow readers to keep pace with Huberman and what would otherwise be, if not for his approach, dull and complex subjects to communicate. Meanwhile, Huberman’s writing is cleverly represented in an enhancing yet curiously kitschy way with the help of Holder’s theater of graphic and typographic antics.
The Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2008: The Present Issue Edited by Anisha Imhasly and Tan Wälchli
The annual Most Beautiful Swiss Books (MBSB) publication has been steadily building its reputation as a vehicle for the presentation of the most relevant commentary and ideas that define the worlds of publishing and book design. The last three editions of MBSB (a thematic trilogy designed and conceptualized by Laurenz Brunner with editor Tan Wälchli) have been especially well crafted and injected with a renewed focus on quality content and writing from relevant contributors. As such, I’ve anticipated the release of each edition of MBSB more for its intellectual insight about the state of publishing and book design and less for its showcasing of the best of Swiss books (beautiful as they may be). Titled The Present Issue, the 2008 edition of MBSB contains, in my mind, the best collection of essays and content to date, including: James Goggin’s examination of the graphic designer’s array of everyday activities and of how a designer’s work is both omnipresent and invisible; Cynthia Leung’s take on the marketing of art books and of the antagonistic relationship between graphic designers and marketing specialists and; Lisette Smits’ theorization on why graphic designers gravitate toward the art world and whether that tendency is based upon a political position.
Talks About Money Edited by John Barclay and Linda van Deursen
Admittedly, the first time I opened Talks About Money (expecting a very sober presentation of texts), I thought I had picked up the wrong book. That’s because the book’s text is presented entirely within countless speech bubbles (like the type one would see in a comic book). That said, you’ll soon find that the speech bubbles actually facilitate an engaging read. All things considered, the book has an unquestionable worth as a useful guide on the topic of money (that is, if you’re a practicing freelance graphic designer trying to better determine the value of your time and work). The texts in this book unfold as casual conversations that were based upon interviews with freelance graphic designers of all levels of experience. This book, which I’ve littered with Post-it flags and margin notes, is one of the books that I most commonly refer to and one that I imagine would be equally as appreciated by many freelance graphic designers.