Books From The Future's experimentally collaborative and investigative publishing
- Ruby Boddington
- 17 October 2017
Books From The Future is a London-based publisher working at the intersection of research, education and publishing founded by educators Yvan Martinez and Joshua Trees. The pair started Books From The Future as a way to explore the models used to structure contemporary art and design education that are “no longer relevant yet have become so institutionalised and internalised that alternatives can seem wildly idealistic and unrealistic by comparison.”
Yvan and Joshua first collaborated when they founded performance art collective Creative Community Seriously I Swear (CCSIS) in the mid-’90s. The artist duo Clegg & Guttmann adopted CCSIS as a subject of study for The Sick Soul II, a series of social experiments involving performance, photography and publishing. Although CCSIS eventually broke up, the pair continued working together inspired Clegg & Guttmann’s demonstration of the potential of the book as an artistic medium that could “perform cultural and theoretical functions.”
Books From The Future’s projects are often born out of experimental collaboration or investigation. For example The Multiple Lives of a Blank Book (MLBB053) and But Now Space Was Part Of The Object (BNSWPOTO¹) which were published in parallel which one another.
In MLBB053, fifty contributors were sent an identical blank book with an invitation to take part in a game of “documentary fiction” using the provided book as a tool for staging or re-enacting stories involving the book as either a character or prop. Over 200 photographs are presented alongside texts exploring topics such as the history of book arts by Federico Antonini, the role of documentation in contemporary publishing by Darius Ou Dahao and a manifesto for elevating graphic design by Masaki Miwa. Since the majority of the responses are photographic, it is left to the reader to form any corresponding narrative. However, the design of the book is structured and sequenced according to a curatorial time-space continuum (atemporal, present, hyper present, past, future and loop) which is “suggested through the table of contents and the positioning of content on each spread but never explicitly stated.”
BNSWPOTO¹ materialised when two of the contributors of MLBB053 – Masaki Miwa and Ying Tong Tan – expressed an interest in contributing more than just a few pages of content. As a result, Yvan and Joshua agreed to let their former students to record the lectures and dialogues that took place during their summer school to use as content for a type specimen book, inspired by the manifesto and Masaki wrote for MLBB053.
BNSWPOTO¹ is a study on whether or not a type specimen can still function in the absence of its own typeface. The typeface portrayed (Booq Alt) is an “impostor” that has been constructed using the same set of rules used to create the actual typeface (Booq) which never reveals itself to the reader. Instead, Booq is described through a series of transcribed lectures and a pool of public domain images. “Booq Alt has a quirky, toy-architecture vibe,” explain Yvan and Joshua, “it’s obvious that something’s off, but its irregularities are so charming and distinctive that by the end of the book we no longer crave the original. We’ve fallen in love with its masquerader."
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.