Angelica : I’m here with British artist Connie Butler, who is currently based in Rotterdam here in the Netherlands. Connie Butler has an upcoming show in Preface Space. Connie, Could you please tell us a little bit about the work you have been doing in the past, and what you are working on at the moment?
Connie: I work across different media in different settings. I make sculpture as well as writing, painting, performance and publishing. In addition I have an ongoing project called Nomadic Reading Room which I set up in 2012. The Nomadic Reading Room is a space, sometimes realised physically sometimes online, for artists books and publications to accumulate. Working with private and public galleries archives of artists books and publishing projects. The project opportunistically occupies liminal, underused or unexpected locations offering free access to its material to anyone with interest or happens to be around. Im making a claim on time and space, bringing people, places and publications together. Working collaboratively with existing public and private collections the project drives ‘things off shelves’. I’m building a physical archive despite not having a permanent space, In order to do this I believe it must occupy physical space and cannot only live online because it;s not a pop-up or a shop but concerned with the production and privatisation of, and role of artist publisher’s as a critical and political agent within public space.
A; Is the Nomadic Reading Room where your interdisciplinary approaches to different media can come together?
C: Yes, Im claiming preface Space space as a reading room. I think this gesture is important because it foregrounds the gallery as a site of learning, translating what happens here into a useful amenity whilst still operating as an artwork. Demonstrating how artists publishing could be used in public art spaces, how different forms of artists’ dissemination can illuminate each other. These ideas rub against each other and cause friction; causing sparks. It’s also a way to talk about time - how visitors experience time in the gallery space, what they expect in exchange for their investment and how their will to engage with an artwork. The book is a specific temporal form; another way to understand time and space. Thats often what artists are working with when they use publishing, as a counter to the encounter with an art object in a white cube. The reading room includes furniture that I’ve made and support structures in collaboration with designers. Im making a set of ceramic lecterns and display cases that re-imagine how books are displayed in ways that visitors might not be used to, and that antagonise what we understand reading, and the designed environment for reading to be.
A: How do you think people usually encounter displays of books?
C: Libraries, schools, bookshops or at home. We are finely attuned to these formal and informal displays, understanding what constitutes an invitation to sit and enjoy a book or when to look but not touch. In formal settings books are either displayed on a shelf or face out, chairs may or not be provided. Libraries have soft play area for children now, what does that say about how society understands the idea of learning in relation to the particular technology of a book object. They are a symbol for society which we imagine we can absorb by osmosis. I want to treat the books as sculpturally equal to the ceramics and furniture, playing with these design mechanisms of display each signaling different levels of participation to the viewer and creating an unexpected environment for reading, and what reading could mean. Im also working one on one with the gallery assistants for them to really understand and get excited about all the publications in the room
A: What kind of books can we expect to see on display?
C: A selection from n c.a.c’s book collection, as well as the Nomadic Reading Room’s collection, and publications Ive made alone with my small press Public Funeral, and in collaboration with others.
A: Can you describe your own collection in three words?
C: Illogical, Unorganised and wide-ranging.
A: I know that you will infiltrate a little into the Bookshop space here in n c.a.c, What can we expect to see there as our limited edition product?
C: Limited edition cast ceramic lecterns which are available to buy, as well as very reasonably priced publication made for n c.a.c gallery, as informal anti-guide to the artists books collection, accessing and understanding visitors, because n c.a.c.’s book collection is completely accessible to the public but people don’t know that its there primarily for them - thats what I want to show.
A: If there was no practical or economic restriction about the preface show what would you do here? Is this your dream show?
C: Good question! This is my dream show, but if there was absolutely no limits I would have a floor to ceiling library with a sliding ladder, filled with all the rarest and most exciting artists books in private collections flown in from all corners of the world, the public would never normally get their hands on, all free for them to use.
A: How do you hope people will leave the space?
C: They will enter being intrigued and curious to find out more about the material on display and leave feeling pleasantly surprised at how easily engaging the material is, and wanting to find out more about artist’s publishing; with sparks of ideas darting in their minds.