All of September went by, and now it's October. It's been over a month since we left sunny, warm Beijing. In Bergen, Norway the days are getting shorter and colder. So I don't mind going back to Beijing in my mind, for one last blog post about our journey.
In this last post, I'll focus on books. In retrospect I see that I've written surprisingly little about the actual books displayed at the fair, which is strange, considering that they are the core of China Meets Norway in a Bookshelf. But it's actually not the first time I've found myself neglecting books at an art book fair. I'll try to explain.
You know how when you go to an art book fair (or perhaps any large fair) you can feel a bit overwhelmed? There are numerous books to flip though, and plenty of new publishers and artists to learn about. And even though you go there for the books, there are so many events, workshops and talks that you do not want to miss. And there are people you want to talk to. And so on.
So ironically, I have often found myself giving low priority to the actual book works on display. A typical scenario is that I do my round of really looking on the very last day of the fair. The last day is usually the most crowded one, so needless to say this strategy is rather poor.
To be able to experience books at an art book fair the way they deserve to be experienced - with attention, unrushed - my solution has often been to simply buy the books that seems most interesting to me. That way, I can explore them in the comfort of my own home, after the fair. This was, however, not a working solution at China meets Norway in a bookshelf. As I’ve already mentioned, most of the Chinese books and zines were not for sale. So there, you simply had to spend some time on site, looking through the books and zines. The Norwegian books were for sale, though. And many of them stayed in China when we left for Norway.
Before I try to say something general about the Chinese books at the fair, I think it's important to elaborate on what kind of art book fair China Meets Norway was. It had a particular focus on illustrated books and comics. The Chinese books shown in the second floor of Meridian, were almost exclusively children's books. The Chinese books shown downstairs (in the room that we borrowed from the printing factory), were a mix of zines and books for grown up readers. I would say that (often very cute) illustrated stories were predominant in the Chinese "grown-up department", too. Perhaps the biggest difference between China Meets Norway in a Bookshelf and other art book fairs I've been to, was that in Beijing we were, to a large extent, considering picture books (a central term at this fair) instead of artist's books.
I saw a lot of drawing, painting, and even more intricate techniques such as etching in the Chinese picture books. Very few were dominated by text or photography - which is also a huge difference when compared to Western art book fairs. But again, this tendency might be due to the focus of this particular fair - most likely it is not representable for the artistic book scene in China.
I don't think I can go any further than that in my account of the Chinese books at the fair, considering my hasty, superficial studies of them. But what might be important to mention, is that the fair in Shanghai was described as rather different from the one in Beijing. At the much larger abC Art Book Fair a very broad scope of artist-made books were displayed, and I'm told that the Shanghai-audience were more interested than the Beijing-audience in the kind of conceptual artists' books that many of the Norwegian participants brought to China.
What I can do, though, is to share some pictures with you, of books that caught my eye at China meets Norway in a Bookshelf.
I'll end this final post by saying THANK YOU to Northing, Bergen Zines and Meridian. This has been such a unique art book fair experience. On one hand it's been intimate: with relatively few participants from only two countries, it was easy for us to meet and connect. On the other hand, for me personally, it has been a huge (and a bit overwhelming) experience: I have had to deal with meeting an art culture and an art history that is very different from the Western one. That has been both intriguing and exciting.
I also have to add that I loved being a blogger! Being able to write personal texts about subjects I feel strongly about, such as art and books, has been amazing. I also enjoyed writing the kind of spontaneous, immediate texts that the blog format invites to. A refreshing diversion from the lengthy process of the more academic, analytic texts I usually write about art.
And finally: thank you for reading!