ARCHIVED WORK OF PARTICIPATING ARTISTS & SCHOLARS
A*BOUT A BOOK: Silke Bauer, Irina Novarese & Viola Thiele
“A BOOK ABOUT”
Participatory project for the production of artist's books and the creation of an open-library for the 2nd Ghetto Biennale.
“A Book About” is a participatory, community-based art project which invited local artists, inhabitants and the kids of the Grand Rue neighborhood, encouraging participants to express and collect personal views and every-day life experiences in individually crafted artist's books.
This generated archive of (non-literate) knowledge was exhibited in a custom designed temporary library: The A*BOUT GETO BIBLYOTÈK.
A library is known as place where information, knowledge and education is transmitted. Books or libraries in regions with a low literacy rate, like Haiti, may not be a part of many inhabitants’ everyday lives, and therefore may be considered as something only accessible to the elite. The concept of the artist's book describes a book intended as a work of art in itself in which there is no priority of (written) text over images. “A Book About” archives knowledge in a format, which also functions as a medium of educational transmission, but does not necessarily require literacy in the traditional sense. Generating an emancipatory language of images through artistic articulation is an experimental approach to provide access to non-institutional education.
The importance of documenting and archiving thoughts, memories and identities in this area has become extremely evident after the earthquake in 2010, when many lost trace of everything they had and knew, even other people. The books may become a translation of information, knowledge and culture.
We held a total of 14 workshops in the Grand Rue neighborhood and Cotemoh Highschool, some of which were scheduled as kids-only or women's-only days, resulting in 38 collective and individual books, which were presented at the 2nd Ghetto Biennale final exhibition.
The project A BOOK ABOUT is based on intercultural exchange facilitated by artistic processes. The use of materials such as newspaper images, information exchange and dialogue became our methodology for switching between our background and the reality of Port-au-Prince - a fundamental character of the project is collective authorship.
Initiating an intercultural dialogue within the workshops, we suggested working on topics we wanted to discuss taking our cultural background into consideration. This was in order to discover notions about the specific context of the Grand Rue community: Street, room, water, window, etc. Unexpectedly some other topics were independently introduced by the artists and participants without being suggested by us. This meant we got enough material for books on: Ayiti Cheri (beloved Haiti), Espri Yo (Spirit), Zozo (Penis).
Travelling to Haiti we knew it wouldn't be easy to find libraries or bookshops there. The few books available were second hand and totally overpriced from our European point of view, giving another clue as why it's hard to find that many books in poorer neighborhoods. The book itself almost turns into an elitist item: Precious and expensive.
Unsure of what kind of working tools and materials we would be able to purchase in Haiti, we decided to take everything along needed for the production of books. Most working supplies and materials were provided by German sponsors (paper, glue, colors, etc...). Prior to departure we organized a benefit party for our project collecting money which enabled us to buy additional bookmaking supplies.
As most artists on Grand Rue are working as sculptors and use recycled materials for their production, working on and with paper seemed to be a pleasant change and a new challenge. Paper is not commonly used by artists in Haiti and and is not easy to get in such plentiful variations as we had brought along.
Thanks to the cooperation of the Grand Rue artists Romel Jean Pierre and Alex Louis we had the possibility to give some workshops at Cotemoh High School, where we were confronted with a very different context than we had found in the Grand Rue: Creativity in the Grand Rue is an every day experience. In the school we again found domineering educational structures: The pupils are made to repeat the given tasks and it takes ages before they can feel free to work creatively.
All unused and left-over materials were donated to Timoun Resiztans, the young artists of Grand Rue. We imparted our knowledge of bookmaking to some of the Grand Rue artists, in order that they continue working with the kids from the neighborhood.
We decided to take the A*BOUT archive with us to Europe, in order to present the project in various art and culture spaces, before taking it back to Port-au-Prince to the people who created it and whom it belongs to.
It was a great experience, and we are very much looking forward to the next Ghetto Biennale.
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