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Future Legacies: Collecting, Collections and Artists’ Books

Year funded: 2016-2017

Project Leader: Dr Chris Taylor (School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies)

Friday 21 April, 2017, 1-5pm

The Sheppard Room, Parkinson Building, University of Leeds

Organised by PAGES in collaboration with Special Collections, University of Leeds with support from the Centre for Practice-led Research in the Arts (CePRA)

The programme comprised:

  • Dr Chris Taylor, Co-Director of PAGES and Senior Lecturer, School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, considering the role of the institutional collection in exploiting and preserving the artists’ book as primary medium within art practice;
  • Zöe Sawyer, Curator, The Tetley, Leeds, discussing and highlighting the challenges of curating books, reading and performance within the context of an exhibition;
  • Louise Adkins, artist and Senior Lecturer, Manchester School of Art, and Amanda Burton Scholar: practice-led PhD, School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, discussing her new work for the forthcoming exhibition Made in Translation at the Portico Library, Manchester;
  • John McDowall, artist and Co-Director of PAGES, and Amanda Burton Scholar: practice-led PhD, School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies, University of Leeds presenting book works which embody serendipitous paths of reading from shelf to shelf and book to book, and that may be thought of as libraries in and of themselves.

Apart from myself as providing the introductory paper to the event, the 3 main speakers, Adkins, McDowall and Sawyer, provided insights and methodologies into their working artistic, research and curatorial practices which evolve through the engagement with contemporary artists’ books through institutional collections and performance related outputs.  The audience comprised UG, TPG, PhD students, professional artists, librarians (The Brotherton, The Portico Library, Manchester, Edinburgh Poetry Library, The Hepworth) and curators (including Leeds Art Gallery, The Tetley and many independent), and academics from the arts and humanities from within and external of Leeds University (St. Andrews, Manchester, Huddersfield), had the opportunity to raise issues, question and comment on each speakers’ illustrated presentations that were considered and brought under further scrutiny during the final Round Table.

The Round Table, convened by Dr Chris Taylor, reflected on how we might utilise the collection in order to reconnect with the past and consider our future. The panel comprised Louise Adkins, Rhiannon Lawrence-Francis (Special Collections – Rare Books, Brotherton Library), John McDowall and Nigel Walsh (Curator of Contemporary Art, Leeds Art Gallery).

The 3 main points of discussion were:

  • Where, as custodians of institutional collections – be that library, special, art or museum collections – do Artists’ Books reside in your overall acquisitions policy?
  • As archivists and curators, what role do contemporary Artists’ Books play in exhibitions, display and pedagogy?
  • How can artists, and in particular those engaging with the book format as their primary medium, be engaged by galleries, museums and libraries in the “championing” of the broader collection through contemporary modes of art practice?

The event was concluded with a reception and visit to the Future Legacies: Collections, Collecting and Artists’ Books exhibition in the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery (curated by Lawrence-Francis, McDowall and Taylor).

The symposium was held as part of the 2017 PAGES: Future Potentials / Future Legacies project, an integrated programme of artist’s book related initiatives coordinated by FAHACS PhD researcher John McDowall and myself, which began in January and will end in June 2017 with 9 exhibitions (The Tetley x 2, Henry Moore Institute x 1, Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery x 1, FAHACS Project Space x 5), performances and new publications and commissions.

The symposium opened up new opportunities for collection access and exhibition potential to audience members and speakers, highlighted the research possibilities available at Leeds University through its world class collections and PhD study, and cemented current partnerships between PAGES, The Brotherton Library, Leeds Art Gallery and The Tetley for the foreseeable future with new collaborations emerging with The Portico Library Manchester and researchers at The Hepworth library, Wakefield.

Please see below for images from the symposium (click to enlarge). A handout from the event is available here.