Art book

A Curator’s Guide to What’s Happening at Melbourne’s NGV Art Book Fair

Now in its eighth year, the Melbourne Art Book Fair has grown into an event far bigger than its name can contain. “It’s in newly released form this year, which is really exciting,” says curator Megan Patty.

The annual book celebration now runs for the duration of Melbourne Design Week. There’s still the Great Central Fair taking place at NGV from March 18-20, but it’s now complemented by a full program of events, including exhibitions, workshops, launches and opportunities to gain hands-on experience. practice by creating your own book or zine. Not specifically the Melbourne Book Fair anymore – 2022 sees the program expand to Castlemaine and Ballarat for the first time. Patty describes it as “a book festival across Victoria for 10 days”. With such a dynamic schedule of different events, it can be difficult to narrow down your long list. We asked Patty to call out some highlights.

The Annotated Reader
Organized by artist Ryan Gander and Jonathan P. Watts, The Annotated Reader takes place within the art book fair itself. It is made up of 281 different works annotated by a series of creators, including Marina Abramović, Sarah Lucas and Hans Ulrich Obrist, who selected a text and then marked it with their own thoughts and observations. “It’s about viewing the publication as an exhibition,” explains Patty. The annotated player is designed to be interactive, visitors can come away with their own version. “Audiences can browse through the writing, then choose some of their favorite pieces and create their own reader…you can take a book home with you, basically,” says Patty. If you can’t choose, there is also a vending machine in the exhibition where the entire publication can be purchased digitally.

The regional satellite program
This year, the Melbourne Art Book Fair is expanding to regional areas. Over the weekend of March 26-27, Ballarat venues will host a series of talks, performances and workshops, while the Castlemaine Art Museum will hold its own art book fair. The schedule has been carefully planned – the NGV Book Fair will take place on the first weekend, while all regional events will take place on the second. “[It’s a good reason] have a different book experience with local artists, designers and publishers in Castlemaine and Ballarat,” says Patty.

Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection Launch Party
Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection is the work of over 40 authors working across a number of disciplines – from artists to activists to scholars – reflecting on the NGV Collection through a queer lens. This book launch party is a celebration of labor and will feature DJs and readers such as Nic Holas and Nayuka Gorrie celebrating around Ponder, the installation of a pink pond in the garden of the NGV.

Poetics of the show
With curators such as poets Bella Li and Elena Gomez, Performing Poetics will tackle a wide range of themes and formats. “We feature a range of poetry curators exploring language, poetic performance,” explains Patty. “It’s a series of readings, performances and visits that look at the collection through the prism of poetry and performance.” With poets like Bella Li and Elena Gomez, hosts will watch readings on labor, abolition, [and] love as well as the response to the artworks in the NGV collection. “There is a theatrical performance, a round table on language and intersectionality and a [exploration] to look at the form of publishing and poetry,” explains Patty.

Gala for teens and children’s stories
In a year already full of firsts for the Art Book Fair, this year will see for the first time programming aimed at children and teenagers. Share Your Story, Share Your Language is a multilingual storytelling event hosted by Kids Own Publishing. “[It’s] a children’s publishing house that does great things with children as authors,” says Patty. “The gala is an exciting event for teens to engage with art, language and poetry in their own forum.” The workshop will help children create a picture book using their own language and teach them a range of storytelling techniques. For teenagers, there is the Teen Gala, organized in collaboration with the Wheeler Centre. It’s by teens, for teens, with exclusively teen programming.

The Melbourne Art Book Fair runs from March 17-27. See the full program and buy tickets.

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