An Interview With Jesper Fabricius – by Rebecca O’Keefe


 
 

My first encounter with the work of Jesper Fabricius, was in 2009 while I was an intern at Printed Matter Inc. At the time, I was making collages and while at the store I would pick up every book I saw that contained found images or cut outs of any sort. It was during one of my days there that I picked up Kunsthaefte nr. 1, and found a 6 page, 11.5” x 8” pamphlet of simple cut outs with a beautiful color palette. I continued to follow Jesper’s work over the next few years, purchasing a few copies of Pist Protta, Stellungen, published by Lubok, and other Space Poetry titles (Jesper’s imprint). I waited until I left my full time job at Printed Matter to buy Kunsthaefte nr. 1. Knowing where it sat on the shelves for about three years — mostly untouched because of how thin it was — I already felt it was mine. After finally paying $3 for it, I spent the next three months purchasing every other issue of the Kunsthaefte series (22 in all, with two more on the way). I also started e-mailing Jesper.

 

What attracted me to Jesper’s books was that they were naughty. Some were whole pamphlets full of cut-outs of nipples and crotches. I’ll be the first to admit I love a dirty book, and as a bookseller have found that most others do as well. Some of the books are just dedicated to hair, and in many he considers the subjects’ relationship to interior space. Of course they contain much more than this, and over the past few months I have grown fond of Jesper’s other artwork, most notably his super 8 films.

 

At the time of my discovery of Jesper’s work, I had yet to accept my belief that our attraction to images or objects, regardless of their content or use, is one of a sexual nature. I saw a freedom and confidence in Jesper’s maneuvering of images that I had been trying to create myself, and I proudly admit that his collage work has been of the highest influence on my own. Most importantly, I saw humor and playfulness in his publications. If I’m going to pick up a dirty book, I can only hope it will make me laugh.

 

I’ve e-mailed Jesper many times for a variety of reasons. I asked him where I could purchase more of his titles, if he would send books to a variety of projects I have participated in, and finally, if I could interview him for this piece. Because I have never met Jesper, and I’ve never really told him what his work has meant to me, this opportunity provided me with the benefit of finally asking a few questions that have been on my mind. I don’t know if I will ever have the pleasure of meeting Jesper, or traveling to see one of his foreign shows, but the distance between us has proven to make the discovery of his work all the more fulfilling for me. It is easy to “discover” art through the Internet and communicating with an artistic circle, but to become acquainted with an artist purely by chance — while looking through a bookshelf — is truly something to cherish.

 

Jesper Fabricius is a Danish artist living and working in Denmark. He has recently shown his work in Glasgow and Oslo, and has been making artists’ books for close to four decades. If you’d like to find out more about him, check out his website or the shelves of artists’ bookstores. His work is best when you discover it on your own.

 

 
 

Can you write a bit about how you got started making artists’ books? What was the first one that you made, and why did you think that publishing your work in book form would be a good experience?

 

The first book I made and published was “Kontainer” in 1980, and I made it with 3 fellow artists (Claus Egemose, Jesper Rasmussen, Joergen Brandt Birman). The idea was to make a catalogue with photos from an exhibition we made in 1979. Then we thought, that we could put a lot of other things in, like drawings, text, poems etc., and we printed 2 extra colours, which made it look quite nice and very much different from the show. It became a thing in itself.

 

How does creating artists’ books connect to your general art practice?

 

My work is very connected to the making of books, partly in the magazine Pist Protta, which is an ongoing collective work (since 1981), about experiencing and challenging the format and idea of the magazine.

 

What motivates you to make art, and what themes, concepts, or imagery inspire your work?

 

In my personal work, I’m very interested in organizing found pictures (and text pieces) which is sometimes very good in the format of books and booklets. The printed book also has this very important status, to confirm your artistic statement. And I really like the democratic idea that many people can have your work, and it is much cheaper than the original works of art, but is equal in its statement.

 

How many books in all do you think you have published?

 

I think I might have published about 300 titles including Pist Protta and Kunsthaefte.

 

You seem to have branched out in a few different directions with your work, from Pist Protta to Kunsthaefte, and others. How does each of these series differ from the other, and do you have a favorite?

 

I have done a lot of different books, like artists books, catalogues, poetry, photo books. Not all of them were good. I really like Bill Burns: Dogs and Boats and Airplanes – told in the form of Ivan the Terrible, where the context changes the meaning of quite every day photography. My own “Unge Kunstner Bohemer i slutningen af 70´erne” actually does the same in telling about how to become an artist. Pist Protta 34 – 45 is an issue of the magazine only containing the 12 covers to issues to imagine. There is no content, though some of the covers (which are all different sized, like all other Pist Prottas) do have some very interesting lists of content. I think that´s my favorite.

 

How do you get your work out to the public, as in distribution, display, and sales?

 

Distribution, getting the books and magazines to bookstores and subscribers is hard work. Sometimes I go to book fairs, which is nice, you can show a lot of your books and meet people.

 

Does it matter to you that you make a profit from publishing your work, and who in particular do you hope to reach with it?

 

My ideal reader could be a young person, who finds this strange book/magazine at a remote library or second hand bookstore and he/she would sense a feeling of freedom. About the money, I do get some grants, which makes it possible for me to survive and publish together with the income from book sales. But actually most of my income comes from exhibiting art, lecturing (a little) and other art related activities.

 

 
 

Can you describe the roles that both erotica and humor play in your publications? I was first drawn to your work because of your playful use of what could be called pornographic images, and would like to hear more about where you find the imagery that you use in your books.

 

I use a lot of material from porn magazines from the 70´s. It was the golden years of pornography in Denmark (and Sweden). I get them from small bookstores for used books (antiquariats). It´s a way of collecting and generating material for work. They are not only for books but collages as well. I also use text from art magazines, pornography, scientific books. The combination of things that are not connected, and the mingling of high and low culture often make it very humorous. And of course I do change the status of the pornography into high art modernism. Actually, you can also see me playing with hierarchies in the latest Pist Protta 70. There the theme is sculpture, but then there are also photos of sculptures or what would look like sculpture.

 

 
 

I love the community of independent publishers and publications because of the circle of friends I have made through it. Do you have a circle of artists and/or publishers with which you enjoy working and communicating? I know you recently published a small book with LUBOK. Have you published with any other groups?

 

There are quite a few small and independent publishers here in Denmark, but it is also a small community. To make some events and fairs we often have to work together. I have done a nice thing for the art magazine ARK from Aarhus. Last year I did STELLUNGEN (POSITIONS) for Lubok in Leipzig, Germany. This year I did a thing for Feil Forlag in Oslo, Norway and HET ANDRE BEHR PAMFLET 22 by Boekie Woekie, books by artists, Amsterdam, Holland. I am supposed to do a new booklet for Lubok in September in connection to an exhibition in their showroom in Leipzig.

 

What role does the internet play in your practice? I know you have a website which archives many of your titles. Does having an internet presence matter to you?

 

I must say, I’m not really interested in the internet. It is kind of useful, but I don’t feel that it is my media. I could imagine it would be good for small films, a media I worked with years ago.

Repetition, Iteration, Re-Iteration (Introduction – Part I) — by Bryan Krueger

On page 384 of Photography: A Cultural History by Mary Warner Marien, under the section heading “Philosophy and Practice: Photography ‘Born Whole’ “, the author discusses an exhibition John Szarkowski organized in 1978 entitled Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960.

 

This exhibition explored concepts ranging from the idea of the mirror (the artist’s concern with self) and the notion of the window (the appearance of the world). Paragraphs in, it is explained that the inclusion of work by Ed Ruscha leaned toward the latter approach in that he “saw the camera as essentially a bland, inexpressive device with which to record dispassionately a banal human environment”.  On page 427, his use of photography was explained in a similar fashion around the context of renunciation of personal expression within the medium. Ruscha uses the camera as a device to record, itemize, and compile images of familiar locations and buildings such as gas stations, parking lots, and motel swimming pools to the end of showing through repetition similarities and differences between specific subject matters.

 

Considering that photography is a tool he uses largely within the context of the artist book, it seems Ruscha approaches the photographic and book making practices from relativelypure standpoints.  For the purposes of this introduction, the term ‘pure’ is not intended to connote the romanticization of content – rather, the realization of the camera/book as a willed objects. From this photographic perspective, the camera is a device whose function is to record and transmit information – information that fits within the photographic program.  Similarly, the book (in the general sense of the term) is a venue in which content can be stored and presented to the viewer as a platform for information to be disseminated and received. It is a somewhat open format, relying on content to give it direction. But in the end, it shows what can be shown on the page, or else point outwards to other media that handle content in different ways.

 

It’s not really important who takes the photographs, I don’t even look at it as photography; they’re just images to fill a book.   – ED RUSCHA  2

 

In his 1968 book, Nine Swimming Pools, Ruscha chose as his content nine different swimming pools, which he presented with numerous blank pages between plates.  Using the title as our guide, we trust, even if we don’t initially understand his motive, that there are in fact nine variations of similar subjects rather than a single subject being repeated from various perspectives.

 

Though, the presence of visual rest as provided by these blank pages tricks us into questioning this fact, forcing us to jump between each variation to analyze and compare their similarities and differences.  The act of retracing visual steps encourages the viewer to slow down and focus on the content, despite the familiar nature of what is pictured – familiar through personal experience or visual culture.  The repetition of this strange familiarity is what allows a static narrative driven by the content to be developed.  This is to say, a narrative about the viewers interaction with content, rather than a narrative that immerses the viewer in content.

 

Continued in:
Repetition, Iteration, Re-Iteration (Introduction – Part II)