When you go to one of Bunk Club’s “FAN OF” events, expect to immerse yourself in an unusual often non-art related setting, have a delicious cocktail with homemade food, meet an engaging and dynamic community of artists and leave with a one-of-a-kind print and a precious artist book. In the last five years, this non-profit organization, newly based in New York, has produced 13 artist books in the format of zines and prints of exciting international artists, such as Pedro Wirz, Claudia Comte, Tatiana Kronberg, Olivier Vandervliet to Jeffrey Tranchell, to name a few.
Historically, artists turned to books as a way to disseminate political ideas, circumvent the gallery and museum system, reach a larger audience, desacralize the book as a primary source of knowledge and further dematerialize the art object. With their FAN OF series, Bunk Club perpetuates the tradition of an artists’ book in the threatening electronic age by inviting artists to experiment with the book as a primary medium, in the form of an A5-sized black and white zine accompanied by an A4-sized black and white print, both limited in editions of 50. Small, original, inexpensive, usually reproduced via photocopier–and yet zines are artworks in their own right. Founders Laurence Dujardyn and Mathias Wille explain,
“It is an easy and direct way to introduce artists to a new audience, whether this be collectors, art enthusiasts or friends…the whole idea is to keep it democratically prized so that everyone can own an artwork that is limited in number and signed by the artist, offering a peek into his or her mental universe.”
Most artists use the constraints and opportunities of the medium to experiment freely with that peculiar form. Swiss-born artist, Nicolas Party made drawings of his symbolic, surrealist and everyday objects directly onto the pages of each individual zine; Claudia Comte miniaturized her anthropomorphic large-scale sculptures into multiplied photographs; Larissa Lockshin turned her zine into a living platform by presenting sequential animated horse drawings. For his upcoming FAN OF edition and zine hosted at his studio this Sunday, Ernesto Burgos, a Chilean-American sculptor who notably makes energetic and amorphous painted sculptures, treated his book as an independent object and largely departed from his initial practice: “The experience of making a work for a different format and different context is much different from the experience of making a sculpture for a gallery… The book taps into a different type of sensorial experience.”
With the ever-growing digitalization of information and culture, as well as the unbelievably booming prices of the art market, the significance of publishing artist books and making artworks accessible to the great majority of society becomes crucial. Although the digital era threatens book’s materiality to be solely electronic, the indefinable nature of books continues to make it an intriguing, powerful and challenging medium for both the artist and the viewers. Bunk Club not only seems to encourage artists to explore the physical qualities of a zine, as a sculptural, transportable, interactive and accessible object but also to force viewers to retrieve a certain humility and fascination for this modest and wonderful medium. As the founders explain, “Who doesn’t love the tactility and smell of freshly printed paper?”
Whether it be in an old-fashioned attic room in Brussels, a kitsch lobby bar in Miami, a basement gallery in a NYC flower shop (artist-run space Essex Flowers), making prints and books are also a great excuse to make a lively event where art lovers meet in surprising venues. In addition to organizing events to launch each new FAN OF, people may subscribe to 6 editions per year without knowing beforehand who the artist will be and what the zine and edition will look like.
This Brussels-born organization is also striving to connect some exciting Brussels-based artists to the New York art scene, and the diversity of its activities rules out the possibility of a strict definition. This summer, Bunk Club will be curating an exhibition by Luxembourg artist Aline Bouvy at the ambitious artist-run gallery Motel in Bed-Stuy, and they will also organize a FAN OF with fellow Belgian Benoit Platéus at The Chimney NYC in Bushwick.
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