A possible eye into the future of book fairs
By CJ Sommerfeld, Staff Writer
A large part of what made the Art Book Fair so great in the past was actually being there—seeing artists’ table displays, thumbing through works, collecting free stickers, acting awkward in front of a thousand other awkward folk.
Vancouver’s COVID-ized annual Art Book Fair was on October 17 and 18, and it was like no book fair I had experienced before. Instead of shuffling through a maze of tables and making awkward gestures to other canvas-bag-clad-art-book-lovers, attending a virtual fair was similar to scrolling through a social media newsfeed—eyes magnetized to the phone screen, disconnected from physical existence. Are new online events further driving us into a destiny of a virtual reality?
As per the previous eight Vancouver Art Book Fairs, themes propagated the images and texts:
- Art and politics functioning in the post-conceptualist era
- Cross-cultural perspectives transcribed into drawings
- Femme driven activism
- Culture and identity
- Celebrating marginalized voices and challenging monolithic attitudes
- Retrofuturism and the influence of technology
While these topics themselves are alluring, considering that they are coming from lay persons instead of some academia-guru makes their perspectives more relatable. Not to mention all of these ideas are being projected via the most novel packaging: visual and written art. While transmitting socio-political information in this way has forever been seen through different movements and art forms, it is always great to see information-projection that contrasts the way we are often taught these topics in school.
Technically, you could have attended this book fair from school. Its virtual platform showcased a montage of pink, yellow, and orange circles—each operated as an artist’s booth. The fair’s trademark smiley propagated each of the virtual booths, reminding you that you were, in fact, attending the Art Book Fair. I did so while out for brunch, sitting in my van, in line at Value Village, and in my bed late Saturday night.
While this was convenient and contrasted greatly from the previous years when I would dedicate a good chunk of the weekend to physically being there, I could not help but think that being consumed in my phone’s portrayal of the book fair was a replication of our current norm of virtual classrooms, virtual bank appointments, and virtual improv shows.
A large part of what made the Art Book Fair so great in the past was actually being there—seeing artists’ table displays, thumbing through works, collecting free stickers, acting awkward in front of a thousand other awkward folk. None of these physical interactions occurred this year. And frankly, despite the lack of comfortability and social anxiety that such cumbersome events supply, they are a part of life. Exposing ourselves to social situations will better prepare us for those in our futures (hopefully, fingers crossed). In my perspective, social events aid in moving closer to that reality, whereas virtual ones may be doing the opposite.
The art fair did have quite a few virtual meet and greets, real-time talks and workshops—but nothing beats face-to-face communication. Ironically, a common theme at the fair was mental health, and while creating any art medium has been shown as being mentally beneficial, having our noses stuck to our phone screen does the opposite.
While Vancouver’s 2020 Art Book Fair ended on October 18, there are still many resources available on their website, including a full list of the exhibitioners and links to their personal websites. The Vancouver Art Book month extends to the end of October. Until the month concludes, there are edit-a-thons, digital discussions, demos on risograph printing, readings, and more. So, until the world resumes its pre-COVID state, why not feed your creativity and take a look!