Before I write on I Never Read, the book fair itself, a short departure which tells of the passion that created and continues to drive this extraordinary book fair.
It would be simple to write a sweet story of Evaline Wuthrich and Johannis Willi. Thomas Keller, while not one in part of their love story is the third essential person in the love story of the I Never Read fair.
It is easy to struggle for written words to describe their passion, energy and devotion found on their faces, in their actions and in the people that surround them building, creating, tirelessly available and selling to make I Never Read beautifully unique.
Let’s look at the beginning of their press release as it presents I Never Read.
In June 2013 the book fair I Never Read, Art Book Fair Basel will take place for the second time. The fair focusses exclusively on print media, hereby distinguishing itself from other fairs and events surrounding Art Basel. Publishers, book sellers, artists and printers will exhibit their unique publication programs to an international audience, showing and selling pieces ranging from artist books, catalogues, monographies and journals through to zines. Thanks to guest appearances at “The NY Art Book Fair” in New York and “The LA Art Book Fair” in Los Angeles the I Never Read-Team has been able to broadly establish it’s fair within the past year, resulting in rising interest of participation. This year, over 80 participants from 20 different countries will take part in the show.
But how it and they started isn’t there. When I asked Evaline and Johannes about their beginning their answer made me smile as I looked around at the set-up and the faces of everyone in the bare room.
We sat on the edge of the stage in a main room of Volkshaus. The venue a carefully selected location only minutes away from Art B’ah’sel. Unlike that fair the only thing separating the artists were the edges of wooden tables that seemed as if they were off the same assembly line in one run of inventory. Resembling a communal restaurant, this one for savoring publications. Folding chairs were set up behind each table, two, sometimes three. This main room of Volkshaus at one time was a radio station which explained the booth now used for performances and announcements and the padded walls hiding repurposed storage space.
Evaline looks as if she could be the director and producer, perhaps the writer as well for an art school documentary project. A subtle sweet smile with focused eyes, knees up supporting a mac. Johannes, while talking to you with a little more with 360 vision but not the double cheek kiss kind is making sure that each piece and person in the room was coming together. He could would fit right in at a local race where his friends would be able to pick him out by his colorful shorts. When she is off the mac and he is off patrol it’s easy to see them as the binding of the book fair.
Thomas, topped with a hat or baseball cap turned not quite backwards has a smile that takes up most of his face when he is not concerned about something.
I was prepared to ask Evaline and Johannes the back story of I Never Read. Although, I met Johannes for the first time at the NY Art Book Fair last year where I chatted with him when I passed his table I didn’t quite understand what he was doing. He basically asked me why I was there and then asked for any zines that he would be happy to take back to his home town of Basel to show at his fair during Art Basel week. I shared that with Billy and returned with samples from his collection and made our contribution.
Johannes seemed like a nice guy and the drive to get your art out in the “zine”isphere trumps the need to put too much research and focus on the distribution channels. Several months later we met Johannes again as he had the zine table just opposite us at the LA Art Book Fair. I had less conversation with him there than the one time chat in NY even though our tables were faced opposite each other. On the last day there was a bit more dialogue between Billy and Johannes. A few months later Billy received his email inviting us to show at the 2nd I Never Read Fair in Basel.
My English with traces of the places I have lived even though never out of the USA probably seemed more broken to Evaline and Johannes than their’s seemed to me. I had no prepared questions.
“So, how did you get this thing going?” They looked at each other with an expression which betrayed their disagreement on a shared version.
“Well, me met at a bar or something and she had this idea which I actually had before and then we thought how great to do it together and here we are!”
The smiles and a few chuckling mumbled words as they leaned into each other were not scripted even though they have probably been asked this many times before. For a moment it feels as though you are the bartender watching this first encounter.
Johannes continued. “Actually, we know each other a very long time. Back to high school But I was too cool for her and she was too cool for me so we never really spoke.” He looked around the room, his arm not totally around her shoulders. “And now we are really cool together. Totally cool.”
I looked around. The tables were filling. Wheels on suitcases sliding across the floor. A little hammering here and there. Tape bing torn by teeth, a very different sound than ducktape. Staplers. Some loud impulsive exclamations during set-up crisis. Borrowing this or that. Grabbing an idea or giving one from next to you or behind you. A careless bump into a box.
All of this going-on making the soundtrack of the this fair conducted and improvised by these art book artists and publishers, many of which have day jobs and several who are staying with friends or at bnbs well outside the $15.00 sandwich zone. And while the languages were as varied as one would expect in an international art fair it was the language of making art easily understood and easily communicated.
Thomas was lining up the tables. They were raw and beautiful. Not attached by screws but pegs that kept them fastened and would make storage, set-up and breakdown efficient. These were not rushed. In another room near the front entrance were bookshelves and cases.
Astonished and presumptive I asked him where he got them.
“Get them? Like buy them in a store? Oh, we didn’t get these anywhere. We make these. My father and me.” He brushed some invisible dust off of one of the table tops as if he was cleaning crumbs off an infant’s chin.
“You made them?”
“Yes, yes. You like them? 45 of them. Come look.” He showed me how they were fastened. How they collapsed and how they would be stacked. “My dad and me. We make maybe two a week. But I’m very upset because it rained the day we needed to carry many to our storage place and now with this, uhm, hmm, heat, you know like the damp weather,” I sensed that he that felt that he was not explaining what he meant. He used his hand to explain further,
“Warp?” I asked or stated
“Yes, yes, wvarp.” He ran his hands across the wood almost as if he was performing pilates on it.
In my mind it was easy to see his father and him struggling against time and weather. Working together. A dad giving his son’s dream some focus calming the anxieties of his youthful drive and passion. I met his dad on the last day along with Thomas’ girlfriend who was breaking down the tables using a hammer type of tool moving from one table to another as his father stacked wood. This was the I Never Read book fair creation.
After that, I realized that the best way to tell the story of I Never Read is best told through the images of energy and passion of the I Never Read artists, the helpers and the helpers of the helpers with their sons and daughters and friends and friends of friends.
Putting it together.
And so the love story while it may include or even started with lovers at one time too cool for each other and friends the true love story is the love of artists and artists making books. Giving them space ,voice, community and belief.
How cool is that?
next up. the artists and the art