MELISSA BIRCH ON ‘BOOK FAIR’

photobysamjohns Book Fair was a performance installation created by Samantha Johns. Inside a south Minneapolis storefront gallery, 30+ books and their artists displayed and priced themselves accordingly. Tables framed the room on 3 sides, books topped the tables and their artists stood leaned shuffled stretched disappeared and re-appeared in durational arrangement throughout the day; against white walls. From a middle table, the books of absent artists dreamily conjectured wild and quiet. As I entered the gallery there was a mercantile feel, a spirited buzz, and my heart quickened. Had I unwittingly entered into a free and lively exchange of ideas and discourse? Of hope-filled strategies perhaps, to end the war on terror? What was in all of these books? Who were these people? As I opened each book, what I found, I think, were love letters. I found promises to keep going. Plans, maps, caverns of black space. Data, text, travelogues, detailed selves, elves, enmity, love letters to each other, to performance, time, to Minneapolis, to food, to hunger. I found animation. Blocks and blindsides. Diaries of longing, of listening. And mad control. Hand-held white whispering books, timestamped, typeset and loved up from the page to layer the room in one big toothy smile. Surely that could end some war. In the gallery, I also felt like I’d entered a junior high school dance, arena, of sorts. Poets lined the walls, leaning. It was still early, noonish, the first blush of patrons had, I assumed, come through, opened, weighed, wrestled down some of these books – the heavier, detailed ones required a diligent dexterity; I removed my coat and scarf. I read, received, discoursed, engaged with the artists, and orange peels, forgetfully, in stanzas now lost to time. What did you tell us, Book Fair? The installation performed a generosity I don’t want to overstate here. I’ve been concerned that live performance is losing its innocence. I know. So let’s give a huzzah! to Book Fair for its determination to remain outside the specialty hierarchy, to flop itself around in 2015 amniotic fluid and to not know itself publicly. Book Fair openly listened as it foretold its past, backtracking to remember its letters, its lines, in order to know who we are, er, we are our books, today. Dance Card Diaries. I heard yearnings, breaks. Forgiveness and facebook, inferiority; superiority. I heard nausea and alienation and read of love neat and tidy: love pointed at the axis of death, to overwhelm life again and again. If you’ve made a book for the world which opens to the spine in strangers hands, unsealed, available, a book positioned like a postage stamp next to others – – then you have sent a love letter to the future world in no uncertain terms. This is my love letter to Book Fair. Melissa Birch 01.06.15 Sam Johns Book Fair 3506 Nicollet Ave, MPLS January 3rd, 2015

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