“I LIKE TO THINK OF THE BOOK AS A PAPER SCULPTURE WHERE WE CAN WALK THOUGH”…
We were lucky enough to be able to corner Dang Thanh Long for an interview this week. Long is not only the co-founder and publisher of « Saigon Artbook » which drew a lot of attention these last years from the art community in Vietnam, but he is also one of the creators with Shyevin S’ng and Hong Anh (from the Vin Gallery), of Inpages founded in 2016. Their goal is to publish and make available to a local and international market talented Vietnamese and foreigners artbook authors. Two years later Inpages is a small but established independent publishing brand with a reputation for bringing out high-quality art book for adults and children alike. We were able to ask Long about all he thought about his experience so far in the conception of the art book and publishing independently authors as well as about what makes his own creativity tick.
Bliss Saigon: Long, What first drew you to the Art book?
Long: I have always been passionate about art books and paper, in particular. They are rare and precious objects and the relationship between the book, the artist, and the public, the intimate feeling from the artist making a book fascinates me.
Publish art books does not happen overnight, it is the result of a long process. I love how a book can create impact and move people.
BS: How did you first get the idea to create an independent art book publishing house?
Long: For many years I collaborate with artists, the printing, and publishing industry. After having realized Saigon Artbook 6th Edition, I met Shyevin S’ng and Hong Anh from Vin Gallery and VinSpace Art Studio and we decided to create this space. Our goal is to enrich the Vietnamese heritage and to spread it to a national and international audience. We publish but our common experiences also allow us today to create books, to be the ideal intermediary between the printer and the artist wishing to produce a quality art book. At Inpages when we create a book, we monitor all the stages of the design to the colorimetry of the shots, the layout, the digital formatting and the general atmosphere of the book to fully deliver the experience to the reader as the artist’s wish. Making a book with an artist is a bit like curating an exhibition for a painter and how to present it to the public.
BS: Long, what is an artist’s book for you?
Long: For me, an artist’s book is a work of art taking the form of a book or adapting the spirit of a book.
Do you think that the “artist’s book”, in its current sense, is almost always a phenomenon of plastic, poetic and typographic experience?
An art book orchestrates the meeting of an artist and a writer and is the point of intersection between two types of coded expressions: the writing and the image. In many societies, books in the past played an object role with aesthetic and spiritual value. The visual was very important and the choice of the materials was not dictated by chance but by the aesthetics of the book considered as a precious object playing a very precise role in the society. It was the result of the intervention of people from several professions: writers, bookbinders, artists, poets, designers, etc. Today, if an artist book can go through plastic, poetic and typographic creation it’s often the creator who is entirely responsible for his book, he is the prime contractor from A to Z: author of the design, text, model, publisher, typographer, and even broadcaster. He must be able to be almost universal: he must have several trades and he must have knowledge in several disciplines. He is no longer, as in the past, invited to the process of creating a book, he is himself the initiator of the book’s creation.
BS: Do you share the feeling of Henri Michaux, a French writer, and artist who said: “Books are boring to read”?
Long: Personally, I prefer images to the words. The advantage of the artist’s book compared to other types of art is precisely that the book becomes a multidisciplinary field where many plastic techniques are possible (graphic art, painting, photography, sculpture, etc.) and where all forms and several fields of writing are accepted (poetry, news, notes, aphorisms, scientific texts, etc.). I especially like books that are meant to be watched. I like to think of the book as a paper sculpture where we can walk through.
As a publisher, do you have an editorial line? What makes you stand out?
I do not have an editorial line. For now, I trust my feeling and I have a weakness for everything I do not know, I want to try different things, to work with different fields and industries. At the moment, Architecture interests me enormously even if I don’t know anything about it but I would like to have the opportunity soon to publish a book with a Vietnamese architect.
BS: How do you connect with the artists and the readers?
Long: Through events, we organize a lot of exhibitions, showcase, art/publishing talk, workshop lead by artist, zine-making workshop, etc.. We invite people in by hosting difference kind of art activities in the space, to turn the bookstore into an alternative art space and a hub for people who would like to get in touch with the art scene in Saigon.
BS: How important are art book fairs for you?
Long: Art Book Fairs are unavoidably important. They allow us to meet the other publishers, exchange ideas, show the Vietnamese culture, and get inspiration from others to bring back that energy to further contribute to the local art scene in Saigon. This year we will join the Singapore fair in July and the Bangkok one in September.
BS: What is the most rewarding aspect of being an independent publisher?
Long: To have total editorial control to choose what we want without being constrained. This for me is freedom and joy. It is the opportunity to get Vietnamese and foreigners reading each other across our differences and learning more about each other and projecting stories to the world so that others can participate in the conversation unmediated. Being an independent publisher also help to join the network of like-minded creative working independently around the world, and to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and to create a better world.
BS: What is the most challenging aspect for an independent publisher in Vietnam?
Long: To find the financial foundation to help the artists to publish their book and continue to exist because the process to educate and to gain awareness about art is a long and continuing process.
BS: What are the current and future projects you are working on?
Long: In parallel with our publisher activities, we regularly organize exhibitions in our gallery. Currently, we welcome the smashing exhibition of Agnès Thierry “Emergence of a Spoon” until May 29, 2018. Then will follow an origami exhibition on June 8 with the talented artist Nguyen Linh Son. We are also preparing the Lê Văn Miến Art Market which will take place on June 2nd and 3rd at Inpages, VinSpace, Vin Gallery, Soma Art Cafe, Miss30, basically all the first business (galleries, coffee places, shops) of Le Van Mien street. Dist 2 in Ho Chi Minh City.
Adress: 4 Đường Lê Văn Miến, Thảo Điền, Quận 2, Hồ Chí Minh
Tel: 0126 550 2088