Get To Know: Vapour Momenta Books
Image: NYC niche photobook collector, Mark Ghuneim, a few years back, collected @vapourmomentbooks first edition, the 2007 artist book I SAW YOU, in time for his avant-garde ‘Surveillance Index’ book, very smartly designed @studiolin, an archive of his 100-strong surveillance photobook collection, each book indexed by categories: alphabetical by title and author, by dimension, year published and ISBN, and an image of a book spread actual size ... the book collection travelled from NYC for exhibition @le_bal, Paris: Performing Books #1, 10–27 January 2018.
Tell us about your publishing platform.
Vapour Momenta Books – @vapourmomentabooks – is the pocket-sized publishing arm of artists Catherine Griffiths and Bruce Connew, no bricks and mortar, a ‘paper’ vehicle with which to publish and distribute our artist books.
South Africa (1987), On the way to an ambush (1999) and Stopover (2007) were taken up by mainstream publishers, Hodder & Stoughton and Victoria University Press. Stopover was co-published too with the University of Hawai’i Press. After Stopover, my practice reoriented a little with I Saw You (2007), Vapour Momenta Books’ first edition, an artist book, a redirection, which overlapped with Stopover. While printing Stopover in beautiful duotone at a terrific and empathetic Verona printing house, back at la pensione one evening, perched on the bed, almost in a moment, Catherine and I designed I Saw You, which is sequenced from the middle, then out to the left and out to the right, one after the other!
I must admit, with Body of Work (2015), we did try over a dozen mainstream photobook publishers in the imperial suburbs of Europe and America, but they were less than charmed, truth be told, they were horrified, which I took as a badge of honour. One Italian publisher wrote back quickly to say, “your book is too strong, we cannot do it”. Dear friends collected a complete exhibition set of the series on the proviso the wherewithal would result in an artist book. With a dash of Creative NZ funds, Vapour Momenta Books had its next edition printed tritone outside of Berlin. The book reviewed well in the imperial suburbs. Of course, there were those who loathed it, including the stud owner where I photographed for three months. He returned the books I sent him with a note that said, ‘this is not art’.
What are you reading?
For my new artist book in preparation, which examines a strand of the colonial wars in Aotearoa New Zealand, I’m pouring over a pile of very good and heavy reference books, each with occasional traces of deduction because sometimes historical information is just absent from the record. I’m deep-searching the Internet, and soaking up historical accounts in Treaty of Waitangi settlement documents. For accuracy of information, I lean heavily on the 1970s Watergate protocol (remember Deep Throat?), three sources to confirm any detail. With rigorous investigation, mostly this works, but sometimes the convention is just not possible, and you must make a judgement call. Such is history: opinions and assumptions (and errors) everywhere.
In the evening, lately, I’ve wandered once again through Gilles Peress’ most extraordinary book of the 1979 Iranian revolution Telex Iran (1983), and I’m reading Alan Hucks’ very considered observations, both text and image, I Walk Towards the Sun Which Is Always Going Down (2019). Susan Neiman’s Learning from the
Germans (2019) is relevant to my colonial wars enquiry, deep thought on the philosophy of monuments.
What are you watching?
The Jacinda and Ashley show on TV news, lessons in communication, every evening, compelling. Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance series, whatever the capitalist misgivings, is a superb peep inside a sports mind at the top level, fascinating, and compelling too. Then one of the kids suggested Normal People, and we became engulfed by the frustrations and damage of love with poor communication. Watched the 12 episodes over three evenings.
What are you listening to?
You asked for it! Kyung Wha Chung, Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn violin concertos; Mitsuko Uchida, two Mozart sonatas KV 331 and KV 332 and Fantasia KV 397; Lindsay String Quartet, Beethoven Late String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor op. 131 (I’d die for this); Kraftwerk’s, Trans-Europe Express; Nina Simone, Black Gold; Laurie Anderson, Big Science; Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf collection; Les Musciens de Lviv Cabaret Slave 3 (heard and bought in the Paris Metro where they were busking!); Maria Callas, Lucia di Lammermoor; Carla Bruni, quelqu’un m’a dit (why not?); Unknown Republic, Critical Notice and Childhood; plenty more.
Favourite book of all time?
I skip the notion of favourites, my reading is heroically eclectic, but Stravinsky’s The Poetics of Music (1942) profoundly affected my reasoning in the early 1970s when very briefly at the Guildford School of Art south of London. At least art school gave me their epic library for nine months.
Who are some of your favourite local artists/writers/publishers?
Catherine Griffiths (full disclosure, life partner), typographer, designer, educator and artist. I’m beyond privileged to watch her thinking and production, whichever of her disciplines. Oliver Connew, dancer/choreographer, poet, in Montpellier on a two-year choreographic masters programme (yes, one of the five Connew children), Zahra Killeen-Chance, dancer/choreographer, both, in different ways, right out there on the edge where it’s uncomfortable and gloriously solitary. Alice Connew, in Berlin, photographer, artist, artist bookmaker (latest artist book, Still Looking Good, with her brother Oliver), out there on the edge too. Solomon Mortimer, photographer, artist, artist bookmaker, collector, deep thinker and irrepressible. Matthew Mcintyre-Wilson, a special jeweller and person. Lela Jacobs, ethical designer and maker, another special person. There are more, of course.
Photographer Mary Macpherson’s new book of poetry, Social Media. Moana Jackson and Moana Maniapoto, E-Tangata on facebook. Utterly relevant. Follow their platform, top of your feed, every Sunday.
Bad News Books, non-stop, envious of their merchandise, taking lessons. Migrant Zine Collective @migrantzinecollective, a consequential social bearing. Gloria Books (Alice Connew and Katie Kerr), energy, research and tough, clear minds.
Favourite thing in the Strange Goods store?
You, Sam, of course, and Katie Kerr. And the best range of art books and photobooks and more in the country.