This weekend marks the fifth annual NY Art Book Fair (though things technically got underway last night) at MOMA’s PS1 in Long Island City, Queens. Sponsored by Printed Matter, the non-profit institution dedicated to the promotion of artists’ books and material ephemera, the Fair features cutting-edge art organizations, journals, scholars (Boris Groys), and contemporary artists (Paul Chan and Kristin Lucas, among them), alongside over 200 exhibitors, including native Chicagoans Soberscove Press and Temporary Services. In celebration of the conference, we’d like to point you toward some events and exhibitions organized around the work of one of our own purveyors of that soon-to-be discussed art-book hybrid, Press author Josiah McElheny.
McElheny’s The Light Club: On Paul Scheerbart’s “The Light Club of Batavia” has already enjoyed a profile in ARTnews, a centenary party cohosted by Cabinet, and mention in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
A recent editor’s choice review in BOMB engages the book in sum:
The slim volume The Light Club reveals McElheny’s passion for modernity’s early days, its promises, its failures, and its forgotten stories. The book offers the first English translation of Der Lichtklub von Batavia, a futuristic satire from 1912 by German novelist and theorist Paul Scheerbart, who argued for colored-glass architecture as it may ‘overcome cultural stagnation.’ The somewhat bizarre anecdote has its protagonists, who are ‘hungry for light, for understanding, and a new certainty,’ rally around the idea of creating an underground spa in an abandoned mine—not for bathing in water but for bathing in electrical light. McElheny surrounds this vision of ‘ironic utopia’ with metanarratives, which he commissioned from other artists and writers, or authored himself. In a play, a reminiscence, a male/female dialogue, and a critique, Scheerbart’s century-old original gets re-narrated—its bold creative idealism is highlighted while its discriminating and, in hindsight, alarming aspirations are exposed. McElheny’s delightful and eye-opening introduction ponders ‘Utopia Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday, or Never.’
What’s new with our man of translucent infinities, you ask? McElheny, a MacArthur Fellowship-winning sculptor, performance artist, filmmaker, and writer, will debut his most recent film Island Universe this coming week (November 8th) at MOMA’s Modern Monday series. Soon after, he’ll take Chicago by storm with the opening of his solo exhibition at Donald Young Gallery on November 12th (which runs through December 15th), and a talk and booksigning of The Light Club on November 15th, hosted by the University of Chicago’s Department of Visual Art’s Open Practice Committee.
For more information on the modernist themes of utopian hope, desire, and madness that animate McElheny’s project, be sure to pick up a copy of The Light Club. In the meantime, here’s an Art21 exclusive on “History and Orginality” that reveals a bit more of what fuels McElheny’s striking practice: