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Since 2012, Brazil has hosted an independent publishing fair known as Feira Plana, idealised and curated by artist and entrepreneur Bia Bittencourt. Inspired by one of the most famous book fairs in the world—the New York Art Book Fair, which takes place at MoMA PS1—Bia implemented this concept with almost no money, but the willingness and strength to help artists, designers and photographers to have a platform to commercialise their work and dialogue with the public.
The fair takes place at MIS-SP (Museum of Image and Sound), and it happens annually, bringing people from all parts of Brazil and the world. From the first edition to the last one that occurred at the beginning of March 2015, many things have changed. Now, bigger and more structured and with more people interested to showcase their work and visit the space, the fair emerged from a place to buy self-published books, to a big event where you can meet people, exchange ideas, hear lectures from acclaimed professionals and buy independent books.
For the first time since 2012, Feira Plana explored the universe of photo publications, photo-books and photo-zines.
In one of the tables, you could find the work of 4478zine, for instance, represented by the London-based distributor Antenne Books. Also there, the Brazilian collectives Companhia Rapadura, República books, Tijuana and many others. To explore the diversity of independent publishers and activities offered by the event, two days were certainly not enough. Now, all we can do is wait until next year’s edition, which already has a theme: black and white.
One of the most interesting initiatives came from designer Guilherme Falcão Pellegrino, and our two new Bookpres correspondents from Brazil, Lucas Machado and Lisa Moura spoke with Guilherme Falcão about his experience as an independent publisher and the ideas behind ‘A Escola Livre’.
Interview with Guilherme Falcão Pellegrino
You’re a graphic designer from São Paulo and editor/founder of the fanzine
press Contra. When did you first start working with self and independent publishing and why?
Guilherme: I actually always prefer to use the term “self” instead of “independent”: no man is an island, and no press works independently. From the computer one uses to edit the material, to the network of colleagues one exchanges ideas with and is inspired by, there is a profound sense of dependence—of the good kind, of course.
The idea of publishing on my own started before I even entered university and understood what graphic design was all about. Initially, I wanted to study journalism and then some kind of graphic arts, in order to be able to oversee the whole of the printed matter—at that point, late 90s / early 2000s, I wanted to have my own culture/music/fashion magazine. During university, it all started to make more sense to me, and as I found out more about self-publishing and zines, this led me to produce my very first project: the parasite zine. I found in zine publishing the answers to my sense of urgency and (self) expression.
I don’t really understand what drove me to self-publishing. It’s a love for the printed matter. As a kid, I had a computer and a dot matrix printer since I was seven or eight, and I can clearly remember printing small magazines and other paper goods. I also remember that every time I wanted something and my parents couldn’t afford, I would fabricate it out of paper. So, you see, it was there all the time.
You’ve participated in the first Feira Plana in 2012 and in the editions that followed. What would you say about the scenario of self/independent publishing in São Paulo and in Brazil in general? Did you notice an evolution in the production and acceptance of the audience since its first edition?
Guilherme: During the last Feira Plana, there was a table discussion with other publishers that have participated in the event since its first edition. Hard words were spoken, and challenges were acknowledged, but it was a relief to see that the level of discussion and concerns felt more mature. We discussed the need for a calendar of fairs in the country, we spoke about distribution and finding new methods and associates that would work together with us, and enable us to grow and reach more audience. So, in a way, I can say that the scenario is much more mature than when it started.
There is, however, still a sense of ‘hype’ associated with the work we do. Partially because it has do to with design and art because it’s made by young ‘hipsters’, there is this strange objectifying aura around it. But I feel that every year more and more people are attracted to the joys of self-publishing, both as audience and producers/editors. We are having the privilege of being able to shape up our audience and grow together with them. If we play our cards right, this will succeed in a cultural landmark in the Brazilian art/design scene. Feira Plana, for instance, is already a staple in the events calendar of the city. It would also please me a lot if more and more cities started doing their versions of fairs—whichever size is possible for them—so this doesn’t get polarized by the big capitals. That means more audience, and a richer and more diverse production.
You once said that the so-called “self/independent publishing” isn’t something new. For example, the zines played a huge role in the punk movement in the late 1970s. Despite all kinds of new technological developments and devices, the printing process, like in the 1970s, still holds a great role in the independent and self-publishing world. Why do you think this is?
Guilherme: There was a moment during some part of the 90s/2000s that zines migrated to the web. It was cheaper—sometimes no cost at all—it had a broader reach, and it was perfect for that moment as audiences were starting to understand the potential and tested the limits of the WWW. But the book has been around for 500 years, and printed matter centuries before that, and somehow we always find a way to return to paper. Maybe it’s some sort of “digital allergy” that brought us back … maybe it’s a fetishist thing: the smell of ink, the touch of paper, the collectors in us. Or maybe, as information gets more and more digital—because we need the speed, we don’t have the time, it has to spread—printing was freed from the demands and was finally able to re-invent itself, much like the relationship between painting and photography during the turn of the 19th / 20th centuries.
This year, at Feira Plana, you have also launched a new project with fellow designer Tereza Bettinardi called “A Escola Livre” (The Free School), which involved a series of open talks with designers, publishers, editors, etc. Can you talk a bit more about this project and its objectives?
Guilherme: The talk-marathon at Feira Plana was only the beginning of A Escola Livre —sort of like a warm-up. We say the project is an experiment in design education because we are not quite sure where we are going to end up, or how to get there. We want to build it together with the audience. It is going to work as a series of short-period cycles of workshops, open talks and interviews, activities, lectures. Everything is going to be documented, transcribed and then released as publications. We want to produce knowledge and learn together, but more importantly, we want people to meet, engage, discuss. We want designers to think about what we do, and to share the knowledge that we already have.
Lastly, what are your expectations/hopes/wishes for the next years in the São Paulo/Brazilian scenario of self/independent publishing?
Guilherme: As I mentioned before: an intelligent and calculated—as much as it is possible for such a business—growth. More audiences in more places, better and affordable printing alternatives, and to see more and more of the exchange of ideas, concepts and challenges. We produce things and put them on the market, on the planet—we must think twice before pressing ‘print’. It’s not a matter of (only) being environmentally aware, but rather giving the printed matter the care and thought it deserves.
Photo credit: Lisa Moura
To learn more about Guilherme Falcão Pellegrino
and experience his work
go visit: guilhermefalcao.com
To learn more about the independent
publishing fair Feira Plana
go visit: www.feiraplana.org