This is the fifth in a series of interviews with Art Byte Critique members participating in the Tokyo Art Book Fair which runs from October 5 to October 8th. This is Art Byte Critique’s fourth appearance at TABF and we are all really excited. Louise kindly too time to do a Q&A series and provides some images of her projects.
Name: Louise Rouse
Time in Japan: 9 years 336 days as of today. Plus 4 months before that in 2006. Plus 2 weeks before that in 2003. Plus 3 weeks before that in 1998.
Education/ Occupation: MFA / Adjunct Professor for Printmaking & Drawing, Art Program, Temple University Japan Campus
How long have you been making books?
I don’t think I could pinpoint when I started organising ideas into bound paper objects of some kind. I can remember doing that forever.
When I was in middle school I even made my maths coursework which was a large part of the final grade into a ringbound zine with elaborately designed pages printed out on our home inkjet printer. I cannot speak for the quality of the maths though…
My middle school social studies teacher liked my zine assignment submission on the subject of local church history and paintings so much he wouldn’t give it back and was still showing it to other classes the last I heard… I’m still a little mad he didn’t give it back.
At age 15 I went on a work experience placement to a teen girl magazine in London and told my class I wanted to be a magazine designer as an adult.
I think I have always used something like graphic design (even before I knew what that was) to organise my thoughts and to actually understand the world.
I instinctively tidy disparate thoughts into sequential sections that are visually easy to look at and somehow the information gets traction where otherwise it would get lost and unprocessed in the sea of un-designed chaos out there in the world.
There is almost nothing that consistently pleases me as much as beautiful images and lettering on paper that I can hold in my hands and flip back and forth through my fingers.
What is the biggest challenge for you when you make a book?
The biggest dilemma is to counter any and all inclinations to complicate an already large engineering challenge. In other words, making the book the simplest form of the idea you want to achieve because once you start editioning books you really discover the limits of one human’s time and labour.
This year I’m making a set of more elaborate books than I have in a while so we’ll see if I can actually adhere to my own hard-learned principle.
Do you have any art book heroes?
I’m indebted to Jonathan Ward who taught at my undergrad in Bristol. He told me romantic stories of his youth, carrying a suitcase of artist books around on the trains of Europe and selling them for a living. This seemed totally normal at the time, like “oh yeah, make money from artist books while traveling on trains, I dig it”.
He owns a small fine-art silkscreen press on the Isle of Weight now so it must be possible.
Also at the same university is Sarah Bodman, a dedicated book arts researcher and champion of this artform based in the Centre for Fine Print Research. Her passion and dedication to the community is inspiring. You can subscribe to her newsletter here: http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/newsletters.html
How did working with Art Byte Critique help you prepare your work?
Art Byte Critique consistently supports all members and everyone seems to really feel it at the end of each meeting. Normally as an artist, it’s very easy to feel like your work is an island of no relevance to any living being but I feel the exact opposite of that in the company of these incredible people. The combined output of our collective is like a living organism. Maybe like a wild wisteria… A bit invasive…. and sprawling…. but hella pretty.
What would you like people to know about your books?
This year I am presenting a book series of four titles, Kinjo, Tsukin, Tocho and Kabukicho (Neighborhood, Commute to work, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the red light district of Kabukicho) Each book is made with wooden casings which are carved with the title. The wood used is all native to Japan and reflects the character of the area, the paper is also hand made paper from Japan with connotations about those locations. Inside are frottage rubbings taken by using the streets and surfaces of the city as “wild printing plates”. Creating the work itself is a very public performance and a lot of interactions occurred between me and fellow Tokyoites who caught me doing this unusual thing in public space. It has been a very engaging project to work on and given me a lot of new thoughts and ideas each day working on it and I’m looking forward to presenting the works and the diary of making it to people at the book fair.
Do you have any advice for people coming to the book fair?
Last year I found a Japanese-run stall that imported a range of small edition linocut illustration magazines from a specialist German publisher, that was a great find. Around 40 pages of full color or 2-color linocuts, carved by artists and printed by this publisher, maybe ¥9000 or so which is a steal considering. Also some unexpected finds from totally unknown young artists who should be charging a lot more for intensively loved and crafted art books and fine-printed zines.
In between all of this magic, take lots of breaks for refreshments.
You can find out more about Louise and her work at the following:
louiserouse.com (empty at the moment though but for posterity… when i get it back up)
Tokyo Art Book Fair is at Warehouse TERRADA
2-6-10 Higashishinagawa Shinagawa-ku Tokyo
Preview/Reception and Hours and Admission
October 5th (Thu) 15:00-21:00（Tentative）
Admission: 1,000 yen
Free Admission and Hours:
October 6th (Fri) 12:00-20:00
October 7th (Sat) 12:00-20:00
October 8th (Sun) 11:00-19:00