Printed Matter’s annual NY Art Book Fair was held at PS1 a couple of weekends ago. It was crowded and noisy. And there were a lot of people there too.
Several weeks before the fair, I noticed on the list of exhibitors one exhibitor from Korea: Antic-ham. I clicked over to the artist’s site–a mix of drawing, collage, printmaking and photography. It is by turns playful, sexy, political and personal. Weaving all of this together is bookmaking. I ordered half a dozen books on the spot, which I enjoyed opening immensely.
At the NYABF, I made a beeline to the Red Fox Press table, which Antic-ham shared with Francis van Meale of Red Fox Press. Together, Francis and Antic-ham are Franticham. They make art as individuals and as a couple. I purchased a couple of their joint books at the fair, of which Franticham’s Polaroid Correspondence was one. It seems like the perfect encapsulation of their relationship and bookmaking. Distance, cross-cultural dialogue, collage, mail art, and Polaroid photography mix with heady emotion.
On the title page of the wire bound volume, the book explains its genesis:
During 6 weeks Francis in Achill Island and Antic-Ham in Seoul exchanged by mail their experiences and feelings with A5 postcards with collage and using Polaroid pictures made with SX-70 cameras and color Silver Shade PX films from the Impossible Project.
Newspaper clippings, packaging, stamps, address labels, drawings and Polaroid prints are collaged together. The Polaroids are captioned with personal notes and dated. These were posted back and forth. They appear to be further collaged in the book making process. They make references to shared experiences in Seoul, hint at a future together in Achill Island and riff on the longing and quotidian realities of the six weeks that lay between the before and the ever after time periods.
Correspondance is a kind of oppositional companion to Oksun Kim’s Happy Together. Kim’s book of photographs of inter-racial Korean/Non-Korean couples is informed by her own inter-racial marriage but maintains a cool detachment through an anthropological process. It examines these relationships. Franticham’s book, in contrast, is entirely personal. It is messy, raw and emotional. Dada and Fluxus sensibilities are at play throughout. Happy Together feels clinical (or, perhaps, too close to home). Correspondence feels exciting, honest, alive.
The physical book furthers this sensibility. Like Franticham’s and Anticham’s other books, Correspondence doesn’t take itself too seriously. The wire binding, handmade collage front cover and roughly printed pages (color copier?) are loose, loving and playful.
[To be clear, their dedication to their art making and book making is entirely serious. While I would consider their art making to be more termite than white elephant, their large screen printed publications are amazing and beautiful, though unfortunately too rich for my budget. I highly recommend checking out these other books, which include London Palm Trees, Grand Bazaar and New York New York, if the opportunity presents itself.]
Franticham’s Polaroid Correspondence is delightfully earnest and heartfelt. Neither making grand claims nor engaging cosmic truths, it takes the reader on a voyeuristic romp through the couple’s long distance creative embrace. This author, for one, wishes them many productive years together.
Franticham’s Polaroid Correspondence
Franticham (Francis van Meale & Antic-Ham)
Red Fox Press
Edition of 69, numbered and signed