2021 Agassi Book Arts Prize – UWE, Bristol


Congratulations to the MA Multidisciplinary Printmaking students Csilla Bíro and Ben Jenner joint awardees of the 2021 Agassi Book Arts Prize for their artists’ publications

Csilla Bíro Dust Jacket series. ‘Referencing Altea Grau Vidal’s PhD thesis Unmasking Conventions: A re-evaluation of the notion of the double page spread within fine art practice. I wonder if a dust jacket is the basic structure of something else, or if it could be interpreted as a freestanding structure in its own right when it’s no longer covering a book. Through my initial tests and notes for Dust Jacket as a publication I started exploring the idea as a free object, with references to its past through the folds that would have followed the contours of a book, potentially a book’s title (real or imaginary) and some reminder of the contents. I also thought about the hierarchy suggested in a freestanding dust jacket. On a commercially made cover there would be prominent parts like the title, name of the author, illustrations on the outside, and business information/blurbs or a biography on the folds. Older jackets would have advertising on the outside.

A freestanding jacket structure has room to play with this hierarchy, similar to how Altea Grau Vidal’s fold is a spine, suggesting a book structure, creating spatial coordinates like an outside and an inside. The outside/inside situation could be turned on its head, by making the outside look important, and filling the inside with content that contradicts the outside, give it ‘hidden’, more important content etc. I would like to continue exploring these possibilities beyond my degree.’

Ben Jenner – Everything that I’ve wanted to say but haven’t had the confidence to until now.

‘The works found in the publication are a personal account of the pandemic. This includes the relentless lockdowns and periods of isolation, the loneliness that ensued as a result of these, the dire predicament of working in the hospitality industry throughout the whole ordeal and my feelings towards this, and finally the rare moments of quiet in between the anxiety, and how my creative practice has been a constant crux right from the beginning of the pandemic.

I feel that experiencing this work in a tangible way is paramount to reading the emotive content it offers. Contemporary society is oversaturated with digital media across a great many platforms and I did not want my story to get lost in a split second of someone’s screen time. Social media and virtual showcases will be used to share the work but these will only communicate so far. The publication will undoubtedly exist on multiple platforms, but I would like it to predominantly be experienced in the physical.

‘Everything that I’ve wanted to say but haven’t had the confidence to until now’ is how I described this collection of drawings, prints, poetry and performances in a presentation that I gave earlier in the year. I noted it down as I really felt that it rung true to where I currently stood, not only as an artist but within myself as well.’ https://www.benjenner.co.uk

You can watch a short journey through the publication here.

Read more about the Agassi Prize here.

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