15 Feb 2024 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

For this post, I intend to create a space for conversation about the reading and performance of artist books, as well as introduce an Artist Book Reading Series co-hosted by myself and Aaron Cohick.

During Codex 2021, Aaron Cohick of New Lights Press and I began a conversation about the lack of reading events or book performances in the artist book world. Why weren’t public readings of books more common in the book art world? My own interest in reading and performing artist books started with my thesis defense in 2014 and became a practice I continued to engage with via CBAA conference panels (1, 2) and live poetry readings and other literary events in Tallahassee, FL and Reno, NV. Reading and performing my artist books has always felt like a natural progression of the artistic work of my book objects, as they include primarily poetic experimental texts and typography intended to be performed aloud. In a book object, the sound of the text being read aloud is determined by the shape of the page and the caesuras and margins offering visual and audible pause. I, like many writers, compose text aloud, so when that text is letterpress printed onto the page, the act of reading aloud (again) causes my tonal breath to mix with the sound of a finger rubbing along the paper edge of the book, the small crack of the spine giving. The reader of an artist book gets to have a similar engagement with text and object, except with their own inner reading voice. However, the performance of a book allows for another iteration of the book object. These readings and events can include elements of choregraphed performance, or audio and visual presentations.

The literary world, including the behemoth Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), has embraced the physical embodiments of literature, including performances (have you ever seen Abraham Smith perform his work?), reading events that include audience participation, or the like. The literary world and the artist book world have previously collided and there are a number of artists working in performative reading modes, including, I Wish To Say…Vol 2. By Sheryl Oring and Selected Durations by David Abel, two artist books in the Cynthia Sears Artists Book Collection Bainbridge Island Museum of Art as discussed by Yuka Petz on Artist’s Books Unshelved on June 17, 2023.

For a very recent example of artist book readings, this year at CODEX, Michelle Wilson & Anne Beck hosted an “evening of readings and performance” at the Rhinoceros Reading Room & Ephemera Collection. I hope this reading event is the beginning of a new series!

I’m continuing to research the history of readings and performance related to or happening within the book arts world, looking to the audience of the CBAA Book Arts Theory and Criticism Blog to chime in with some suggestions. I suspect there have been many of these performances or readings that may not have been documented in any formal way and I am hoping that book arts peers can help me build up that archive.

In the meantime, I will include the call for proposal for the Artist Book Reading Series co-hosted by Aaron Cohick and me. 



  • Artist books will be interpreted very broadly for this series. All visual/text formats are welcome: zines, limited editions, fine press, open edition artists’ books, visual poetry, comics, animations, digital art, hybrid media, etc., but all submissions must be tied to a physical book or other publication.
  • Individual readings will be 10 minutes long with four readers per event. Initial events will take place on Zoom but we are hoping to do some irl events in the future.
  • Readings can be live, recorded (audio or video), and/or can include visual elements. They could also be a combination of all those things (& maybe others!).
  • These are not talks about artist book projects. They are performative readings/enactments of the “books.”
  • All readers will be paid $150. Funding for this series will come from paying subscribers.
  • The deadline to submit for the May 2024 reading is March 1. The deadline for the fall reading is July 1.

AB Gorham is a book artist and writer from Montana and holds MFAs in Book Arts and Poetry from The University of Alabama. She is Assistant Professor of Book Arts and Papermaking at University of Nebraska Omaha. Her poems have been published in Puerto Del Sol, The Call Center, American Letters and Commentary, DIAGRAM, and Gulf Coast, among others. Her artist books are collected nationally and Unidentified Found Object Song was a semi-finalist for the 2022 MCBA Book Prize.

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