Public Programming


Alvin Li & Chang Yuchen

Over the past month, as Alvin embarks on a month-long research trip back in China, and Yuchen straddles between two drastically different residencies – one tactile, at Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, the other discursive with Asymmetry Art Foundation – we have been speaking to many friends (artists, editors, publishers, educators) in the process of conceiving the Asymmetry Library. Below is a selection of titles acquired in March, which will soon be available at the Library along with other titles still on the way. We hope to see you at the library soon!

-- Alvin & Yuchen


Image courtesy of the shop, ©Authors, the shop, 2019

Pak Sheung Chuen: Page 22 (Half Folded Library)


Published by Vitamin Creative Space, 2008

This folded book is a documentation of Pak Sheung Chuen’s uninvited, secretive and diligent performance of book folding from March to June 2008 at the New York Public Library. In Pak Sheung Chuen’s own words: ‘I folded every p.22 of half the books in an entire library. I’d pretend to be reading a book. At the same time, I would surreptitiously fold over a tiny section of the corner of p.22 in that book. I folded one book, skipped the next one, then folded another until I had folded half of the entire collection in that library.' As a one-time bookstore employee who was dedicated to keeping books in good shape, I find this project both disturbing and provocative: the thought of a pristine sheet of paper being creased still stings, but it also makes me wonder if that pristine condition is a dated fetish that contradicts the mission of a public library (‘free and open access to knowledge’, in the case of NYPL) and the very mechanism of a book, for which bodily interaction is called for. Maybe a library is a space that necessarily entails abundant bodily interactions, moments of history that layer on top of each other in the forms of folds, creases, stains and more. (Yuchen)

Photo by Feng Zhiyin

Duan Jianyu: New York Paris Zhumadian


Published by Vitamin Creative Space, 2008

This lovely volume, designed by Liu Zhizhi, Xia Yu and Mengke @MEWE Design, was one of the first Chinese artists’ books I came across when working at Printed Matter, as well as my first exposure to Duan Jianyu’s work –her painting, her writing, and their ambiguous entanglement. Wikipedia opens its history of artists’ books with William Blake, who combined poems, watercolor drawings and book-making. I believe a certain experience offered by the book form, both interdisciplinary and anti-disciplinary, is what still draws many artists to its practice. I use my literacy to comprehend Duan’s deceptively realistic fiction, my eyes to enjoy the wild shapes and colours of her imagery, and my fingers to flip through various delicately contrasting textures of paper, with multiple senses at work, generating multiple lines of affect and response that add up to an event. (Yuchen)

Image courtesy of the artist

Image courtesy of the artist

Clive Phillpot: Booktrek: Selected Essays on Artists' Books (1972-2010)

Published by JRP | Ringier, 2013

I am not entirely unashamed to admit I do not own a copy of this classic. When this book was in print, I did not foresee that artists’ books would stay in my life and practice in such a profound, enduring and generative way. But whenever I deliver an introduction to the concept and history of artists' books, my slides always include a diagram taken from this one, in which an apple, a lemon and a pear demonstrate the overlap and divergence between art and books. In recent years, I have started to pair this image with one by Kione Kochi and Temporary Service/Half Letter Press, in which Clive Phillpot’s famous diagram is greatly complicated to illustrate the age of digital publishing. I love it not only for its clarity, necessity, and many fun fruit- and insect-related analogies, but also for how the act of ‘ripping-off’ here serves as a continuation and expansion of knowledge-sharing – the core mission of publishing. I look forward to one day reading this copy of Booktrek at Asymmetry’s library and creating my own, tangential ‘rip-off’ of it. (Yuchen)

Image courtesy of the Times Art Center Berlin

Big Tail Elephant: Build and Resist

Edited by Hou Hanru and Yu Hsiaohwei

Published by les presses du réel with Times Art Center (Berlin), March 2023

This much-anticipated, hot-off-the-press book is the fruit of many years of research and exhibitionary practices dedicated to the legendary Pearl River Delta art collective Big Tail Elephant. This group, consisting of the late Chen Shaoxiong (1962 - 2016), Liang Juhui (1959 - 2006), Lin Yilin (1964 - ) and Xu Tan (1957 - ), made works individually while thinking and showing collectively. They rose to international visibility in the 1990s through a series of highly experimental and conceptually rigorous works – many ephemeral – that reflected on questions of modernity, urbanisation, developmentalism and globalisation, with acuity and humour. In Lin Yilin’s iconic action Safely Maneuvering Across Lin He Road (1995), for instance, the artist slowly moved a wall he had built on one side of a busy main street in Guangzhou, brick by brick, to the other side of the street, thereby intervening in the frantic metabolism of the city. When the large-scale retrospective ‘Big Tail Elephants: One Hour, No Room, Five Shows’ took place at Guangdong Times Museum in 2016 (before travelling to OCAT Beijing in 2017) I was still based in Shanghai and unfortunately missed it. Now, not only has the exhibition come to an end, but the museum’s very physical space is no longer in operation (for the moment, at least); but this circulating publication will continue to duplicate and disseminate the exhibition, prolonging its 'touring' in a portable and enduring way. (Alvin)

Image courtesy of the artist

Zheng Bo: Wanwu I

Published by Walther Koenig, 2023

Although published as a companion to ‘Zheng Bo: Wanwu Council 萬物社’, which was held from 21 Jun through 23 Aug 2021 at Gropius Bau in Berlin, Wanwu I is not a conventional exhibition catalogue. Exquisitely designed by John Morgan Studio – the UK-based design practice behind such high-profile projects as Tate Britain’s wayfinding and signage design, art direction for ArtReview magazine, and graphic identity and ongoing consultancy for Raven Row, among others – the book features a series of conversations between the artists and close collaborators across different fields (Stephanie Rosenthal, Mathias Rillig, Philip E. Bloom, Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, T.J. Demos, and Ye Ying) as its main corpus, sandwiched between a prologue by Rosenthal and an epilogue by Kimberly Bradley. The book is simple yet delicate, and packed with ideas – just like the work of the Hong Kong-based artist, thinker and educator. (Alvin)

Image courtesy of Aurélien Mole

Yi Xin Tong: Manuel d’amour environnemental


Published by the Palais de Tokyo, 2022

Artist’s books are one of Yin Xin Tong’s long-standing fascinations. NYC Fishing Journal (published by Gong Press, 2019), for instance, is an acrylic box stuffed with images (bundled loosely using fishing line), notes and documents from sixty-two (out of hundreds) of the artist’s fishing trips taken between 2015 and 2018. His latest artist’s book, 《环保恋爱手册》(Manuel d’amour environnemental), published by the Palais de Tokyo in 2022, consists of seventy-two poems, printed in bilingual French and Chinese, that explore what the artist considers a ‘metaphysical kindness’ in the human relationship to nature – a homage to Thoreau and Paul Klee, and perhaps an echo to traditional Chinese cosmology as well. One poem, titled Meals from the Wild 野外觅食, is made up of a list of the fishes he caught last year. In Yi Xin’s enumeration, their names seem dazzling and whimsical, while the wildness of their aquatic being leaks through the scientific terminology. The book is at once romantic, melancholic, and hilarious; it breaks many rules while imagining many more relations and worlds. Definitely a collectable of an artist’s book. (Alvin)