Art, design zine communities under spotlight at KL Art Book Fair 2022

Malaysian zine and print publication ‘Bang Bang Zine' is one of the participants at the Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair at The Godown this weekend. Photo: Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair

Despite the pandemic restrictions, last year’s inaugural Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair (KLABF) at The Godown in Kuala Lumpur maxed out on its ticket allocation (by sheer word-of-mouth networking) and gave the arts venue in the capital one of its year-end highlight events.

This year, the contemporary-minded KLABF returns with an even bigger group of participants, including designers, artists, collectives and independent publishers – all coming under one roof at the same venue The Godown from Dec 2-4.

The fair aims to promote art books as a creative medium. Judging by last year’s content, visitors can expect different creative expressions that push the boundaries of what constitutes books.

Over 60 participating exhibitors are part of the upcoming KLABF (an increase from the 40-odd vendors of last year).

The Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair aims to promote art books as a creative medium.  Photo: Kuala Lumpur Art Book FairThe Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair aims to promote art books as a creative medium. Photo: Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair

This line-up includes local and international exhibitors, such as local zine brand and print publication Bang Bang Zine that centres on the art of storytelling with illustrations, Japan-based zine maker Asian_Food_Design that focuses on Asian food illustrations, Indonesia-based independent and multi-format publishing platform Further Reading Press which seeks to engage in discourse within design practises by exploring online publications, printed periodicals and pop-ups, and Korean independent publisher and design studio Sojanggak, House Of Small Books.

Keeping the momentum going

“Visitors can still expect the same spirit of creativity, knowledge-exchange and community in this edition, but on a much larger scale. Several of the international exhibitors are familiar to the regional South-East Asia art book fair scene, with a larger catalogue of prints.

"As for our local exhibitors, some of them are returning exhibitors while others will be exhibiting for the first time, with many using this as a chance to try self-publishing. It will be exciting to see the synergy between the local and international groups,” says festival director Sam Chia.

She adds that in terms of focus, the fair has definitely matured compared to last year.

“Now that there is growing interest for self-published work, the exhibitors will be bringing more independent publications to the fair. This, with the international exhibitors who will be joining us, means even more art books being sold at the fair, which is exactly what we are hoping for,” says Chia.

Throughout the fair, Book Nomad, a travelling showcase by abC (art book in China) Art Book Fair, will offer a selection of independent art publications.

Local and international exhibitors will gather under one roof at the second edition of the Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair at The Godown. Photo: Kuala Lumpur Art Book FairLocal and international exhibitors will gather under one roof at the second edition of the Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair at The Godown. Photo: Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair

Focusing on "Asianness", with the theme of "Nomadic And Imagined", its previous stop was at the Bangkok Art Book Fair this year.

Book Nomad was started during the pandemic to promote knowledge and cultural exchange in the face of pandemic/travel restrictions.

“Each new host (Singapore, Taiwan, Bangkok) adds new books to the travelling showcase, which adds the social and cultural context of that particular country to the theme.

"The hosts have more or less complete freedom to choose the books to be added to the growing collection, so I think it is a rather honest, sincere collection of regional, Asia-inspired art books,” says Chia.

Among the books that will be added at the KLABF stop are Cloud Projects Enterprise’s Banned In KL, Astro Boy Rides The Wave To Sky Kingdom On A Grasshopper: Malaysia In Fifteen Postcards, written by Lim Sheau Yun, Simon Soon and Ong Kar Jin; and Lain-Lain Design’s ‘Search Vol.1: Independence, an independent graphic magazine that seeks to uncover and investigate the designs and subcultures that are reshaping the creative landscape of South-East Asia.

At KLABF, there will also be talks and workshops (a fee applies for these, book your seat on the KLABF website) and book launches.

On Dec 2, Hong Kong-based graphic designer, visual artist and illustrator Hung Man Po will hold a session on his life and work of recent years in Age Of Wanders, from his illustrations on Hong Kong vernacular culture, brand design for a radio station, key visuals for arts festivals, concert animated projection to exhibition curation about local farmers. This talk will be held in Cantonese and English.

On Dec 4, editor-in-chief of Further Reading Januar Rianto will talk about various editorial programmes and approaches of Further Reading Press, the making of Jakarta Art Book Fair’s first edition, his personal explorations and observations on working with print media, and the efforts in initiating critical reflection and dialogue about design in a local (South-East Asian) context, in Print Media And Autonomous Knowledge Production In The Digital Era.

So who should come to KLABF?

“Anyone who wants to get to know our local and regional creative community. Anyone who wants to see art they can touch. Anyone who is curious for knowledge, inspiration and new worlds,” concludes Chia.

Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair is on at The Godown, 11, Lorong Ampang 7 in Kuala Lumpur, from Dec 2-4 (noon to 8pm). Ticketed entry. Free entry for children under 12. More info here.

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