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information about Mutanabi St: call to book artists

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  • Jill Littlewood
    An Inventory Of Al-Mutanabbi Street - A Call To Book Artists from Beau Beausoleil On March 5th 2007, a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad.
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 30, 2010
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      An Inventory Of Al-Mutanabbi Street - A Call To Book Artists

      from Beau Beausoleil

      On March 5th 2007, a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in
      Baghdad. Al-Mutanabbi Street

      is in a mixed Shia-Sunni area. More than 30 people were killed and more than
      100 were wounded.

      Al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, holds
      bookstores and outdoor bookstalls, cafes, stationery shops, and even tea and
      tobacco shops. It has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and
      intellectual community.

      The Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadside Project has completed its call to
      letterpress printers after reaching a goal of 130 broadsides from 130
      individual printers. Now the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition is issuing a call
      to book artists to work on a project to "re-assemble" some of the
      "inventory" of the reading material that was lost in the car bombing of
      al-Mutanabbi Street. We are asking book artists to join our project and
      further enhance the work of the Coalition by honoring al-Mutanabbi Street,
      by creating work that holds both "memory and future," exactly what was lost
      that day.

      This project has brought me into contact with many book artists who
      responded to our call for broadsides by turning to a nearby letterpress to
      join our project. I have learned much about their thoughtfulness,
      dedication, patience, and the tenacity they bring to bear on any project
      they take on. The more I thought about it, the more I have felt that it is
      impossible to leave book artists out of this visceral response to the
      bombing of al-Mutanabbi street.

      Book artists represent what is intangible between the pages of any book they
      create, the interior space that they enter, and from which they slowly
      fashion a book brings to the visible world the myriad emotions of any text,
      be it their own, or someone else's.

      The coalition asks each Book Artist who joins the project to complete three
      books (or other paper material) in the course of a year, books that reflect
      both the strength and fragility of books, but also show the endurance of the
      ideas within them. We seek constructions of all the various vessels of the
      printed word, ones that pay homage to the truth that can rest between any
      two covers. We are looking for work that reflects both the targeted attack
      on this "street of the booksellers" as well as the ultimate futility of
      those who try to erase thought.


      As in our broadside project, we will be donating one complete set of 130
      responses to this call to the Iraq National Library in Baghdad. The other
      two sets will be used in conjunction with shows of the broadsides as well as
      in shows of their own. Each book artist will have one year from the date
      they join the project to complete their three books. The books need not be
      the same, but can be concurrent reflections of their own thinking on this
      bombing, including a representation of what books mean, and have always
      meant, to any people.

      The inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street was as diverse as the Iraqi population,
      including literature of both Iraq and the Middle East, history, political
      theory, popular novels, scholarly works, religious tracts, technical books,
      poetry, mysteries; even stationery and blank school notebooks could be
      purchased on this street, as well as children's books, comics, and
      magazines. Arabic was of course the predominate language but books in Farsi,
      French, German, and English were also represented. Because books have their
      own journeys, ones quite unknown to us, I imagine there were a few books in
      Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, or Italian, as well as classic Greek and
      Latin, Hindi, or even Russian. Your own text for this project can reflect
      the multiplicity of this linguistic crossroads.

      This project is both a lament and a commemoration of the singular power of
      words. We ask that the work move within these parameters. We hope the books
      created will use al-Mutanabbi and its printers, writers, booksellers, and
      readers, as a touchstone. We hope that these books will make visible the
      literary bridge that connects us, made of words and images that move back
      and forth between the readers in Iraq and ourselves. These books will show
      the commonality of al-Mutanabbi Street with any street, anywhere, that holds
      a bookstore or cultural institution.

      And that this attack (part of a long history of attacking the printed word)
      was an attack on us all.

      The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition is not an anti-war project, nor is it a
      healing project. The coalition feels that until we truly see what happened
      on this one winding street of booksellers and readers, on this one day in
      Baghdad, until we understand all the implications of an attack on the
      printed word and its writers, printers, booksellers and readers, until we
      see that this is our street, until then, we cannot truly move forward.

      Understanding this one day may also help us understand our own role in
      helping to create the still open wounds that exist on the cultural and
      literal body of Iraq.

      The Book Artist, Sarah Bodman, has agreed to work on this project as
      co-curator with me. I could not ask for a more steadfast partner in this

      Here are some details from Sarah Bodman for "An inventory of al-Mutanabbi
      street" call for artists' books contributions:

      Please could you produce your book in an edition of 3, by any means: hand
      printed, digital, POD etc.

      Do feel free to make as many more of the edition as you want to use/sell
      however you want, we are asking for three copies in total to be donated to
      the project.

      Any kind of format that would normally be found on a street of booksellers,
      this is a broad call for any kind of paper-based artist's bookwork for

      Pamphlet books

      Zines, newspapers


      Miniature books

      Paperback, hardback, etc.

      Folded and sewn or stapled sheets

      Altered books, if artists want to make these, they can be 3 different
      versions or an edition of 3. Please make sure they are robust, not too
      heavy, and able to close for packing/transport (so that they are no bigger
      than the size of an average hardback novel when shut).

      Please remember that the books will tour for a while, with national and
      international exhibitions and a complete set will be sent to the Iraq
      National Library, so please keep them as light as possible to help save
      postage costs.

      If you produce any large newspaper-type bookwork, please allow for it to be
      rolled for transit.

      Also please do not include anything in the books that could hold up their
      transit through customs such as metal, currency, food, dried plants, dead
      insects etc. (this may sound strange but has happened with touring book
      shows before). If you're not sure please ask!

      An Inventory Of Al-Mutanabbi Street

      Beau Beausoleil - Curator (North and South America, Canada, The Middle East)


      Sarah Bodman - Curator (Europe, The Middle East, and Asia)


      Contact either one of us, from any other Book Artist worktable around the

      This call to Book Artists commences on Sept 1st, 2010 and runs until Sept
      1st, 2011.

      Book Artists will have one year from the date they respond to the call to
      complete their work.

      Thank you!


      Jill Littlewood

      435 E. Pedregosa, Santa Barbara, California, USA, 93103

      home: (805) 898-9260 cell (805) 448-2045

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