Meet the group bringing a Paris café to Frieze

The French art publishing collective castillo/corrales on why their booth is covered in wine stains and more
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A shot from castillo/corrales booth, courtesy of the collective
A shot from castillo/corrales booth, courtesy of the collective

Once upon a time, the cigarette-strewn cafes of Paris were the setting for high-minded artistic debate and conjecture, yet can they find a place within the pristine booths of the 21st century art fair? 

They can, if castillo/corrales are involved. The French, text-loving, art-publishing collective and bookshop is bringing its ongoing project, The Social Life of the Book, to Frieze London this week. The collective will publish two dedicated pamphlets on books and art especially for the fair, and present them in a suitably disheveled booth at Frieze. Read on to discover why this apparently cerebral group is named after one of the bloodiest boxing matches of recent history, how their freewheeling organizational style has led two contributors to miss the Frieze 2015 deadline, and which 20th century British author inspired them to work on their own line of cigarette lighters.

 

James Joff's desk, while working on The Social Life of the Book. Image courtesy of James Hoff's Instagram
James Joff's desk, while working on The Social Life of the Book. Image courtesy of James Hoff's Instagram

Could you tell us about your Frieze Project? "We are continuing our project called The Social Life of the Book, which started as a seminar in 2008, developed in the form of a show in 2010 which became a publication series, designed by Will Holder. Bringing small pamphlets in the context of the Frieze Art Fair also sounded like an interesting challenge—trying to catch the attention of a broader audience, and consider the relevance of that book project in a different context. Alongside the newly commissioned texts, we have worked on a specific setting for the booth at Frieze: the publications are “supported” by furniture sculptures tailored for the occasion, and are set on a vinyl floor that reproduces a typical social hangout situation in Paris—the floor of a café in a passageway (that might be reminiscent of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project), with its cigarette butts and wine stains. We will spend time in the booth to sell and discuss the project as well as to work there, just as we do in our Parisian premises. We also have asked a few artist friends to design some lighters for us, so that the conversation can take place on topics other than books, pace George Orwell." 

 

An image from castillo/corrales' event at the Montehermoso Cultural Center in Spain, 2008
An image from castillo/corrales' event at the Montehermoso Cultural Center in Spain, 2008

What sort of texts have you commissioned? "We’ve worked with two authors, who are also publishers. Matthew Stadler is a writer and publisher from Seattle. In the past, he has conceived several projects dealing with the contact between writers, their books and the public. For this series he wrote an amazing essay on the concepts of ‘composition’ and ‘publication’, looking at how they’re connected to conflicting demands for the writer, and how margins of both a book and margins of society may be the place where they can be resolved.

James Hoff is an artist, musician and publisher based in New York. His essay is a beautiful, personal account of how he got into books, in which he pays homage to the elusive figure of writer and editor Edit DeAk, and insists, on the empowering social habit of exchanging anecdotes over artists and publications. We commissioned two other authors, but unfortunately, they couldn’t get their texts done in time. These sorts of delays and problems are also part of the series, and its particular pace, and ‘piecemeal’ publishing structure."

What sort of events do you have planned? "We thought that it would be worth distancing our project from the usual book-related forms of events - readings, talks, signings - in favour of other forms of social situations - a concert, or a party. The possibility of organizing something outside of the fair sounded interesting to us too. As one of the contributors to the series, James Hoff, is not only a publisher and artist, but also a musician, we talked with him about the idea of a gig in London. He was into it, and suggested that another musician, Luke Younger / Helm, who’s working with the same label, PAN, also plays. This is happening on the night of the 14th, and will be great!" 

 

Reveller at a 2013 castillo/corrales event in Toronto
Reveller at a 2013 castillo/corrales event in Toronto

How did castillo/corrales began? "We are an independent, collectively run art space founded in Paris in 2007 by a group of artists, curators, writers, who were sharing an office. The idea of starting to do activities - shows, talks, book presentations - came out of conversations and also from the realization that, while we were living in Paris, most of the people we were working with, or interested in were living abroad. We were stimulated by the ways of working of different independent structures - the experience of the artist-run gallery Orchard and the Dexter Sinister basement, both in New York, or Portland-based writer Matthew Stadler’s approach to publishing, to name but a few, were inspiring to us. At first freewheeling and conducted in a spirit of self-organized anarchy in a pocket-sized shared-office space, castillo/corrales grew over the years into a more classic - though no less chaotic - non-profit organization structure and curatorial collective. From the start the project had a commercial bent: we were willing to become self-sustainable through the sales of works and private support, following other logics than that of the public-funded off-space or the gallery representing artists. castillo/corrales today also comprises a bookstore, Section 7 Books, and an imprint, Paraguay Press." 

Why is the organisation named after a famous Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo boxing match of 2005?  "As you may know, it was a bloody, legendary fight. We wanted to invent an identity that would stand for the collective, and get a voice of its own, built by the changing group behind it. We liked how this name could bring a part of fiction: it could sound as the name of two associates from South America opening a business in Paris, out of the blue. Later on we realized that being both (or in between) the “castle” [castillo] and the “corral” [corrales] wasn’t without irony." 

For more on this year’s Frieze go here; check back tomorrow for our coverage from the preview day, and for more contemporary art conjecture get a copy of Defining Contemporary Art.


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