It all began at one of the most prolific art events of the year, Art Basel. Eveline Wüthrich and Johannes Willi felt that the world of art books, be it anything between print/handmade/digital, were unrepresented, and so the I Never Read, Art Book Fair Basel began. Unlike its contradictory title, they created this platform to save and promote the book, whilst questioning what the book even is.
To begin with, could you tell us a little bit about yourselves… Who are Eveline and Johannes?
We both work in Basel. Johannes as an artist and Eveline as an art historian and curator. Johannes likes Miguel Indurain and spaghetti bolognese, and Eveline likes her garden and France. Besides the fair, Johannes mostly realizes individual and group art experiences, whilst Eveline realizes art book exhibitions.
How did you two meet? Had you worked/collaborated together before the art book fair began?
We found each other on the street and realized the fair together right after. Before we organized exhibitions together in an independent art space in Basel that we run at that time.
The I Never Read, Art Book Fair Basel launched during the 2012 Art Basel week. How did it start and why did you decide on it being separate but coincide with Art Basel?
It came out of a rather last minute idea. The first edition of the fair took place at the before-mentioned exhibition space. We worked together with our architect friend Thomas and felt we wanted to fill Art Basel week’s lack of a platform dedicated to artistic publishing. Since Basel is very small, and there is not much of a specific public around during the year, Art Basel week was the best time of year to reach a wide art demographic. By doing so, and by keeping it open and free to all, it provides the democratic and welcoming atmosphere that art should embody.
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The name of the fair, I Never Read, comes from a longer quote by Andy Warhol, who said: “I never read, I just look at pictures”. What was it in this quote that inspired you, and in what ways does it convey the message you want to spread with the fair? 
When we were looking for a name, we were in Frankfurt am Main, where Eveline studied back then, and visited the Andy Warhol exhibition at Museum für Moderne Kunst. There we ran into this quote and it seemed to be the best to work with and use. The title of the fair can be understood as a metaphor for a platform dedicated to exploring the relationship between text, performance, art production and the book. It presents to the audience a new artistic practice based on the production of texts – texts that we may not read, but that embody a form of knowledge.
As I understand, you’re both based in Switzerland. What is the art scene like, and which is the best city to visit to get your fill of art?
The art scene is small and cutting-edge. Once you see all the shows in Basel, you can easily travel to the other Swiss cities, so there’s not really a ‘best’ place. You could say that, maybe, SBB the Swiss Railway Company is a very important player in todays Swiss art scene.
Johannes, as an artist yourself, you’ve experimented with many materials, from pool noodles to musical instruments made with staples. Do you ever experiment making art books, or want to?
Yes, I do. For example, I did a beautiful publication with Kunstmuseum Basel for my solo show Free Willi 2, Freiheit in Gefahr. Also, with my artist collective Juice & Rispetta we do a lot of experiments with books, fanzines, samples, prints, LPs, etc.
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Eveline, as the director of I Never Read, Art Book Fair Basel and as a researcher and curator, do you ever get involved in printed matter yourself?
A catalogue accompanies every edition of the fair with beautiful contributions but no information about the exhibitors. For this year’s I Never Read, Art Book Fair Basel, we wanted to pay close attention to different collections of books that are presented through texts and images in the catalogue. These collections range from libraries like that of Andreas Züst in Oberegg (east Switzerland), all the way to small collections that unexpectedly appear and prompt us to stop and think. One catalogue text that I’m really happy about is a speculative travelogue by Edinburgh-based author Tom Jeffreys. He writes about the rubber boat trip Johannes and I did from the Andreas Züst Library all the way down the Rhine River to Basel, to create kind of a symbolic connection between the two places. We were accompanied by a ‘guidebook into the unknown’ that we picked up at Andreas Züst’s Library and used as a compass throughout the trip. The guidebook and the film that we shot on the water are both on display in the exhibition pavilion at the fair.
As technology and printing methods develop and change and we can print hundreds of books in seconds, do you feel that the artist book still has value, and will they still be made in, say, fifty years’ time?
We think the art book follows different rules, and most of all, a different half-life that is not in relation to technological change. Technological development opens wider and greater new possibilities within artistic publishing., for instance, is a new online catalogue featuring titles of art book publishers. In general, we think that we should value taking enough time to sit down in an armchair and really give the book – be it on your tablet or in print form – the time and space to develop. Let it take over and add different angles and experiences to your life.
The art book has many interpretations, encompassing everything from zines to touchy-feely books. Do you try to include all sorts/different types of publications in the fair, or do you keep to a more traditionally bound genre?
We always try to find a great mix and good balance of participants. Books on art and books as art objects, exclusive limited editions or traditional printing techniques are included as well as magazines and self-published, self-copied zines and online publications. The book is at the core of the fair. But the event is still as much about new encounters, meeting old friends, exchanging ideas and talking about new books. It is also great for hanging out and taking a break to breathe during the overwhelming week of fairs, art exhibitions, events and parties.
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Having looked at and curated the fair in Basel, could you suggest any of your favourite or any of the most outrageous art books that will be on display?
Rita Mourão, from Sao Paulo, presents her collection of concrete poetry, called Desapê, with works mostly by Brazilian artists from the ‘70s and the ‘80s. It’s great to have her as an exhibitor with us to show another aspect of collections – not of books, but of words and poems. 
Do you both have a large collection of art books in your homes and if so, which are your favourites?
We share our home and share the bookshelf. Although we may need an extra one after every edition of the fair, our collection is not as big as you might think. Reading them, giving them away to friends and sharing them with strangers seems to be the best way to deal with books. One of our favourite books is called Spiegel, Antik by Swiss artist Olivier Rossel. It is a collection of images taken from Ebay, where people try to sell their mirrors, coincidentally mirroring themselves by taking the picture.
Last year, I Never Read also travelled to Costa Rica and São Paolo. If they can’t make it to Basel, will our readers have another chance to see some books this year?
A wonderful new and permanent reading room just opened at the Calidarium building at the Botanical Gardens of Palermo. We proposed a selection of publications dealing with the relation of art and nature for the reading space.
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