‘Manifesto’ for a distribution platform, April 2016 – ongoing research project


Since launching in 2014, Three Letter Words has been undertaking research into strategies for the development of online mapping and networking platforms to make art publishing practices more inclusive; more accessible to wider publics; and more sustainable for artists and writers from different backgrounds.  The following manifesto [a term used with awareness of its co-option for something that might also sound like a company ‘mission statement’] was proposed by Three Letter Words and collaborators in April 2016, and discussed as part of the Torpedo ‘One Year Art Book Fair’.

Manifesto – Three Letter Words – New Online Resource and Distribution Platform

We want to build new publics through art publishing.1

We need to harness digital tools to support the research, the community, and the sharing that sustains us.

The existing platforms are not enough, but the existing technology is. We want to build a place where art publishers (public art organisations, small presses, collectives and individual artists and art writers) can find new readerships and distribute their work freely – without being subject to oppressive commissions or fees.

We want to build a site where art publishers can upload their own content, and control how they represent it.

We want to build a place where visitors can get in direct contact with art publishers, download free e-books and articles, undertake research, and find libraries, bookshops, and other places where they can learn more – browse and discover further specialist areas of publishing.

We want to gather the work of art publishers with a generous and experimental approach to artistic research and writing.

We want to support the work of publishers concerned with content and form, those embracing the potential of the digital, those pushing what text and image can be, and those engaged with political, social and aesthetic criticism.

How we will do it

Our online resource will integrate a continuous visual feed of material from different art publishers, an extensive library, and a global map of art bookshops and other physical spaces that facilitate art distribution and dissemination.

We have the support of the London Bookshop Map to develop this technology and promote the platform.

Art publishers – organisations, small presses, collectives and individuals – will be able to upload excerpts and images of their latest publications.

Readers will be able to access and browse this library, and then be directed to the nearest library, bookshop or other place they can view the actual printed matter, or given the option to get in touch with the publisher directly. This way the space facilitates both virtual and physical browsing and pedagogic experiences – access to communities and conversation, chance discoveries, and idiosyncratic modes of self-education.

A tagging system will allow art publishers to be their own librarian, and help readers to navigate the site, avoiding or perhaps compounding some of the conundrums when categorising artists’ books.

Collaborators: Chiara Figone (Archive Books, Berlin), Corinn Gerber (Passenger Books, Zurich/Montréal), Frances Horn (Index and Pa/per View Art Book Fairs) and Louise O’Hare, Kate Phillimore and Jay Drinkall (Three Letter Words).

 1. Publication as the practice of making publics vs. publishing as an industry – following Matthew Stadler, Publication Studio


Digital strategy advice and visualisation: Jeff Khonsary (New Documents)

Thank you for advice:  Tamsin Clark (Tenderbooks), Gavin Everall (Book Works) and Martin Yong (&Company); plus the Three Letter Words advisory board (2014-15) for foundational advice: Louisa Bailey (Publication Studio London and Luminous Books), Richard Embray & Elinor Jansz (Four Corners), Edward Gillman (Auto Italia), Gustavo Grandal Montero (Chelsea Library), Simon Grant (Picpus), Kit Hammonds (Vernacular Institute), Emily Pethick (The Showroom), Clive Phillpot, Carrie Rees (Rees & Company), Louisa Riley-Smith (20th Century Art Archives), Jane Rolo (Book Works), and Luiza Teixeira de Freitas (independent curator).

Three Letter Words Trustees: Doro Globus (Ridinghouse),Paul Sammut (White Cubicle) and Caroline Woodley (Afterall).