Five @ the fair

Originally published in 2020 | Text by Eira Søyseth

In lieu of the regular chit chat with the publishers at the fair, we’ve asked five of them to tell a little bit about themselves, their books and their best memories from art book fairs. In this first installment, we’ve spoken to Sayo Senoo, HOMOCATS, Kurt Johannesen, Knust/Extrapool and Sherwood Books. Do check them at the online fair as well!


Could you tell us a little about yourself? What do you do, and how did you start out?

I am a Japanese artist, based in France for the last 10 years. I create images, objects or installations from salvaged materials. And I make books to document these ephemeral works. My earlier work was essentially focused on the body and perception, mostly featuring abstract painting on salvaged materials. Having recovered from a near-fatal cancer in 2012, I decided to work in a more direct way, while producing work in multiple forms and addressing broader societal issues.

Still using collected objects and materials, such as animal organs abandoned by hunters in the Arctic, contaminated air samples from the no-go zone in Fukushima, and used condoms discarded in gay meeting areas, I have sought to incorporate in my work traces of contemporary everyday human activity.

Playing on opposites — such as pure and impure, visible and invisible, innocence and depravity, openness and secrecy, the risk of contamination and the pleasure of the body — I invite viewers to reflect upon their relation to other groups of humans who pursue different lifestyles or share other beliefs, and hope in this way to encourage greater understanding, tolerance, and mutual respect.

I started my publishing activity last year, both to document my ephemeral works, and as a creative medium in itself. For me, desk-top publishing is a means of exploring the relationship between our physical body and its environment, as well as a way of expressing the personal experiences I have gone through myself and the opinions I have derived from them, which sometimes go against the grain.

What function does art book fairs (in general) have in your work?

It is a way to discover different books, present my own books, and to exchange with the people who share the near interest to me. From these people I discover the city or its art scene, that later can inspire my next creation of artwork.

What is your best memory from an art book fair?

It is not a brown nosing, but it is the BABF of last year ! It was my second visit to Bergen. The first one was when I was about 10 years old. The only thing I remember in my first visit is that we visited the Leprosy Museum. The visit left me with a strong and lasting impression. Last year, when I returned to Bergen to participate in the BABF, I felt that I needed to revisit the museum to confront the source of this indelible memory and to create artworks about it.

When I got back to Paris I wrote to the curator of the museum, and was able to visit the museum in February 2020 to carry out research in place. After sharing long and rich conversations with the curator, I got her agreement for an exhibition to be presented in the museum! The exhibition I proposed was about the invisible virus and the discrimination against the people contaminated. Ironically the project is now suspended due to the Covid-19.

At each step on the way, the people I met at the BABF, such as Rita Marhaug of Codex Polaris or Ann-Kristin Stølan of Pamflett helped me. It is my greatest memory from an art book fair.

What are you presenting in this year’s edition of Bergen Art Book Fair?

I am presenting my new book containing various photos of handmade panties made of used face masks dumped on the street. The masks were picked up, disinfected and worn by myself. One of these panties is worn by my new boyfriend whom I picked up between two lockdowns.

It was not easy for me during the first lockdown period in March. Some projects were suspended. Exhibitions and fairs were cancelled. Supplies of materials of creation stopped. In addition, as I use dumped materials for my art work, I was worried that the people would become obsessed with cleanliness because of the virus, and that it would be difficult for me to work the same way as before.

I wanted to catch the source of all these worries and to transform it to something funny and sexual. Neither the laughter nor the eros might give us a fundamental solution to the uncertain situation, but they might encourage us to live. That is what I would like to share through this book.

Visit Sayo Senoo's exhibitor page


Could you tell us a little about HOMOCATS? What do you do, and how did you start out?

HOMOCATS were created during an art residency in 2010 with a zine entitled Fight the Power. Bush had ended his presidency and Obama had recently become elected. It was also pre-gay marriage in the US and before the Affordable Care Act passed so there was a lot of social activism from the past 8 years of a Republican administration. Being an avid cat lover and a political artist, I wanted to combine the popularity of the feline with social commentary. I was inspired by early cat memes such as I Can Has Cheezburger and LOLCats, but I wanted to insert some activism into my images. The first drawing I made was “We Are Tired of Homophobia,” which later became "Kittens Against Trump" six years later. As the project became more popular, the HOMOCATS grew from a zine series to prints and apparel. I've always considered the mission statement to be “to fight phobias, propose equal rights, combat cultural stereotypes, challenge social norms, and resist the Trump administration."

What function does art book fairs (in general) have in your work?

Fairs have become our primary source of engagement with the public. In 2019, HOMOCATS participated in 29 art fairs and events worldwide. We exhibited internationally at The Tokyo Art Book Fair, ZONAMACO in Mexico City, the Vancouver Art Book Fair, Edition Toronto, and the Vienna Art Book Fair.

Nationally in 2019 we exhibited in the NY and LA Art Book Fairs, as well as other fairs in LA, Chicago, Boston, Portland, DC, Austin, Denver, Salem, Asbury Park, and Cincinnati.

What is your best memory from an art book fair?

The first Vienna Art Book Fair was the most special being sponsored as a guest among so many great exhibitors and alongside Printed Matter, NYC who created the first NY Art Book Fair.

What are you presenting in this year’s edition of Bergen Art Book Fair?

HOMOCATS are excited to offer a new 2020 special edition risograph of the first zine Fight the Power printed by Vide Press in Toronto, a new zine entitled Hardcore XXX, and some favorite zines over the years.

Visit HOMOCATS' exhibitor page


Could you tell us a little about Zeth? What do you do, and how did you start out?

I started working with books in 1984. A few years later I made my publishing house (Zeth Forlag) on which I publish my books. In practice, there is not much difference. I write, draw, and design my books and most of the time I get someone to print them.

What function does art book fairs (in general) have in your work?

It is very nice to meet people who know my books and meet others who discover my books. At the same time, one can meet other book artists and see how they work. And of course, it's nice that some books find other owners.

What is your best memory from an art book fair?

The best thing is when someone who does not know my work gets very excited to have discovered my work.

What are you presenting in this year’s edition of Bergen Art Book Fair?

I will present some of my latest works from 2020 and 2019.

Visit Kurt Johannessen's exhibitor page


Could you tell us a little about Knust? What do you do, and how did you start out?
Knust started in1983 with publishing zines, printed on the stencilmachines we collected. In 1991 Knust bought their first Risograph duplicator. Knust is now part of art organisation Extrapool and has a lot of machines for printing and binding zines and books.

What function does art book fairs (in general) have in your work?

Art book fairs are the main way for distributing and selling books and an important way to meet other artists and publishers. Most artists we work with have seen our books on art book fairs for the first time. We hang out with artists we met there and we visit each other studios.

What is your best memory from an art book fair?

The first time, more than ten years ago, we went to the New York Art Book Fair, it was overwhelming to see so many printed matter from all over the world; impressive. Also going to our first fair in Shanghai and setting up (complicated and almost impossible) an Alipay account in order to receive payments during the fair because the whole application was in Chinese :)

What are you presenting in this year’s edition of Bergen Art Book Fair?

1.Tohu wa-Bohu, guest curated by Taco Hidde Bakker for the Extrapool program.
2. What type of abstract are you? by Masha Somik, made for an installation/performance in Extrapool and Not For Profit Art Party in Rotterdam. We met Masha on the Ground Zine Festival in Moscow and she sent in a proposal for an open call from Extrapool.
3.Tick Tock, by Chloé Pérès-Labourdette, made for the Ko Zine program, a series of small zines at Knust.
4.Time, time flies by Camie Laure, made in an independent residency, self initiated.
5. Pantocrator by Julia Boehme, made in the Workholiday residency, an open call project Knust curates.

Visit Knust/Extrapool's exhibitor page


Could you tell us a little about Sherwood Books? What do you do, and how did you start out?

Sherwood Books are formed by Holly Birtles, Tim Burrough and Rita Byon who used to live together in London. Tim and I (Rita) were doing MA Book Arts at Camberwell College of Arts, and Tim and Holly had studied Photography together at University of Westminster.

We have participated in the Bergen Art Book Fair in 2015 and many other artbook fairs in the UK as BBB Books collective. Recently we decided to rebrand our self-publishing practice to Sherwood Books referring to our flat where it all started and reshape our collective work. Individually we work on separate projects, but Tim and Holly have made a book together which is called < On Growth and Form >. We would like to do more interesting projects together while we make our own books and prints. We've set up our online shop ( and instagram account (@sherwoodbookscollective).

What function does art book fairs (in general) have in your work?

It is definitely a good opportunity to engage with the audience and see how they enjoy our books. We can get publicity in different ways and I often get inspired to see other like-minded artists and publishers. Some people give feedback on our books, which is always welcome and fascinating.

What is your best memory from an art book fair?

I would say travelling to different places to meet interesting people was our best memory from an art book fair. It was so much fun to travel to Bergen, for example, to enjoy not only the book fair and well-organised events but to explore the city of Bergen together with my mates.

What are you presenting in this year’s edition of Bergen Art Book Fair?

We are showing 5 books; < On Growth and Form > by Tim Burrough and Holly Birtles, < 51.5171° N, 0.5784° E > and < Sharks in the Lakes > by Holly Birtles, < Silver on Gold > by Tim Burrough and < Things He Would Have Loved to See > by Rita Byon.

Visit Sherwood Books' exhibitor page