Monday, October 30, 2017



TinFish Press At 22, exhibition curated by Susan M. Schultz, Jeff Sanner, Rodney Bengston and Wayne Hiraoka
(Commons Gallery, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Oct. 9-Nov. 3, 2017)

[Click on images to enlarge]

Since 1995, TinFish—founded, published and edited by Susan M. Schultz—has been releasing some of the most gorgeous chapbooks and books in the literary world. It absolutely makes sense that there would be a gallery show of TinFish’s production, and I was happy to see TinFish 22,” an exhibit celebrating TinFish’s 22nd year at University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s Commons Gallery (Oct. 9-Nov. 3, 2017). Aptly, the exhibition had opened with a literary reading by several authors.

The exhibit presents a selection from TinFish’s catalogue, showcasing both book covers and the book-objects themselves as art. It’s not a hard case to make that the actual books, and not just the artworks they reproduce (for both covers and interiors), are “art” with both strong conceptual and visual effectiveness (one of my favorites, not shown as perhaps it’s out-of-print, was the TinFish journal designed by Gaye Chan that used recycled cereal boxes as covers—not only was its recycling admirable but we were reminded of how cereal boxes offer eye-catching designs as they seek to attract consumers). Tinfish’s first designer was Suzanne Kosanke. The books showcased in the exhibit were designed under the following head designers: Gaye Chan, Eric Butler, Allison Hanabusa, and Jeff Sanner (some books used different individual designers). Sanner and Schultz were joined by Rodney Bengston and Wayne Hiraoka from UHM’s Art Department in creating the format of the exhibit as well as picking books for showcasing.

A logical question is how to “exhibit” books which are intended to be read. The exhibit responds well to this question: several books are exhibited on stands attached to the wall:

By not being fixed to the wall, the books can be taken off the wall so that a viewer can also flip through the books’ pages to read them—indeed, the viewer is invited to do so, with chairs set against one gallery wall to facilitate such a purpose. Here are two visitors/readers who did exactly that during my visit to the exhibit; they are reading Lee A. Tonouchi’s Living Pidgin and Eileen R. Tabios’ [Editor's Note: Yes, that's me.] EXCAVATING THE FILIPINO IN ME. 

When you take several of the book(s) off the wall to read it, you then reveal a print of the book cover against the wall which aptly highlights it as a work of art.

Where’s My Ritspick by Lynn Young 

For some books, extra prints of interior illustrations are presented next to the books. 

Atoms of Muses by Timothy Dyke

All in all, the result is marvelous and an exhibition design that’s both reader- and viewer-easy. For example, one can understand better the interactive aspects of some of the publications, e.g. Translations by Don Mee Choi and Linh Dinh whose cover comes with a pencil that can be used to fulfill instructions noted in the chap’s interior:

When there are larger reproductions of the cover art available, then the artwork hangs on the wall and the books are on stands before it, still facilitating the viewer’s ability to read through the book:

The Last Lyric by Yu Xinqiao, Trans. by Yunte Huang

On Lost Sheep by Shiro Murano, Trans. by Goro Takano

Zero Distance: New Poetry From China edited by Liang Yujing

Kudos to the curators who offer one way that can be emulated by others who wish to "exhibit" books whose formats transcend the normative book structure of being simply a collection of pages that one might read.

Here is Schultz herself demonstrating the interactive aspect of Kaia Sand’s A Tale of Magicians Who Puffed Up Money that Lost its Puff. Click on link for a description of this unique project that “explains the 2008 crash to children young and old.”

The exhibit shows Schultz’s dedication, enthusiasm, and love for exploring the TransPacific experimental aesthetic for which Tinfish is lauded. During my visit to the exhibition, I watched the several gallery visitors who happened to be present.  From my visit, they ended up engaged with the art and the books—exactly what Tinfish would have wanted—attesting to the success of this exhibition. 


Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea ResurrectsHer 2017 poetry releases include four books, two booklets and six poetry chaps. Most recently, she released MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (Paloma Press, U.S.A.), Love in a Time of Belligerence (Editions du Cygne/SWAN World, France), and THE OPPOSITE OF CLAUSTROPHOBIA: Prime's Anti-Autobiography (The Knives Forks Spoons Press, U.K.). Her books have been released in nine countries and cyberspace. Her writing and editing works have received recognition through awards, grants and residencies. More info about her work at

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