Earlier in the month, I took a short trip to Chicago. I was in town to speak on a panel at ARTCHICAGO, put together by iCI and Jens Hoffmann around some of the ideas brought about by organizing and presenting People’s Biennial. While I was there, I met up with Portland artist and curator Rob Halverson of Cool Art who had just released a new print by Sara Greenberger Rafferty at Scott and Tyson Reeder’s art/comedy space Club Nutz. In addition to running into old friends and TBA Alums, I met so many interesting and engaging Chicago artist people.
One such human is Marco Kane Braunschweiler who, along with his co-director Martine Syms, runs the art space/bookshop, Golden Age. Marco helped me pick out some new books for the PICA Resource Room, and we became fast friends. I expect to write a full report of my spring adventures, flying from Atlanta to Berkeley to Chicago for various conferences and panel discussions, but until then, here is an interview with Marco. I love spaces like his, and we are lucky to have Reading Frenzy, Monograph Bookwerks, Stand Up Comedy and Fourteen30 here in Portland, all of which have tightly curated selections of artist books and publication. Each one represents a different point of view and Golden Age has their own special focus. Be sure to check them out on the interweb, or the next time you are in the windy city. —Kristan Kennedy
Kristan Kennedy: Tell me about Golden Age, how and why did it come into being?
Marco Kane Braunschweiler: Golden Age started in 2007. Martine Syms and I (Co-Director of Golden Age) wanted to build an art economy that was not dependent on wealth. We also wanted to bring our international community to Chicago and share the amazing work in Chicago with the rest of the world.
KK: You told me you fell for books while working in a shop in Nebraska, when you described it, it reminded me of that bookstore in The Never Ending Story. Might that be what it looked like? Tell me about how you came to love very new books, from loving very old books…
MKB: I grew up outside of Omaha, and was very interested in learning about the world beyond what I saw. Consequently I would often visit the Antiquarium, the aforementioned bookshop and record store. It was owned by an older man who was very interesting. Whenever you went into the long, winding, labyrinthine bookshop, he would be in the front talking with many different types of people at length on subjects ranging from global finance to world politics. They had many different types of books, but I was mostly in the art and literature sections, searching for first editions and the like. It was a treasure trove and a large, focused goldmine for any autodidact. That exposure meant a lot to me and taught me to love the search for knowledge. In a sense, Golden Age is that search extended to the Chicago and international art communities. It’s a place where people who dig deep (“passionate obsessives” as we call them) can come together.
KK: When I came in to the space, I loved how finite the collection was: one simple table, a few shelves. I suspect that has something to do with the size of the space, but also must correspond to your taste, and desire to represent a careful selection and not an exhaustive survey of books and things. How does the aesthetic/ design of the space match what it contains?
MKB: Golden Age is small because it is focused. Each month the selection changes entirely. The publications are an entry point to the artists exhibiting in the space; you see a monograph from Agnes Martin and a sculpture from Megan Plunkett in the same room and you can make the leap and better understand an artist who’s work you’ve never seen before. Also, as I said, one of the original goals, and the reason we have low priced books and edition, is so anyone can buy them.
KK: Also, I have been dying to ask what made you choose a podium instead of a table and a chair for the shop’s ‘desk’? Preacher/Teacher vs. Shop Keeper?
MKB: When I’m at Golden Age, I like talking with people. When you’re in a chair behind a concrete desk with a glass top, it’s difficult to hold a conversation, so we stand on a small, rolling metal desk. I think it’s definitely close to a teacher; I mean, we’re mission driven and have an educational focus.
KK: I have to thank you again for your help in selecting books for our Resource Room—it was hard to resist buying every thing you picked up. Part of what “sold” me was your enthusiasm for what was unique to the region and—even more so—unique in the world of books or an artist’s body of work. Would you mind giving our constituency a rundown of what I got and what you think makes the books important or rare?
MKB: You had a lot of really solid set of publications. I thought of your choices as a tour of Chicago starting with Can I Come Over to Your House, then moving through the city by way of Temporary Services’ Public Phenomena and ending deep in our community with a selection of books published by Golden Age like Megan Plunkett’s High Noon I, Karly Wildenhaus’ Twice Removed and Derek Chan’s Cries and Whispers from the Salt Song Trail, excellent publications overall. All these publications are published in very small editions and their images and text are not available online. Having a copy means you are part of an exclusive community of developed thinkers.
KK: I already know the answer to this question, but, I ask it for the benefit of all who might travel to Chicago: what is your favorite breakfast spot?
MKB: NUEVO LEON! Have the mole sauce and the homemade flour tortillas!