Reading Room


Welcome to the Half Letter Press READING ROOM spring installment for 2012.

READING ROOM is an initiative of Half Letter Press that focuses on the books and writings of important contemporary artists, theorists, and critical thinkers as well as key themes in contemporary practice.

For this installment, we have invited Regional Relationships (Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross) to curate a selection of titles for this page. We know them as people who love books: both reading and making them. They have chosen two new titles for the store and highlighted books already in stock that intersect with their own practice. If you scroll all the way down you will find some great FREE items they have provided. We are happy to be adding their recently launched subscription service to our store.


Outside of Regional Relationships, Ryan Griffis frequently works under the name Temporary Travel Office, attempting to use tourism as an opportunity for critical public encounters. He lives in the Midwest Radical Culture Corridor and teaches New Media art at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Sarah Ross is an artist who creates forms like clothing, signage and postcards to visualize struggles around space, class, access, and gender. She often works collaboratively on projects such as Compass and Regional Relationships. Sarah teaches at The School of the Art Institute Chicago and works with incarcerated artists at an Illinois state prison.


Regional Relationships commissions artists, scholars, writers and activists to create works that investigate the natural, industrial and cultural landscapes of a region.

It is a platform to re-imagine the spaces and cultural histories around us. An invitation to join in seeing what we can learn, and learning what we can see, by juxtaposing spaces and narratives that are usually kept apart.

Popular beliefs about human geography are composed of binary oppositions like urban and rural, cosmopolitan and provincial. These divisions naturalize synthetic borders and harden political boundaries, obsfucating their cultural function.

Applying a regional lens encourages us to think more expansively about the disparate geographies that might exist within the space of one small town or across continents and oceans.


Regional Relationships Subscription 2011, featuring Matthew Friday (RR01) and Claire Pentecost (RR02) $50
(Click for full listing)

Stories in Reserve $15
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Touring Olympia: Exposition Park, Los Angeles $18
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Designated Drivers - $4
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The Nevada Test Site: A Guide to America's Nuclear Proving Ground - $20
(Click for full listing)

It shouldn't be surprising that we (Regional Relationships) are fond of the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Since first reading about the CLUI's work in Lucy Lippard's examination of critical tourism and art, Off the Beaten Track, we have followed their consistent, but never predictable, interventions across the United States. One of the first projects of the CLUI we encountered was their publication on the Nevada nuclear test site. Making pilgrimages to sites related to the Cold War arms race and atomic weapons infrastructure has become a tourist subculture. "Atomic tourists" (already anticipated by the site's nearby towns in the 1950s) represent a subset of specialized travelers that includes urban explorers and disaster tourists, and a location like the Nevada Test Site would certainly be on their itinerary. It is also a celebrated by the larger populations of military and history buffs as a lynchpin in the myth of American Exceptionalismwhere technological innovation reached its zenith in a landscape identified with Manifest Destiny and complete settlement..

While the Department of Defense published a history of the site in 2000, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, which is an invaluable historical document, it leaves much ground uncovered, literally. The CLUI's "The Nevada Test Site: A Guide to America's Nuclear Proving Ground," first published by the Center in 1996, delves into the material reality and history of the site. The publication is an early iteration of the methods developed by CLUI for representing their research: historical documents presented alongside their own photographic documentation and narrative context. "The Nevada Test Site" is a valuable primary document in the history of research-based aesthetic practice as well as a compelling examination of its subject.

Surface Tension: Problematics of Site $25.00
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Written in 2003, "Surface Tension: Problematics of Site" is an ongoing series of publications that address art and public space. The first book weighs in at more than 300 pages packed with critical essays, short project descriptions and more reflective writing on cultural practices past and present. Edited by Ken Ehrlich and Brandon Labelle (with an edited CD by Stephen Vitiello), the book, as its title suggests, is a critical examination of site-based art practices. What "Surface Tension" does that makes it stand out from more historical or academic texts on the subject however, is the contributions from practitioners, in the form of projects and project descriptions. For Regional Relationships, a project that anchors itself in the tension between site-specificity and mobile media, books like this are necessary reference points. Surface Tension brings together what performance studies scholar Diana Taylor labels the "archive" and the "repertoire." Embodied, specifically located forms of practice are both documented and realized in the form of the book. Theoretical and historical accounts by writers as disparate as Lucy Lippard and Simon Leung bracket presentations of diverse projects by Laurie Palmer, Rafi Segal/Eyal Weizman and Jane Rendell. What we particularly like about "Surface Tension" is the intellectual and aesthetic generosity it establishes by focusing on the questions of site rather than on the often false solutions offered by narrow, professionalized and disciplinary mechanisms. It exists in, and primarily discusses, a somewhat rarefied art discourse, for sure, but it also presents rigorous cultural observation, engagement and experimentation as a necessary tool to reimagine the relationships between cultures and publics.


Cultural Practices Within And Across $35
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Free Soil Reader $26
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Filter Detroit: Volume 1 $45
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Not if but When: Culture Beyond Oil $15
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Power/Exchange $9
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Regional Relationships wanted to add this book to our stock, but it is out of print. We suggest that you find it at your library or through interlibrary loans like this one in Illinois.

ROAM: Reader on the Aesthetics of Mobility, edited by Anthony Hoete

Review of ROAM by Regional Relationships:

Edited by Anthony Hoete, ROAM: Reader on the Aesthetics of Mobility is a collection of proposals, provocations and reflections on mobility as a "second modern" era, overlapping physical mobility with that of electronic technologies allowing for the movement of goods, people and information. Chapters on maps, cars, interchange, immigration and speed frame our contemporary condition as constituted through mobility. Information graphics and artist/architectural projects are woven between essays that complicate the history and current states of travel and movement. Jane England writes about artists' mappings throughout modern and contemporary art, while Eyal Wiezman proposes to recreate London's Vauxhall Cross into a traffic loop using Lefebvre's Rythmanalysis to conduct the flow of cars. Another speculative project titled Sites Pacific asks readers to reorient themselves to an oceanic rather than land-based spatial identity. Photo documentary projects by Jenny Nordquist and Lars Eriksen look at RV culture in a work titled "The Moving House". Projects by Andrew Cross and Angus Carlye document trucks and discuss the life of the truck driver in the EU. A poignant essay by Paul Virilio notes that the new "gateway to the state" is the airport, equipped with the same surveillance technologies used in prisons. The paradox in the fort-like architecture of a multi-nodal, highly mobile system is not to be missed. Further, he says, "If the metropolis is still a place, a geographic site, it no longer has anything to do with the classical oppositions of city/country nor centre/periphery. The city is no longer organized into localized and axial estate. in fact the intramural-extramural opposition collapsed with the transport revolutions and the development of communications and telecommunications technologies." This statement sums up our interest in the Regional Relationships projects-- that city and country are false dichotomies, creating myths about space that permeate our everyday.


Fish Story, by Allan Sekula
(Click to download PDF - 129.1 mb)

City Deposits, by Laurie Palmer
(Click to download PDF - 3.3 mb)
(Click for original link to PDF)

"Axioms for Reading the Landscape." By Pierce Lewis. Material Culture Studies in America. Ed. Thomas J. Schlereth. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1982. 175-182.
(Click to download the PDF)

"New Axioms for Reading the Landscape: Paying Attention to Political Economy and Social Justice," By Don Mitchell, Political Economies of Landscape Change Vol. 89, No. 1, (2008), pp. 29-50.
(Click to download the PDF)