Amanda Keeley’s ongoing project, EXILE Books, is an artist’s bookstore that travels around Miami from venue to venue, activating spaces to create awareness about artists publications and provide a space to celebrate print culture. Amanda and EXILE Books currently have an exhibition, In Process, currently on view at the de la Cruz Collection. The exhibition “will serve as a collaborative catalyst connecting the de la Cruz Collection with its neighboring facility, the Little Haiti Cultural Complex.” It’s a multi-faceted project (I particularly like that the printing supplies utilized during the exhibition will be donated for the local community to use at the end of the project); read more about it here. I also asked Amanda a few questions… read her replies after watching the video.
Amanda Keeley: I chose the word Exile because of the project’s migratory nature, that it is continually moving and evolving. I wanted to recontextualize the word exile to mean liberation from place and from a set identity- which provides a new space for creativity that has no constraints or set structure. Exile is freedom. I actually wrote a short text about this: http://amandaseason.com/exilebooks
JU: Can you talk a bit about the pop-up model? Why does it work for the project? It seems to necessitate constant reinvention. Is that sustainable or do you envision an eventual permanent location?
AK: The pop-up store model enabled me to realize the project on an experimental level. To not have a brick and mortar store and instead travel around to different institutions throughout Miami reaching diverse communities seems to really work. At each venue, we focus on a select theme, and try to bring in new audiences by engaging cross disciplinary programming, in turn helping that location to gain additional exposure. EXILE Books designates a space to celebrate print culture and Miami really needs this to continue to blossom into a viable arts and cultural destination. At some point down the road, EXILE might find a permanent home but that won’t be for a while.
JU: And a related question: at a glance, you seem to have a pretty extensive inventory online. How does an endeavor without a home grapple with physical storage and distribution of publications?
AK: The entire store is modular and portable. I designed it so that everything travels easily- all of the units are on wheels, the furniture can be broken down and fits inside, as well as the full inventory of books contained inside the square units. When on the move, the cubes look like Donald Judd minimalist sculptures. We added Memphis Group laminates to give the units some flair, and handles so it looks like band equipment on the road.
JU: Exile Books has been a recipient of a Knight Foundation grant. How important has this kind of institutional support been for EXILE?
AK: Having the support of the Knight Foundation has propelled my project onto another level. It allows me to provide great inventory, quality programming, and innovative publishing projects that engage a large audience and foster awareness of artist’s publications.
JU: How has your past experience managing Print Matter, Inc. influenced the way you’ve approached EXILE Books?
AK: I definitely learned a lot from my time at Printed Mater, Inc. Working there fueled my passion for artist’s books and innovative publishing projects that are produced by artists. I love that this material has the potential to reach a mass audience, and that it provides such a powerful tool for communication. I hope that EXILE will continue to grow into an entity that is similar to Printed Matter- that it is cultural gathering point, a place in Miami that people seek out to engage in intelligent dialogue and feel inspirited.
JU: Prerequisite art fair question: It’s hard to talk about art in Miami without talking about art fairs. How do you see EXILE Books in relationship to the fair system?
AK: You just got to join the circus! Last year I was invited to create something for the UNTITLED Fair on the beach, and I made a “Fruit and Book cart” that roved around, offering fresh local tropical fruit samplings and talking about books. It was a lot of fun. I think to sum it up, EXILE Books is in the middle of an incredible journey, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to share my passion with the community and build something new that will really have an impact on this city for generations to come.
JU: Can you share any additional thoughts about your current show at de la Cruz Collection?
AK: I was invited to create an installation for the de la Cruz Collection, a prominent private collection that is accessible to the public. At the time I was working with youth from the Little Haiti Cultural Center. I noticed that they only had a partially equipped screen printing facility. So I proposed that in addition to EXILE Books, we install a temporary screen printing shop into the de la Cruz Collection, and I work with the students on site to create an exhibition through a series of live printing sessions. After the exhibition is over, all the shop equipment and supplies is donated to the Little Haiti Cultural Center. So, it brings together my love for printing, my desire to educate and enrich that lives of local youth, and really gives back to the community in a beneficial way.