Now in its eighth year, the Melbourne Art Book Fair has grown into an event far bigger than its name can contain. “It's in a newly distributed form this year, which is really exciting,” says curator Megan Patty.

The annual celebration of books now takes place for the entirety of Melbourne Design Week. There’s still the major centrepiece fair taking place at NGV from March 18-20, but it’s now complemented by a comprehensive program of events, including exhibitions, workshops, launches and opportunities to get hands on experience crafting your own book or zine. It’s also no longer specifically the Melbourne book fair – 2022 sees the program expand into Castlemaine and Ballarat for the first time. Patty describes it as “a book fest across Victoria for 10 days”. With such a dynamic program of different events, it can be hard to narrow down your longlist. We asked Patty to call out some highlights.

The Annotated Reader
Curated by artist Ryan Gander and Jonathan P. Watts, The Annotated Reader takes place within the art book fair itself. It’s made up of 281 different annotated works by a series of creatives, including Marina Abramović, Sarah Lucas, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, who selected a piece of writing and then marked it with their own thoughts and observations. “It’s looking at publication as exhibition,” says Patty. The Annotated Reader is designed to be interactive, with visitors able to their own version of it to leave with. “Audiences can look through the writing and then choose some of their favourite pieces and make their own reader … you can take a book home with you, essentially,” says Patty. If you can’t choose, there is also a vending machine in the exhibition where the entire publication can be purchased digitally.

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The Regional Satellite Program
This year the Melbourne Art Book Fair is expanding into regional areas. Over the weekend of March 26–27, venues across Ballarat will be host to a series of discussions, performances and workshops, while Castlemaine Art Museum will be hosting an Art Book Fair of its own. The timing has been carefully planned – NGV’s book fair will be taking place on the first weekend, while all the regional events are taking place on the second. “[It’s a good reason] to have a different book experience with artists, designers ,and publishers that are local to Castlemaine and Ballarat,” says Patty.

Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection Launch Party
Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection is the work of over 40 authors working across a number of disciplines – from artists to activists to academics – reflecting on the NGV collection through a queer lens. This launch party for the book is a celebration of the work, and will feature DJs and readers such as Nic Holas and Nayuka Gorrie celebrating around Ponder, the pink pond installation in the NGV’s backyard garden.

Performing Poetics
With curators including poets Bella Li and Elena Gomez, Performing Poetics will tackle a broad range of themes and formats. “We're presenting a range of poetry curators exploring language, poetry performance,” says Patty. “It's a series of readings, performances and tours, which look at the collection through the lens of poetry and performance.” Bringing on board poets including Bella Li and Elena Gomez, hosts will look at readings on labour, abolition, [and] love as well as on responding to artworks in the NGV collection. “There's a theatrical performance, a panel discussion on language and intersectionality and an [exploration] of looking at the form of publishing and poetry,” says Patty.

Teen Gala and Storytelling for Children
In what is already a big year of firsts for the Art Book Fair, this year will see programming for children and teenagers for the first time. Sharing Your Story, Share Your Language is a multilingual storytelling event run by Kids Own Publishing. “[It’s] a children’s publishing house that does some really great things with children as authors,” says Patty. “The gala is an exciting event for teens to engage with art and language and poetry in their own forum.” The workshop will help children to create a picture book using their own languages and teach them a range of storytelling techniques. For teenagers, there is the Teen Gala, run in conjunction with the Wheeler Centre. It’s by teens, for teens, with an all-teen lineup.

The Melbourne Art Book Fair runs March 17-27. See the full program and purchase tickets.

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