Juana Meneses and Leila A. Leder Kremer believe art isn’t something simply for the enjoyment of the cultural glitterati. Nope. Artmaking and collecting should be in the literal hands of the people. They believe that art should be democratic, that it should reach its roots out into different communities and connect those in them to one another through a sharing of stories, images, and ideas.
Thus, the two conceived of and created Portable Editions: LAB, a mobile, micropublishing independent artistic practice through which they provide guidance and opportunity for the community to create zines and produce instant bookmaking.
Both artists, Meneses and Leder Kremer met more than two years back at ArtCenter South Florida, where Leder Kremer was an artist in residence and Meneses worked in the office. Their friendship and working relationship grew organically out of shared interests. Though they were working on curatorial collaborations, they wanted to create real happenings with a portable venue. Meneses, who formerly lived in Los Angeles, says creating a platform that was “physical or conceptual” and mobile is something she saw often on the West Coast.
Their LAB caters to two crowds. Regular Joes make zines together and leave at the end of the day with a completed copy. The two also curate artists who create their own books that feature original work and reference materials — stuff that doesn’t fit into traditional gallery spaces. Leder Kremer explains the difference between these two practices: The zines are more about “casual language” where people learn about zine culture, and artist books are finished objects with editions that will be both for sale to the public at exhibitions as well as online and were purchased for placement in the permanent book collection of the University of Miami.
The LAB itself is heavy and features ink, pens, and a risograph machine — a mechanical stenciling device. So far, they’ve brought their carts and supplies to five communities. Meneses says. “I think what’s magical about it is that people aren’t used to seeing their work being published. It’s very informal.” Whether kids or adults, she says, “Everyone has the same experiences... Suddenly their image is part of a real book that they can take away. That’s a big deal for people.” Leder Kremer noted that when they brought the LAB to the Miami Book Fair International, kids who contributed only one page were so excited that they brought their parents back at the end of the day to make sure they got their paws on a copy. These zines are also mobile, and some are brought to the next site. The work then spreads to others in the community and into the world. Meneses notes that this action decentralizes artmaking and politicizes it. This offers people an independent voice.
“People were so generous about their stories,” she says, remembering a zine-making experience with O, Miami in which participants were asked to tell tales of home and of Miami. “People were very open about their memories,” Meneses says. She calls this whole process public art.
For their Artist Making Books series, they have curated five artists so far. “We look at the book as an exhibition space,” Meneses says. Leder Kremer doesn’t think artist bookmaking has been explored in Miami with their same approach. The two help the artists edit them. “We are more grassroots... The whole point in making [artist books] is for them,” the creators. Meneses explains. “We also have them intervene the copies. The artist goes in and adds different drawing or sculptural elements — so there’s that handmade element to them.” So each of the 50 copies of these limited-edition $35 books is unique. “It’s extremely interesting for us,” Leder Kremer says. “It’s work that’s not only superattainable but you can take it, grab it, and you can treat it as an object you can have with you. It’s a more intimate relationship.”