It's definitely been more than six months since three Seattle independent presses - Mount Analogue, Cold Cube Press, and Gramma Poetry - took up residence in the XYZ Gallery in Pioneer Square to form a publishing house/bookstore/art gallery. But when I sit down to talk with Mount Analogue founder Colleen Louise Barry, she has trouble figuring out exactly how long the space has been open.
Cold Cube co-founder Aidan Fitzgerald does the math on his fingers. They've been running for eight months. Barry explodes: "Eight months! That both feels correct and incorrect."
What are some of their favorite events that have happened in the space so far? "The BDSM opera actually was a big surprise," Barry says, "because I sort of felt like this is either going to be an enormous failure or people are going to get it. The idea of charging people money for tickets kind of always freaked me out, but people were into it. So maybe we will do more stuff like that."
Fitzgerald reflects on a more recent event. "Colleen and I had a class of students come last week and check out Mount Analogue and the Cold Cube space and that was really, really fun." He enjoyed showing off the Risograph press and the bookmaking process. "We want to do more workshops," Fitzgerald says, "to teach people bookmaking and book design and, you know, why you have to have a title page and why page one starts on the right, and things like that." Additionally, he says, having the room to physically assemble the books is vital: "We're putting out a book a month and we wouldn't be able to do that without this space."
When I ask what the biggest challenge of operating a new space is, Barry doesn't even hesitate a second before blurting out "money." She laughs at her own answer. "Money, and also expectations - everything that you want to happen that maybe you can't make happen, or don't know how to make happen but wish you could. It's all part of having a physical space. It exists and takes up room, and that's a big responsibility."
Fitzgerald feels the responsibility, too. The space, he says, "legitimizes all of our operations and it also raises the bar for what we're doing and how we're doing."
There are some big changes in store for the last third of the first year in the space: Cold Cube and Mount Analogue are teaming up to take over Gramma. What does that mean for the future of the press?
"We're starting a monthly newsletter called The Monthly Gramma, which is a physical newsletter that's Risograph-printed by Cold Cube press," Barry explains. The newsletter is "designed by [Cold Cube co-founder] Michael [Heck], who's our lead designer. It's going to be mailed out, and it will have a bunch of really amazing shit on it." She's not kidding; the beta test of the newsletter is a beautifully printed broadsheet featuring a giant poem broadside on one side and then an array of material - poems, interviews, quotes, trivia, event information - artfully arranged on the other.
Barry says the Weekly Gramma email newsletter is getting an update, too: "we want to transform it into more of a magazine that has a lot of varied content including video work and criticism and poetry and visual work." (You can read an archive of the Weekly Gramma or sign up for the email on the press's website.)
So what's next for the physical space? On April 5th and 12th, Barry is hosting a performance by Jess Joy called "The Singing Mime", which she says is "more akin to modern dance then pantomime - more an expression of narrative through movement." The event includes spoken word and music and dance and a papier-mâché installation that's being built especially for the event.
Cold Cube is hosting its own event during Art Walk on the 5th. They'll be celebrating the publication of Behind Is Late, a book by Spanish artist Cynthia Alfonso. Fitzgerald calls it "a resonant poem-comic about anxiety and the fear of a tomorrow that is constantly happening today." Cold Cube will be showing prints from the book and an animated video project co-produced by Alfonso.
Fitzgerald says Behind Is Late "is one of the most, if not the most, Cold Cube book we've ever made, in that it's kind of a comic, it's kind of one long poem, and the pages themselves stand alone, like beautiful drawings." Fitzgerald says the book is "my conception of what art books and art comics can do. This can only be done in this form. You cannot make it into a movie, you cannot make it a song. It's beautiful because it's a book, which is what Michael [Heck] and I have really tried to make with Cold Cube."
The book, he says, is an "argument for books."
There's a lot more to come from the publishers: they're preparing a blockbuster quarterly reading series in conjunction with a few stalwart Seattle arts organizations that Barry says is intended to "get people in the seats that might not otherwise go to a poetry reading." (If the first lineup comes together as Barry promises, you will be attending this one.) And they're working with Vignettes to put together a citywide art project for May that incorporates public art and words and audience participation.
It's exhausting just hearing about their plans, but Barry and Fitzgerald seem ready to get to work. Sitting there at a large table in the Cold Cube offices, with two large Risograph printers ready to be put to service, they're in exactly the right place to make all their big ideas happen.