Left: Veneer Issues One to Seven, subscriber and retail editions. Right: View of Veneer in “The Social Life of the Book,” Kabinetten van De Vleeshal, Middleburg, Netherlands, September 2010.


The Portland-based artist Aaron Flint Jamison is editor of the publication Veneer. When its run concludes in six years, the series will comprise eighteen issues, including a bookshelf to house the complete set for subscribers. Past contributors to Veneer include Sturtevant, George Kuchar, Kevin Kelly, and Ray Kurzweil. Jamison’s work will be featured in a solo exhibition next February at castillo/corrales in Paris.

VENEER comes out of my love for long-term projects and anything that seems to be in progress and slowly unfolding. Books have always been very important to me, but it wasn’t until art school that I started to understand how to complicate the medium through using disparate materials and content. When I began, I was focused on the limitations of materiality, but it was also important to do it in a way that I had never seen done before.Veneer was published twice a year in 2007, 2008, and 2009. I’m currently finishing the eighth issue. After the eighteenth is produced, the project will be over. It could be said that there is a master rubric for the series, but that is an oversimplification, because I think about the ideas behind each issue on a micro and macro level.

Anyone who subscribes will receive all the back and all future issues, including ephemera that I send out between issues, such as little books that I’m working on, prints, a bookcase, and other surprises. The materials of each issue change in response to the content––different paper stocks, offset and letterpress printing techniques, bindings, and various inserts. It’s important to me that bodies interface with production, so as much of the work as possible is done by hand with friends and colleagues––for instance, actions like embedding cubic zirconium gems into the pages of issue three, or rubbing Brut deodorant onto page 127 of issue four. There aren’t any names of artists (or editors) on the spine, and the issues are not that wide, so they can be pushed to the back of the bookshelf pretty nicely. They aren’t easy to display, present, or even sell. Sort of like a lot of art that is important to me.

For issue five, I spray-foamed the edges of every edition so that the book is very difficult to open. Untouched, it is reminiscent of sea foam, but it actually makes a melodramatic flaky mess when you try to rip it off. The most beautiful thing is that once you actually get it off the sides, you have to individually pull the pages apart, kind of like peeling away a sunburn. And that process relates to the issue, which for me was about feeling the edges of the ocean, waves coming in and out. Adrian Piper’s article, for instance, talks about these rhythms, pacing, and repetition in yoga and philosophy.

Issue three was filled with stolen advertisements from other magazines––mostly French, but also some Turkish and English. After it was printed, I letter-pressed these really boring invoices and sent them with a copy of the issue to the companies that had inadvertently advertised with us. I received quite a few cease-and-desist letters because I was reverse-advertising, invoicing for contracted monies that were never agreed upon. Subsequently, I worked with a lawyer in San Francisco to write a document to protect me from getting sued. The document became a significant part of that entire issue for me.

The economy surrounding this publication is minimal. There are a few galleries and shops out there that engage with the books and their audience in a way that makes it possible for Veneer to be sold. But I’ve developed relationships with various retailers all over, and bless their hearts if they never pay me and if you still see copies of those early issues around on dusty bookshelves. I think I’m too invested in the process to be any help on a distribution level. But I recently saw a copy in a glass library vitrine and that was really nice.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler