Nothing Moments Press, Los Angeles, 1998 – 2008
From 1998 to 2008 Nothing Moments Press was a project-based publisher in Los Angeles, working collaboratively with artists, writers, musicians, and designers to produce a wide range of multi-media books and events.
The press got its start in 1997, when Steven Hull was in his final year of graduate study at CalArts and decided to organize an exhibition, Blind Date, focused on artistic collaboration. The exhibition would bring together faculty in the Schools of Art and Critical Studies. Hull later called his organizational process “relay-inspired,” meaning that one group would be asked to respond to a prompt, with a second group responding to the work produced by the first, and so on. For Blind Date, thirty-one visual artists were invited to submit small works, which were distributed randomly to a group of writers who were asked to respond in some way. The collaborators met for the first time when the art and writing was exhibited together in a space in Eagle Rock, resulting in “volatile and humorous situations,” according to Hull. The book was published later, in 1998.
Hull next developed the relay process in a series of curatorial projects that revolved around music, getting very different people (artists and sometimes non-artists) to interact with the same material in some way. The first of these projects, I’m Still in Love With You, asked participants to respond to an Al Green song. The second and more ambitious idea, Song Poems, was structured around a relay of lyric writing and music writing, video and album production, and poster design from over 250 contributors. This culminated in a series of concert evenings, first at a gallery in New York’s Chelsea, and finally at The Palace, a once grand movie theatre on Broadway, in downtown Los Angeles.
For his next project, Ab Ovo, Hull wanted to see if his method could generate a group of children’s stories, fairytales with a contemporary twist. To begin the process, nineteen artists were asked to submit to the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality test, the most widely used measure of pathology for settling child custody cases in the U.S. legal system. The resulting personality profiles were anonymously and randomly assigned to a group of writers who were asked to use them in some way to create children’s stories. These stories were in turn passed to visual artists to make illustrations. The final project, including an audio track of the writers reading their stories, was displayed in a gallery with a designed seating area, and later published as a hardcover book with a contextualizing introduction.
From 2009 to 2011, Hull concentrated on presenting large scale exhibits in a building he rented on South La Cienega, in an anonymous area of car washes and donut shops. Las Cienegas Projects focused on large scale, collaborative, and project-based artworks by emerging and established artists, both local and international. Every project was documented, and as the project ended a full catalogue raisonne was published, with some contextualizing essays outlining the history of the space.
As Las Cienegas Projects was coming to an end, Hull met the graphic designer Jon Sueda, and they began to work together to give Hull’s work a more cohesive identity, through the design of a website. Thus Nothing Moments Press was born. This in turn led to a new project, a set of twenty-four books again organized on the relay principle. In this case the writers were asked to hand over texts, on any subject, to unnamed visual artists. The artists in turn passed their illustrations to various book designers, who were given free reign to do as they wished with the design, within certain size and page number limits. This ended up becoming a traveling exhibition with about 400 framed illustrations and 3,000 sets of books.
Nothing Moments Press was produced by Steven Hull, Tami Demaree, Lazlo Borsai, Jack Black, and Tanya Haden.
Selected Nothing Moments Titles, available from the East of Borneo archive:
Catalogue Raisonne: Ab Ovo, with a forward by Hull and an introduction by Susan Morgan. Published 2005.
Las Cienegas Projects, edited by Steven Hull and Amy Thorner, designed by Jennifer Rider. Includes essays by Susan Morgan and Charles Gaines.
Love Sentence by Lynne Tillman
The Great Exception by Rachel Kushner
The Third Elevator by Aimee Bender
An Escape Towards Liberty by Tom Lawson