“We never intended to be shopkeepers,” says designer Stuart Bailey, who, with designer David Reinfurt, nonetheless founded the Dexter Sinister bookshop and publishing space for Dot Dot Dot Magazine at 38 Ludlow Street, in New York, in 2006. “We were more interested in what the shop meant as a model,” says Bailey. That model combined a commercial enterprise with a community workspace and drop-in center, and is now shifting its focus to preservation.
Dexter Sinister was always an occasional bookstore, keeping unreliable hours, and offered a small but well-curated selection of design, art and philosophy books and journals. They also sold issues of Dot Dot Dot, the biannual arts journal co-founded by Bailey and Peter Bilak in 2000.
STUART BAILEY AND DAVID REINFURT
Both Bailey and Reinfurt work as graphic designers. Reinfurt founded O R G inc., a firm that works out of the Dexter Sinister space; Bailey, who is currently based in Los Angeles, works independently.
The shop is modeled on a “just-in-time” economy of print production, where inventory is seen as waste, unlike contemporary assembly-line publishing. They worked on demand; often publications were printed only when customers ordered or purchased them.
After five years in the small basement location, their lease was up; a one-year extension inspired the artists to re-create their space as an archive. It will reopen as The Serving Library, combining the ideas of an archiving and a circulating library, collecting information and artifacts and concentrating them into one central location while allowing people to freely access the information; in this case, the act of borrowing happens on the internet. The Serving Library involves publishing PDF essays, books and other projects on their ambitious website, all of which will be aggregated every six months into a new printed publication, Bulletins for the Serving Library. “We wanted to do something that has a slower burn to it. Because of the nature of commerce, with people coming in and out of the shop and knowing about the space, things tend to happen more quickly then we would like them to,” explains Reinfurt.
Dexter Sinister developed haphazardly over the past five years. Projects spun out of the space and led to the pair being invited to participate in the Whitney Biennial (2008) and Performa (2009). For the duration of the former, they occupied the Commander’s Room at the 7th Regiment Armory, where they explored various channels of distribution, producing texts and pamphleteering. During Performa they created, edited and published six issues of The First/Last Newspaper, a broadsheet with contributions from an international selection of writers and artists like Jan Verwoert, Dan Fox and Walead Beshty.
Bailey and Reinfurt have considered the shaky hierarchy of publishing online vs. in print, exploring the differences between the physical presence of a book and a PDF, small print runs vs. endless file sharing. “A printed publication is a definite object related to other definite objects; it has a border, it’s discrete, it’s not flowing and boundless like the Internet,” observes Reinfurt.
“We have become interested and more adept at making things that demonstrate ideas rather then just write or articulate them,” says Bailey.
A first set of readings, currently on the website, (http://www.servinglibrary.org/) establishes a basic vernacular for the project. Bailey says, “We keep comparing the website to an engine room, a stripped down technical beginning. In that same way the subject matter starts off with a root level interest in libraries and media in general, and their relationship to time.”