Recent Acquisition: Books by Temporary Services

Sachi Yanari-Rizzo, Curator of Prints & Drawings

The Print and Drawing Study Center has an exciting new addition of books published by the group Temporary Services that are available for patrons to peruse during their visit. Brett Bloom of Fort Wayne and Marc Fischer of Chicago have collaborated under the name Temporary Services since 1998. (Initially, the group had seven members.) Bloom, who has made Fort Wayne his home since 2015, may be known also for his community-scale composting business, Dirt Wain, or his garden projects in the Northside neighborhood.

Temporary Services is interested in creative, social engagement through different means: organizing exhibitions, events, projects, writing books, and publishing. A common thread through their activities is to support the realization of artists’ projects, often experimental, that would otherwise struggle to come to fruition through traditional commercial routes.

Temporary Services has functioned as an artist publisher since 1998, and continued under the imprint (or trade name) Half Letter Press since 2008. These books are authored by group members or by other writers. This year, Half Letter Press received a prestigious three-year Rauschenberg Foundation grant supporting their publishing operations and online store.

What does the term artist publisher mean? Bloom and Fischer explain the use of the term: “It gives us much greater freedom to make all kinds of things like collections of our photographs, the work of other people that may be documentary in nature, interviews with other people, and so on. We don’t treat the book as a fine arts medium. We are more interested in the kinds of social awareness and transformation that books can help facilitate.”[i]

An example of their work is a compelling publication entitled Prisoners’ Inventions, the product of a long-term relationship with Angelo, who was incarcerated in California. Through text and instructions/illustrations, Angelo shared his fellow inmates’ innovative creations, like game pieces and tools. These inventions demonstrate ingenuity and disclose their desire for simple pleasures and to satisfy essential needs, which are taken for granted by the rest of society, yet subject to confiscation.

Prisoners’ Inventions at MASS MoCA. Photo courtesy of Temporary Services.

In 2003, Prisoners’ Inventions transformed into an exhibit as part of a group show at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA. Using detailed drawings provided by Angelo, they fabricated a replica of his prison cell and displayed recreated inventions. Next year, the Los Angeles Public Library’s central branch will include the publication in an exhibition exploring the nature of human creativity as a part of a region-wide event entitled Pacific Standard Time: Art and Science Collide, sponsored by the Getty Foundation.

The Self-Reliance Library is an influential project that Temporary Services conceived to engage with the public. Exhibited at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Heuser Gallery at Bradley University, the Pittsburgh Biennial, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on view are books that group members have found inspiring in their own work. Offering an immersive experience of books and ideas, the public is encouraged to participate by reading. As Temporary Services describes it, “The collection is designed to provoke the reader, solve creative problems, or suggest imaginative directions for a range of creative practices.”[ii]

The Self-Reliance Library. Photo courtesy of Temporary Services.

Temporary Services’ publications are found throughout the country, notably the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, BAS Artist Book Collection in Istanbul, CNEAI in Paris, Museum of Modern Art Library, and Yale University Libraries, among others.

The FWMoA’s collection of books by Temporary Services is housed in the Print and Drawing Study Center. While not expansive, like the immersive environment provided by the Self-Reliance Library, their books are available to those seeking new sources of inspiration. A portion of the books available are listed on their website.

Visit the Print and Drawing Study Center Tuesday-Friday, 11am-3pm, or by appointment.

[i] Brett Bloom, email message to Sachi Yanari-Rizzo, August 26, 2023.

[ii] “Self-Reliance Library Overview,” Temporary Services,

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