Northing/Kinakaal forlag – Miss Read

Northing/Kinakaal forlag

Founded by architect Ben Wenhou Yu and designer Yilei Wang, Northing is a multi-functional space focusing on exhibition, publication, design, cultural events and cross-cultural communication. Based in Bergen (NO) and with an East Asian cultural background, Northing is dedicated to promoting East Asian culture among artists and designers in Norway and vice versa. In 2019, Northing started its own publishing house Kinakaal Forlag, to explore the possibilities of paper-based publication projects. Kinakaal forlag has received two gold awards in Norway’s “Most Beautiful Books of the Year” competition (2021, 2022) and abC Art Book Award in 2022.
Quiet Friends
Chie Ito, Rei Ito, Quiet Friends, Kinakaal forlag, 2023 © Chie Ito, Rei Ito

The Japanese artist couples Chie and Rei Ito create tranquil tales with recycled and homemade paper. They don’t advocate any particular moral or lesson through their otherwise quite simply formulated stories. According to them, complex, multifaceted and engaging stories can appear to be rather simple. Kinakaal forlag selected three such stories: Quiet Friends, Poppy, the Lost Foal, and Yar's Little Big Adventure and presented them as picture books wrapped in Furoshiki wrapping. All stories are published in four languages in the books: Japanese (original), English, Norwegian, and Chinese.

Lens and Landscape
Maleonn Ma, Tonje Bøe Birkeland, Lens and Landscape, Kinakaal forlag, 2022 © Maleonn Ma, Tonje Bøe Birkeland

Lens and Landscape is a pair of photo books that transcends geographical boundaries, uniting two photographers from opposite corners of the world who were unable to physically collaborate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Curated by Northing and published by Kinakaal forlag, this publication is the result of an ambitious project that unfolded in unforeseen ways.
In 2019, Northing, a multicultural organization based in Bergen, initiated an ambitious project titled ‘Stage and Landscap'. The plan was to bring together the unique artistic perspectives of Norwegian photographer Tonje Bøe Birkeland and Chinese photographer Maleonn, hailing from Shanghai. Maleonn was renowned for his imaginative and theatrical photographs, carefully staged within the confines of his studio. His absurd visual narratives and psychedelic images usually feature others than himself - actors, models, or onlookers. In stark contrast, Tonje, an artist based in Bergen, used the natural world as her stage, embodying forgotten female explorers of the past and challenging the male-dominated historical narrative. Northing recognized the potential for a captivating collaboration, hoping it would ignite unforeseen creativity.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions thwarted the artists' plans to physically meet and work together. However, undeterred by these obstacles, Northing created a virtual meeting point in the form of a book. L&L serves as a tangible manifestation of their creative encounter, with a conversation between the two artists alongside their most significant works.
The book's design, ingeniously materialized by Yilei and Pan Yanrong, is an artful expression in itself. Divided into two parts, each dedicated to one artist, the book is bound together by a bookcase. To fully understand the intention behind the book, readers are encouraged to lay the bookcase flat on a table and simultaneously open both parts of the book, as the page numbers flow seamlessly from one side to the other. With each spread consisting of four pages, the photographs by the two artists engage in a captivating visual dialogue guided by a discernible logic.
L& L transcends physical barriers, offering an intimate glimpse into the artistic minds of Tonje Bøe Birkeland and Maleonn. Through this innovative book, their unique perspectives and creative visions intertwine, proving that even in the face of adversity, art can forge connections that defy distance and bring people together.

Debt Verses
Miriam Stoney, Debt Verses, Kinakaal forlag, 2022 © Miriam Stoney

Debt Verses is a trilingual poetry book by artist/writer Miriam Stoney for the triennial art event Bergen Assembly 2022 - Yasmine and the Seven Faces of the Heptahedron. The book is designed and published by Kinakaal Forlag. Miriam Stoney took on the role of the fortuneteller among all seven fictional characters. The book was her main contribution to this role. Readers will follow the female protagonist on a journey of escaping her creditor and abuser, Kevin. In the text, Miriam quoted and parodied a great amount of other literary, economical, philosophical, and poetical works, which she marked with footnotes as her own literary debts. The designer ingeniously put the three languages, English (original), Chinese, and Norwegian, into one accordion-folded book that comes with two spines that close and open by magnets. Readers will be able to track down the language they prefer by following the arrows.

Anne Tveit Knutsen, Tvillingsong, Kinakaal forlag, 2021 © Anne Tveit Knutsen

Intertwine (Norwegian: Tvillingsong) is the companion book of the documentary film with the same title by Norwegian artist Anne Tveit Knutsen. The film followed a couple of intellectually disabled female twins, Eli and Toril, from West Norway into their post-middle-age lives. The original intention of the artist was to explore the special way of communication between the twins and with the outer world, but unexpectedly, Toril died of illness before the film was finished, leaving Eli facing the wild world alone, baffled. Fortunately, Eli is obsessed with drawing.
She has always been drawing with coloured pencils in her notebooks since they were little. The drawings were abstract with colours and lines, sometimes letterlike symbols, mysterious and enchanting. The book contains some simple dialogues between the twins during the filmmaking. After Toril passes away, dialogues turn into monologues of Eli, which are full of incomprehension of death and perplexity for the future. The covers and inserts are all printed from the original drawings of Eli’s, which can be folded out to the original size. Being folded in, the drawings are otherwise hidden in another dimension. The Norwegian artist also simulated the isolation from and connection to the meanings of the surroundings the twins were experiencing throughout their lives by imitating the Chinese characters translated from the texts in the book, which she actually couldn’t understand. The book was designed by renowned Chinese designer Yanrong Pan and Chinese designer Yilei Wang, who is now based in Norway. The main paper used in the book was a type of newly developed paper that is light but strong and non-tearable, just like the connection between the twin sisters, fragile but inseparable.
Tvillingsong won the Gold award in Norway’s Most Beautiful Book of the Year 2022 and abC Art Book Award 2022. It’s also selected by Design 360 as one of the 100 best designs of 2021.

Fjell Hav Poesi
Anthology, Fjell Hav Poesi, Kinakaal forlag, 2020 © Anthology

The poetry anthology features works of seven poets from Bergen and seven from Shanghai. The title Fjell Hav Poesi (Mountain Sea Poetry) was inspired by the names of the two cities: Mountain for Bergen, “the city among the seven mountains,” and Sea for Shanghai (Wikipedia: The two Chinese characters in the city’s name are 上 (shàng/zan, “upon”) and 海 (hǎi/hae, “sea”), together meaning “Upon the Sea”.).
The book won the Gold award in “The Most Beautiful Books of the Year 2021” competition in Norway, in the category of Artist’s Books.