Featured Artist: Derek Fenner


I got really excited when Todd and Arzu asked me to be their first guest practitioner for their Unfolding Practice project. Having been thoroughly immersed in accordion book praxis for the last 3 years, I have a ton to say about the many ways this process has had an impact on my work as an artist, educator, and researcher.


Over the next month I plan to engage in an unveiling around the power of the accordion book as a tool for inquiry and action. I’ll spend time unpacking how I use accordion books with youth, teachers, and in my own artistic and scholarly pursuits. I’ll be looking at both the content and aesthetics of the accordion books I have been making myself and with others.


I thought it might be a good idea for my first post to start with the outer-most edge of my recent accordion book. I started the accordion book pictured here at the Games, Learning, and Society conference in Madison, WI in July of this year. Because I haven’t played a videogame in many years, I took a leap of faith attending this conference. It’s good to be outside our comfort zones.

derek fenner accordion 1

I believe the picture perfectly captures my mind while there. I was trying to make the sessions make sense to my own tastes. I was searching for critical race theory readings of games, trying to make sense of context in the sense of game space(s), and was really interested in the idea of theory-crafting. I was also reading David Graeber’s new book on bureaucracy, which was causing a lot of interstitial AHA moments. WHAT SEPARATES US KEEPS US FRAGILE. This line is still haunting me. It’s the final line of a poem I wrote recently. I just keep writing it and allowing it to remain emergent.


As a final thought for this post, I am in LA presenting to teachers and administrators at a summer institute at Loyola Marymount University. I was talking with a group of teachers this morning and I was telling them that one thing I find infinitely intriguing about accordion books, is that the makers’ aesthetics are immediately present. I reminded them that the opposite of aesthetics is anaesthetics. Accordion books make us feel alive instead of dull. That’s important.


’til soon,


One thought on “Featured Artist: Derek Fenner

  1. Derek, thank you for this beautiful post! I especially appreciated your final thoughts centered on the accordion book creator’s aesthetics being immediately evident in the work. For me as a viewer and reader, this heightens my sense if connection to and empathy for/with the accordion book creator. I was also struck by your use of the word ‘praxis.’ I know it is often considered a synonym for ‘process,’ but I also know that there is more to unpack there. I’m wondering why you choose this word to describe the written you do personally and professionally with accordion books.

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