The selection of ‘Artists’ books’ from Flanders & The Netherlands’ at Frankfurter Buchmesse 2016 was done by graphic designer, publisher and curator Luc Derycke (Flemish selection) and art historian and art critic Roos van der Lint (Dutch selection). Read their statements on the selection of artists’ books.
Deze tekst is enkel beschikbaar in het Engels.
Curatorial statement Luc Derycke
A book is not an artwork. A book can be an artwork. An artwork can be a book.
An artwork is not a book.
Where the line is crossed that makes an artwork out of a book and a book out of an artwork is a place in the world of art. In the world of books, art books are still books, not art. Artists’ books are still books, but then books that have crossed a line into a world where their existence was clearly conceived as something other than a book.
Thus Peter Lemmens and Mark Luyten call their publishing house MacGuffin Books, their work A Number of Books Becoming a Specific Set. ‘MacGuffin’ is a term that Hitchcock used for the imperceptible mystery that drives the plot without taking on a role in it. Thus also the contents of A Number of Books…. Hence: their publication also as book. In A Number of Books… there is nothing more to be found than the mysterious observation that it is about book objects.
The book as MacGuffin appears to be the red thread in my selection. This mystery, this line being crossed whereby a book, while it remains intact as a book object, can no longer be a book. But there is nothing we can do besides calling it a book.
This operation is possible by overloading the ‘book’, by inflating it, putting it in overdrive, adding to it needlessly and avidly. On the other hand, it is possible by stripping down the book, by undressing it, by reducing it to virtually nothing. Or both.
Jacques André’s I Want More and Do It! contain a single picture from cover to cover, no, eighty pictures of a picture, no, eighty pictures of eighty objects with the same picture, no, in fact eighty pictures of eighty objects with a different picture. Baptiste Caccia’s Croix Sur Panneau, eighty pictures through a single picture. Dominique Somers’ 00A contains pictures that were never intended as pictures. Mathieu Gargam’s Maroc aout 1971 THE WALDORF ASTORIA ONE WAY ONE WAY The Waldorf Astoria contains pictures that were never meant to be printed. The volume by Remi Verstraete is clearly driven by a MacGuffin, which is called X, the title of the book. Tris Vonna-Michell’s Scores (Japan) is not a book, but a book. The drawings in the Off Work series by Parcifal Neyt are not drawings, some are. Or maybe not.
Curatorial statement Roos van der Lint
What happens when an artwork manifests itself in a book? When video art demands a place on paper, when a performance wants to be recorded in word and image? And when can a book itself also become the artwork? The selection of publications on this table is the result of a quest for books made by artists who have really sought to explore the potential of the book form and of paper. I have looked at various aspects that play a role in this: the form of the publication, the technical challenges of the paper, the collaboration between the artist, stylist and graphic designer, and of course at how all these choices fit the artistic content. The books on this table are each like artworks that unfold on the page, often following a new route and always at their very own tempo.
What is striking in the selection is that at first sight the books do not always seem all that special. For the most part they lack pictures on the cover, there is sometimes text, the front is often neutral. But inside it is a different story. Inside, the books explore, for instance, how new media can get a place in the book, such as the moving images from the work of Wendelien van Oldenborgh in Amateur. Inside too an exhibition is kept open that in fact closed a long time ago. Take the exhibition by the duo gerlach en koop that has now been reissued by Roma Publications. The show begins in that book at the front door and then wanders across the pages, focusing on the dusty floor and the crumbly skirting of art centre de Appel.
Artistic research is also carried out fully in the art book, which can immediately be shared with the reader. As in the ‘bird book’ Ornithology by Anne Geene and Arjan de Nooy, which looks like a scientific publication, but in which the gaze of the artists unmistakably dominates the inside. Formal research can also be cast in all sorts of forms, in a book that recalls a production catalogue such as that of Thomas Raat, with numbers, colours and forms that jump around the artworks. Or Evita Vasiljeva, who completed her time at De Ateliers and whose installations are continued in her publication. They are about depth and flatness, about looking at material that you would in fact like to feel. Annesas Appel added a CD to her book, in order to not only show her poetic research, but also to let readers hear how you can listen to the pictures in the book.
For me, two things always converge in the best art books: the artwork itself and something of the age in which it was made. Here on the table lies a book by Noëlle Cuppens that is genuinely on the verge of extinction. Using the last Letraset transfers from her collection, a typical product from the analogue era that is no longer made, Cuppens tries to recount Marguerite Duras’s last publication, C’est tout. Besides that I especially found plenty of examples of new possibilities. Such as the publication that is in fact too big for this table and sticks out a little. No wonder when you think that it has to contain the work of Ed Atkins, the artist who normally presents his HD videos on enormous screens. He transferred the hyperrealistic world that we are familiar with from the screen here on paper, together with designers and the printer. A very sharp world in a book that is too big for this world.