The exhibits and events organised under the title “Publishing as an Artistic Toolbox: 1989-2017” at the Kunsthalle in Vienna are an attempt to answer the question: What is the role of art publishing today? It’s a valid query. Digital acceleration faces a vigorous response from printed matter, where traditional formats such as the artist’s book, the catalogue and the specialised press are maintaining their regular presence in addition to becoming objects of increased attention and exploration on the independent artistic circuit.
Instead of lingering over the historical avant-gardes or the subcultures of the 1960s and ‘70s, the exhibition concentrates on publications after 1989, a symbolic year that saw two socially and politically impactful events: the conception of the World Wide Web and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Concepts intrinsic to that particular moment in history were taken as the show's art-critical and self-critical filter. Despite being presented as the theatre of a generation relieved of cultural limits, the selection on view is paradoxically unbalanced in favour of the Western world. However, the project offers historical and analytic perspective, expressly non-encyclopaedic and more focused on the means than the content. It offers an opportunity to peruse the recent past of art publishing instead of trying to come to a conclusion through the utopian collection of materials that constitutes it. The selection of contents is an organic entity that grew according to its structure, which is where the real heart of the exhibition lies. The variety of formats found in the different sections is the key to this overview.
The archival aspect is represented in the sections “Artist-Run Magazines. The Magazine as Medium”, a collection of over 70 magazines; “The Message as Medium”, an exhibit of artists’ contributions to periodicals and newspapers (in collaboration with Christoph Schifferli); and “Autoretrospective”, which presents all the editorial projects of the artist Philippe Thomas. More experimental is the section “Artists’ Library”, featuring artists for whom publishing plays an important role to their practice. Each was invited to submit three books that influenced their attitude towards publishing. A short statement on their choice accompanies each selection. “In Between. The Library as Medium” is where artists were invited to choose a book from the personal library of Franz West and produce an insert for it.There is the unconventional “The Bookshop as Medium” section, for which Gregorio Magnani and Motto Books made a selection of artist’s books and small independent publishers.
Digital publishing is not missing: “Expanded Publishing”, in collaboration with Filipa Ramos, presents experimental projects that oscillate between the physical and the virtual. “Post-Digital Publishing Archive” is a selection from the archive of Silvio Lorusso. Other sections invite discussion: “Design as Medium” contains solo presentations by the graphic designers Åbäke, Manuel Raeder and Boy Vereecken; “The Artist and the Publishers” is a round table with Jonathan Monk, Christophe Boutin, Christophe Daviet and Michèle Didier; “Magazines as Publishers” is a round table with Afterall, Archive, Mousse, NERO and OEI; “Talks” is a cycle of events held on location at the exhibition.
This exhibition is like an animated book where each page illustrates a different design aspect and takes on three-dimensionality by means of a system that is just as complex. The display was designed by the Milanese group Rio Grande as an exhibit without tables or display cases. More than half of the publications can be consulted. The other half avoids traditional expositional solutions that are frontal and protected, which would have flattened the volumes and reduced them to their covers. Graphic design is by the Milanese studio Dallas and includes the exposition texts on the walls, laid out like a table of contents, a booklet that is an essential tool for navigating the contents of each section, and a journal to take home.
The Kunsthalle’s institutional curator Luca Lo Pinto (1981) has analysed a broad and multifaceted theme by tackling it with an ambitious project. Although the aim is not to give an exhaustive answer to the above-mentioned query, in reality it is contained in the exhibition’s structure.
As a product of his times and of the issues inherent to contemporary culture, Lo Pinto proposes this survey in full awareness of its elusiveness. His device is the exhibition within the exhibition. He pauses at length to take in the visual language and transmit the collaborative and experimental attitude that aims for hybridisation and a transdisciplinary result. This is seen in the concept of the sections and in the presence of Maurizio Cattelan in every single section where he could be inserted. Above all, the show demonstrates how the return to the printed page is widening the audience for contemporary art.
- Publishing as an Artistic Toolbox: 1989-2017
- Exhibition dates:
- until 28 January 2018
- Curated by:
- Luca Lo Pinto
- Exhibition and graphic design:
- Rio Grande and Dallas
- Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier
- Museumsplatz 1, Vienna