What are artists' publications and what does one recognise them by?
Bibliographers, librarians, archivists and collection managers of visual arts museums are regularly confronted with this question.
At the request of the Middelheim Museum, artist Nico Dockx and art historian Johan Pas (from the ArchiVolt research group of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp) undertook a physical screening of the museum library's collection of monographic art books and artists' publications.
Through conversations with artists, designers, publishers and collectors, they will examine the phenomenon of the artists' publication from various perspectives.
A Kind Of a 'Huh?'* #3:
Lecture by gerlach en koop
The name gerlach en koop designates two individuals working together as one collective artist. As gerlach en koop tend to duplicate, to double, to repeat and copy the work often exists in twos. But no two things can be the same.
In their practice, much attention is paid to everything that can support an artwork, by which is meant not just display cases, pedestals and exhibition architecture, but also press releases, invitations, exhibition booklets, posters, posts on social media, checklists, title cards, tours, catalogues and so on. The kind of printed material that is later often referred to as ‘ephemera’, but ultimately these very things last longer than the exhibition itself. Not that ephemeral at all. Where does an exhibition actually begin and where does it end? Or, where does a work of art begin and end? Often earlier than one thinks, and later too, but transition areas are particularly good to work in.
At the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the national library of the Netherlands, the depot and the reading room are going to be separated in the near future. The physical book gets increasingly out of sight of the reader. The KB asked a number of artists including gerlach en koop to reflect on this far-reaching development but explicitly left open the form in which this reflection might culminate. This openness was understood by gerlach en koop as an excellent opportunity to enter the organisation without a preconceived plan. The collective requested and got an office space in the cataloguing department, which they consider the heart of the library because that is where the connection between object and description is made. As ‘Incidental Persons’ in the tradition of Barbara Steveni and John Latham’s The Artist Placement Group, they spoke to about fifty different employees during their residency period with the central question: ‘Does the Koninklijke Bibliotheek allow itself to be read?’
In the wake of this question, gerlach en koop encountered intriguing material that put them on the trail of a series of new works. In their lecture, the collective will talk mainly about one of these new works in the making: a book-shaped ghost whose contours they hope to describe with increasing exactitude by using the specialist knowledge present in the various departments of the KB.
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, kamer B3.606, Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5, Den Haag, 2021, double-sided poster, 70 × 100 cm, offset, edition 100
The poster displays two of the thousands of bookends from the library depot, full size, one on the front, one on the back. If the beginning of the collection is in front of you, the end is out of sight. If the end is in front of you, you can’t see the beginning. There is no front. There is no back. The collection is empty when you see through it.