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Reads Like a Book|Cricoteka, Kraków | 23rd January - 15th March 2015

It has to be this way¹˙⁵

Materials: cardboard and wooden structure, 22 minute DVD projection with 5.1 surround sound onto two masked MDF circular screens on mobile TV arms, monitor with headphones, MDF plinth, 16 minute DVD, free novella to take away.

Sound in collaboration with Pendle Poucher; production Keith Sargent

Artists: Jill Magid, Cheng Ran, Lindsay Seers

Lindsay Seers’s refuses the distinction between fact and fiction in subtle and sophisticated ways. It brings to light the fictional constructions on which personal memory and identity are built. In her novel It Has To Be This Way¹˙⁵ (2010), the protagonist suffers from amnesia after an accident. She uses old personal photographs as if they were Tarot cards in an attempt to recover her memory and call back her lost identity. These images form the narrative structure of the film, the novel, and the installation. Visitors can pick up a free copy of the book, which the artist expects to be read afterward, out of the exhibition space. The artist plays with the entanglement, in the reader’s mind, of the text that the viewer is reading and her memories of the installation that she previously visited.

Cheng Ran’s novel, Circadian Rhythm (2013), is at the center of a constellation of works that play the role of “non-written” chapters. The actual pieces support the narrative world and vice versa, in a relation that runs throughout different media: a carpet that contains the book’s first page woven into its fabric (The Last Generation); a sculpture made of stones and sea shells that hold an enigmatic conversation (Tide Conversations); a text made of aluminum Hit-Or-Miss-ist; and the monumental reading room, made of a wooden structure in the shape of a spiral. The resulting installation explores the physicality of writing and, at the same time, the phenomenology of reading. In Cheng’s work, literature is an inscription in space.

Jill Magid’s Failed States (2012) is a memoir in which the protagonist is the artist herself. In a visit to Austin (Texas), she witnesses a strange shooting by a young man called Fausto Cárdenas. His bullets are aimed into the sky, no one is hurt, and Fausto is arrested. In her installation, Jill Magid creates a connection (hinted at in her novel) between Fausto Cárdenas and Faust, the protagonist of Goethe’s play, which was written as a “closet drama,” that is, as a theater piece that doesn’t take place on a stage but rather in the reader’s mind (for example, in the sound installation called The Deed, which is based on the reading of six translations of Goethe’s Faust, creating a sound palimpsest in so doing). Similarly, the reasons for the shooting are to be found only in Fausto’s mind, and all the trial’s procedures and Magid’s investigations are unable to disclose them.

The novels of these three artists are included in The Book Lovers artist novels collection, displayed at the center of the exhibition and available for public perusal. The visitor will find the richness in the diversity of artists’ different creative strategies. Complementing the collection, more than 350 titles are included in the first bibliography of artist novels, which is freely available in an online database. The collection, which constitutes a peculiar kind of archive, includes works by artists who considerably influenced Tadeusz Kantor, such as Krzysztof Niemczyk, Witkacy, Bruno Schulz or Maria Stangret-Kantor. Both the artist novels collection and database are generously supported by M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp.

Novels by: AA Bronson, Jake Chapman, Keren Cytter, Salvador Dalí, Tim Etchells, Matias Faldbakken, Liam Gillick, Goldin+Senneby, Rodney Graham, Renée Green, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Pablo Helguera, Stewart Home, Isidore Isou, Pierre Klossowski, Joseph Kosuth, Yayoi Kusama, Jana Leo, Jill Magid, Tom McCarthy, Krzysztof Niemczyk, Brian O’Doherty, Mai-Thu Perret, Tom Philips, Francis Picabia, Richard Prince, Stuart Ringholt, Roee Rosen, Bruno Schulz, Lindsay Seers, Alexandre Singh, Cally Spooner, Maria Stangret-Kantor, Oscar Tuazon, Andy Warhol, Witkacy; to a total of 350 titles.

For this exhibition of the Book Lovers project (http://www.news.cricoteka.pl/the-book-lovers-2/) Cricoteka presents multimedia and performative artistic strategies, focusing on literature. The Book Lovers exhibition strives to prove that literature, when treated by visual artists, can take place well beyond the space of the book. The Book Lovers project investigates the many ways in which artists conceive their novels as part of their art projects. For artists like Jill Magid, Cheng Ran, and Lindsay Seers the novel is not only a literary product of narrative fiction, but they also employ their novels as they would video or installation — as an aspect of a larger work or body of works. The three projects displayed in Cricoteka have something in common: they all have prepared a complex world of connections waiting to be unraveled through the use of one’s imagination and curiosity. Each element is linked to the next one by means of a narrative thread that connects them to a coherent whole. The novel offers a key to interpret what the spectator sees, so that many times it is possible to “read” the novel without opening the book. The three installations provide an immersive experience to the viewer, who literally walks into a narrative space. Many times the spectator only has access to fragments that belong to a larger narrative. The present exhibition aims at making such a narrative visible, readable.

Within the framework of the Book Lovers project Cricoteka has also presented David Maroto’s performance Decide Your Destiny (2014) as well as the public programme The Novel as an Art Form in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (2013).

The Book Lovers is a long-term project about artist novels by David Maroto and Joanna Zielińska. Through a series of exhibitions, public programs, pop-up bookstores, a symposium, and a publication, The Book Lovers investigates the use of the novel as a medium within the visual arts.

www.thebooklovers.info

Project The Book Lovers subsidized by the Ministry of Culture and the National Heritage.
Partners: Mondriaan FundM HKA w Antwerpii,
Media Patronage: Polska Agencja Prasowa, Księgarnie Matras Radio KrakówNOTES.NA.6.TYGODNIOnet.plTVP KrakówSZUMDziennik Polski, TVP Kultura

 

About The Book Lovers project

A Project on Artist Novels

Curated by: David Maroto (Spanish visual artist, based in the Netherlands) and Joanna Zielińska (curator, Centre for Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor – Cricoteka, Cracow).

The Book Lovers is a systematic attempt to study the phenomenon of artist novels. There are some examples of artist novels in the 20th century, but it is in the last ten to fifteen years that an increasing number of artists have choosen the novel as an artistic medium. With The Book Lovers we intend to create a public awareness of this quietly widespread artistic trend. There are a number of questions that this project wants to pose: Has literature become a new tool for creating expanded narrations in visual arts? Is it justified to talk about a new phenomenon in contemporary art? What are the consequences for the production process when adopting a purely textual form, moreover a narrative? What link remains to visual arts? Is it possible to find a relationship to conceptual art, or relational aesthetics, or is this an entirely different artistic form? Collective writing, fictional artist/authors, ghost writers… what are the issues raised in relation to authorship and the re-skilling of art practice?

The artist novel can be contextualized within a wider phenomenon currently taking place in the visual arts, that of a ‘narrative turn’. The focus of this project is not only on the process of writing, but first and foremost on the process of reading. In the equivalence that we propose, the artist is the author, but the spectator also holds a double status as a reader. When an art project takes the form of a novel, it is not finished with its publication. The meaning of a novel is to be read. Otherwise, it is just an inert object. It needs to be activated by the reader to be alive. When someone opens a book and begins to read, it becomes a source of active engagement. We like to look at the novel as a relational object. It becomes alive in the here and now of the reading act. An act that is able to create a situation around it. Considered as a public art project, the artist novel goes beyond the exhibition space. The form of the book means that the work can be read in everyday contexts, on the train, in bed, and so on. It becomes life experience. The reception of such work implies an investment of time beyond what is typically expected, and favors reflection over fast consumption. This is exactly the opposite of ‘one-liner’ art, that is artwork that makes a short and powerful, though most likely superficial, statement. We quickly consume a one-liner and move on to the next one. The question is, what if I do not want to move on? What happens if I want to stay and engage the same artwork, deeper and deeper? Will it stand it? When visual artists turn to novels as a legitimate medium to carry out their work, they are looking for strategies to generate a protracted engagement with the spectator, to recover the idea of art practice as a process.

For many of the artists inside The Book Lovers project, the novel is a means of generating new art objects. The novel is positioned at the center of a constellation of works that find in it their final reference. At other times, both artwork and writing process have parallel lives. The relations between visual artworks and artist novels are as varied as the artists who make the decision to write them, but for all of them they ultimately function as a sort of engine that generates art. Artist novels find continuation in varying visual forms: drawings, sculptures, videos, sound pieces, installations, performances…

The central element of The Book Lovers project is a collection of artist novels. It includes a total of 264 titles and is being acquired by M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, Belgium. The collection is complemented by a parallel online database, an ‘ensemble’ also hosted by M HKA. Some artists present in the collection, among many others, are: Carl Andre, Keren Cytter, Salvador Dalí, Tim Etchells, Liam Gillick, Goldin+Senneby, Pablo Helguera, Stewart Home, Joseph Kosuth, Yayoi Kusama, Jana Leo, Jill Magid, Mai-Thu Perret, Tom McCarthy, Richard Prince, Roee Rosen, Lindsay Seers, Alexandre Singh, Andy Warhol…

Both collection and database will be presented to the public at M HKA on December 6th 2012. During this evening there will be a conversation held between the curators and Seth Siegelaub. Siegelaub has been active as an art dealer, publisher and independent art exhibition organizer, a political researcher and publisher, and a textile bibliographer and collector. In the 1960s, he expanded and opened up the exhibition environment to the new possibilities, issues and problems posed by new forms of art, especially what is now known as ‘Conceptual Art’. The conversation will revolve around the topic ‘What happens when the artwork becomes a novel?’ Possible links between artist novels and conceptual art; changes in the artwork’s production and distribution process when it takes the form of a book, and its potential to challenge institutional conventions will be some of the issues that will be put under discussion.

The Book Lovers project will develop throughout 2013 in different stages: a number of exhibitions devoted to artists who make use of novels as an artistic form (taking place at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Project Space, NYC; De Appel, Amsterdam; and Cricoteka, in Cracow), as well as a presentation on artist novels, with a program of lectures, interviews, discussions and performances (taking place in the Museum of Modern Art, in Warsaw). After the presentation a publication will be released.

Joanna Zielińska, David Maroto