Part of the interview with Dr. Eva Linhart (art historian, curator and head the Department of Book Art and Graphics at the Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt am Main) and Dr. Viola Hildebrand-Schat (art historian focused on artistic books, lecturer at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main). May 9, 2019, Mainz
Natalia Łajszczak:We would like to introduce ourselves. We are a part of the team from the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology in Warsaw, and we are participants of the Future Text project. Future Text is a project which brings together universities from different parts across the world. We are here in Mainz for a week to conduct our research and visit different institutions connected to text-based communication (like the Gutenberg Museum). Our research group consists of students and teachers, and focuses on different aspects of communication.
Dr. Ewa Linhard:I’m head of the department of book art and graphics at the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt.
Dr. Viola Hildebrand-Schat:I teach art history at Goethe-University, and my main interest is in contemporary art. During the last years, I have concentrated on artist books, which is a special term for a new genre of art that came up in the sixties as part of the conceptual art movement. Artbooks existed before, but a new term was coined at that moment. I realized that the concept of the artbook is different in different countries. In Germany, we took over a lot of ideas from the US, and now more and more artists came up with new conceptions of art. You could see some of them in the Klingspor Museum [read the interview with dr. Stefan Soltek – editorial note]. For example, artists use fabric or metal, which are not usually used in books. In the 20th century, many artists were involved in artist book design. It's easier to make a book nowadays; you do not need to go to the printshop anymore, you can use your own printer at home.
Monika Marek (to Dr. Viola Hildebrand-Schat):In your field, how do you describe the experience between a regular book and an artist book from the perspective of the reader?
Dr. Viola Hildebrand-Schat:Many people don't realize the difference between a book on art and an artist book because it depends very much on the idea of the artist and if an artist has conceived a book as an art object. This is one of the simplest definitions. But I don't think you can go far with this definition, and you should always look at the book, at the idea. Artist books differ from novels even if the latter has been conceived as an art object. You should focus on the term art more than on the book itself, and see the artist book as another object of art. A normal book, as we call them, is a book that has some functional objections or some functional ideas enclosed to give information, to show pictures, to be the container of a text. To have an idea what is an artist book, go carefully through a book and make out some characteristics that seem unreasonable. Artist books are not very logical and you should know more about the ideas of the artist, about his work, look at how the pages are linked to the covers, why the specific scenes are unreasonable. I have already brought some very good examples of artist books. These are two volumes of a book made by Michael Riedel. You can leaf it through, and you'll notice immediately what I was speaking about. Because you have a lot of text it looks like a so-called normal book, but you can notice very quickly that there are some faults. This book does not work as a normal book, although it's pretending to be normal. At first glance, you won't see that it was done by posters, you must go deeper, leaf it through and then you get an idea of what it might be made of.
Monika Marek:It seems like our minds are trying to find some logic here and it is impossible to define it, you could say it works in the logic of Freudian Dreams [The Interpretation of Dreams “Die Traumdeutung”, a book by Sigmund Freud – editorial note].
Dr. Viola Hildebrand-Schat:We had a very popular work in an open space as part of the Sigmund Freud Institute. It is a specific Institute for psychoanalysis, and Michael Riedel made an installation of the text of the book, where words were in alphabetical order. Viewers could see the words on the wall, but only when they came closer, could they notice that these words were referring to the “Die Traumdeutung” by Sigmund Freud. This is a logic that is typical for artist books and a new way to work on typography. It breaks the logic of a traditional way of working on anything.
Monika Marek:If the book is not for reading, is it a loss? We cannot grasp and understand the content of the book itself, we just cannot embrace it and keep it as one object.
Dr. Eva Linhart:Embracing is a concrete movement. In this way, you have to take the book, touch it, smell, to get the whole experience.
Dr. Viola Hildebrand-Schat:It is important for an artist book that you reject your ideas on books and take it as an art object.
Natalia Łajszczak:As we are talking about the experience of a book, my question is how to get this experience if it is not possible to touch the book during an exhibition, for example?
Dr. Eva Linhart:The exhibition could be only a showcase when you reduce a book to one page, to give an interpretation (mostly a written one), while the page opened in the showcase is also an interpretation. Besides the showcase, visitors can find reading tables, a place where they can touch books, leaf them through, sit down and read them. If it is not possible to make a table with books, I make a video showing.
Dr. Viola Hildebrand-Schat:This was a very interesting project; it was an exhibition called 172 new book objects. Eva was leafing through all the books, filming some or taking pictures. The catalog shows all books in real size, all the books were scanned. Graphic designers and artists are on the same level in this book, there is no hierarchy. Eva’s idea is to highlight conception in the first place and then content on the second.
Natalia Łajszczak:What is the future of printed books?
Dr. Eva Linhart:The field of art books has become broader. I think the difference between valued books will become more different from the books we use for studying, information. I think there will also be other forms of books which we cannot probably imagine now, as technology is changing very fast. I remember we discussed what format of floppy disks will survive. And finally, we got a CD-ROM and USB flash drive.
About Museum Angewandte Kunst: The Museum Angewandte Kunst is located in Frankfurt am Main, Germany and a part of the Museumsufer – a landscape of museums in Frankfurt, lined up on both banks of the river Main. The museum building is an icon of postmodernism architecture, its collection consist of more than 60.000 objects of European handicrafts, design, book art and graphics as well as Islamic and East Asian art.https://www.museumangewandtekunst.de/en/