Book Hook: K.Verlag

Text and pictures by Rachel Simkover and K.Verlag

K.Verlag was founded in 2011 in Berlin by Anna-Sophie Springer and Charles Stankievech. Anna-Sophie is an editor, curator, translator, and writer currently editing a book with Hélène Cixous for Merve Verlag, and her academic essay “Volumes: The Book as Exhibition” will be published in the next issue of C Magazine. Charles is an artist, curator, and founding faculty member of the Yukon School of Visual Arts in Dawson City, Canada and is taking part in the exhibition Drifting at Haus der Kulturen der Welt opening on December 14th.

How did you get started developing K. Verlag?
The two of us had already worked together on a few publications and there came a point when we decided we should take advantage of our emerging collaboration by framing it more publically.  While we are both ‘bookophiles’ that share a background in theory and curating, we each brought different expertise to the “print hut.”  Sophie is the one who contributes the professional expertise in publishing, primarily through her editorial job with Merve Verlag, and Charles has a history with getting things off the ground and establishing an aesthetic. So starting our own press seemed like a natural step to create a platform that would allow us to combine our forces. You could say K. Verlag is a kind of machine that we use to explore the book as a site for exhibition where we merge our editorial, curatorial and artistic interests.

What was your first project?
When we say we are interested in the ‘book-as-exhibition’ then this has to do with questioning the limits of both mediums and exploring what happens when you create hybrids between the two. 
Last fall we published Charles’ artist book LOVELAND.  It is the portable counterpart to a large-scale video installation of the same title.  Whereas the installation provides a public space that envelopes the viewer in an intense affective audio-visual experience, the book enables a small-scale, intimate and much more intellectual engagement.  LOVELAND was also the first publication for which we appropriated the Renaissance tradition of the ‘apparatus criticus’ as a strategy to display and arrange research in an exploratory manner: the book contrasts theoretical and literary texts with a series of annotated images from diverse cultural sources and not only underscores the installation but is a highly conceptual and aesthetic work in itself.

While we are excited about making actual books, with K. Verlag we also are very interested in contributing to the discourse in other ways, for instance through public discussions.  That’s why in the winter we organised an event on the merging of book and exhibition at the Motto bookshop for which we invited writer Mark von Schlegell.  Mark had contributed the science fiction short story “Robot Messiah” to LOVELAND and had himself also just published a new book in direct conjunction with his own curatorial project.  In talking about LOVELAND and New Dystopia (Sternberg Press, 2011) we moved through the conceptual territory of science fiction and discussed the book in terms of both a ‘time machine’ and a ‘wormhole’: mechanisms that allow for a different relationship to time and space than habitual chronology.  This sense of multiple temporalities is something that is also reflected in the very materiality of the LOVELAND book, which is made from three different paper stocks.  When one thumbs through the pages, each section has its own speed, density and flow.

Mark von Schlegell, Anna-Sophie Springer, Charles Stankievech: public discussion at Motto, December 2011

Can you give an example of an exceptional project that influenced your work as publishers?
Something we are really intrigued by are Lucy Lippard’s editorial choices for the catalogues of her so-called “number exhibitions” from the late 1960s, early 70s—a series of group shows with the then-young conceptualists, such as 557,087 in Seattle (1969) and 955,000 in Vancouver (1971). Not least as a means to formally transition the catalogues into the conceptual sphere of the shows, Lippard published them as packs of mostly typewritten, loose and randomly arranged 10 by 15 cm index cards.  This gesture includes an interesting invitation to the artists to participate in the publication.  As they were invited to contribute and design their own cards, most of the cards come across less as a documentation of the exhibited artworks and more as a prescription for artworks, if not even genuine artworks in themselves.  So, again, there is this messing with your sense of chronology: the nonlinear format of the index cards consciously favours open and active rather than finite archival systems, where the causal relationship between production and documentation is complicated.  Together, all of these decisions have lead to catalogues that are able to actualise certain aspects of the exhibitions even long after they themselves have disappeared.  Another detail that’s noteworthy in our context is that while the exhibitions were hosted by state institutions, Lippard self-published the card catalogues. 
How do you fund your work?
It’s a mix of sweat equity, sales and institutional partnerships.  For example, The Subjective Object was published in collaboration with the Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig, and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.  Similarly to LOVELAND, this book was also published along with an exhibition—in this case a group show about the role of the archive at the GRASSI Ethnographic Museum of Leipzig.  Both books were conceived as adjacent curatorial spaces containing discursive commentary as well as an extended ‘exhibition’ space.  Each project we do is funded a bit differently.

TRAVERSALS (With Ladder), installation view, 5x5Castelló2011, Espai d'art contemporani de Castelló, Spain, 2011

What should we expect to see from you in the future?
More books and events of course.  Specifically, we are arranging the re-issue of an earlier book we made last year as a very limited edition called TRAVERSALS.  This was produced for a museum exhibition in Spain that included an installation of the text along with a version of ten handmade books.  The text includes five conversations with Dora García, Chris Kraus, Mark von Schlegell, Charles Stankievech and Jacob Wren that are mainly concerned with the intertwining role of art and writing in their practices.  We are securing the permissions now for a regular print run and are planning to have the book be available in February 2013.  We are also setting up a roundtable with other publishers whose main occupation is not the business of publishing, but who use it as one avenue in their curatorial or artistic practices. 

The Subjective Object, 2012

Why is publishing important today?
It’s not—at least it feels that way when we talk about books. But joking aside, publishing is the dissemination of ideas, which has always been important and will always be important.  Surprisingly, when talking about publishing in the largest sense of the word, in an era of the incessant tweets and status updates (in other words the society of the spectacle, where the majority of people’s relationships are mediated through images), the question almost becomes when not to publish. 
Yes, but specifically publishing in print, why is this important?
When it comes to carefully considered printed matter, the archive has always been important for us, and nothing archives better than books. We aren’t talking about documentation however.  We’re very careful to make a distinction between documentation and the archive.  For us the book comes before the event, not after the event.  K. Verlag attempts to find that place which is both archive and discourse, a strange temporal niche that focuses on the production, rather than the replication, of ideas and spaces.

The Subjective Object, 2012
K.Verlag books are distributed by Motto in Europe and available through Printed Matter in the US.


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