Starting on Friday evening, Miss Read Art Book Fair opened its doors at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. The event invited artists, art periodicals, and art publishers to come showcase and sell their work.
The venue allowed for a nice laid back and open feel. There were plenty of friendly people willing to talk about the books on their table. The booths had everything from books filled with sketches, handmade posters, postcards, and sometimes even free cookies. Along with a space for merchandise, the festival held talks, book launches, and workshops. In celebration of Conceptual Poetics Day, Miss Read hosted a couple talks discussing the relationship between visual art and writing.
It was hard to even start the book fair without noticing the giant work of art in the middle of the room. It uses chalkboards to create parallelograms and then it uses more chalkboards to break up those parallelograms into triangles. The work is by Raumlaborberlin and it is for “Schools of Tomorrow”, which is a project started by Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Its nod to education fit in nicely with the book fair.
One theme that kept popping up was the relationship between language and misunderstanding. The title of the fair itself, “Miss Read”, reinforces this idea. Though it is said this name was a reference to beauty pageants, it could also be referencing the word “misread”. We live in a post-structuralist world in which authors are conscious of being misunderstood. Derrida gives us the idea that all reading is misreading. Even the design for the Miss Read posters presents the letters in a jumbled fashion so as to have the viewer misread the print.
As I was perusing, I picked up a book titled “In Fidelity” by Jeremy Fernando, mostly because of its provocative title. At first, I thought it was titled “Infidelity”, but I then of course realized that there was a space between the n and the f, which completely redefines the title. It already suggested confusion and misunderstanding with those two words. The book itself is very appropriately about love and the misunderstandings and confusion that comes with communicating one’s feelings to another. The book even makes references to Derrida and the like.
I decided to attend a lecture with Paul Stephens and Sebastian Campos on their company, Convolution Journal. Again, their title alone suggests complexity and misconception. They talked mainly on how “writing is a visual thing.” Much of academic writing forces an overly structured format. To them, the format of a piece has huge implications for its content. The format defines how it will be read. They wanted to create a journal where the visual format could change for each writer’s needs. As Sebastian says, “designing is reading.” Not only are the meanings of the words meant to be interpreted, but the shape of the words themselves having a meaning of their own.
Lastly, I have a couple of wishlist favorites. The first is “No, Wait. Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself” by Robert Fitterman and published by Ugly Duckling Presse, which I found very humorous and relatable. After listening to the talk by Stephens and Campos, I noticed the lettering of the title. I liked that it looked like someone’s messy handwriting that they had scratched down in a journal.
The second is called “My room too” by Irini Karayannopoulou and published by Cube Art Editions. It has a simple blue cover, and inside is a collection of mostly pencil drawings. The sketches seemed to be of what a little girl imagines when she’s in her room alone. The use of pencil added to the childlike feel.
The fair is a good reminder of the fact that despite an increasing interest in digitization, the print world is alive and well. It is still evolving and reshaping itself. The fairl allowed for Berlin to celebrate the accomplishments that artists had made in print, while encouraging its participants to look to the future for all the new possibilities of medium.
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MISS READ • The Berlin Art Book Fair
July 14–16, 2017 @ Haus der Kulturen der Welt
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