A day in the home office
Home office library
The day begins with coffee, with a cup of freshly ground, deliciously aromatic espresso. If you’re also a fan of coffee, I have tip for you:
Meine erste Tasse Kaffee (My First Cup of Coffee), 2017
A film by the artist Moritz Frei, who met up with the great actor Bruno Ganz for his first ever cup of coffee. Bruno Ganz too experienced his first taste of caffeine in his role as the angel incarnate Damiel in Wim Wenders’s legendary film Der Himmel über Berlin (The Sky over Berlin).
The result of this encounter between Frei and Ganz is a wonderful dialogue, one also about drinking coffee. Alongside insights into his private life, Bruno Ganz describes the taste of coffee in such a sensual way that it sets your own taste buds tingling. The following teasers invite you for a taster:
In 2016, Berlin-based artist Moritz Frei founded berlinartbooks; today he publishes artist books and collector’s editions while also working as a multimedia installation artist.
The mumok library possesses a selection of his publications. Unfortunately, these currently cannot be accessed in person, but what I can offer you is an impression of his publishing company here: https://berlinartbooks.com/produkte/
Moritz Frei’s artist books are sophisticated studies of the peculiarities of everyday life. My personal recommendation is Tausche Ölbild für gebrauchtes Auto (nicht älter als 5 Jahre) (Swap an Oil Painting for a Used Car [Not More than 5 Years Old]).
The book satisfies all the qualities needed to entertain readers and, at the same time, get them thinking. In this publication, which features a tragicomic collection of genuine artist’s ads, Frei focuses on being an artist as an “almost normal profession.” Here’s a small selection: “On the verge of breakthrough and broke: extremely talented up-and-coming artist (painting) seeks loan, patron etc. If interested in photos and CV, box number 387-85” and “Seeking patron to secure my existence and thus promote my artistic development, box number 304-63.”
After this thought-provoking jaunt, my laptop and I start our working day—with a link to another artist book. Since our modified working conditions currently demand that we adjust to our given circumstances, I can only present the following book, as with most of our publications, with the aid of hyperlinks.
Sara Mackillop, Laptop, 216
The book itself looks like a MacBook and alludes to the stylistic photography used for advertising and iconic technology. The laptop, photographed against a white background and from various positions, is intentionally presented out of focus; it is shot in isolation, which brings our attention more to its abstract qualities such as color and composition than to its technical properties. This photographic style was chosen in order to present the highly coveted product in a deliberately ironic way.
Sara Mackillop lives and works in London, where she studied painting at the Royal College of Art.
The artist uses simple everyday materials in her work, such as office supplies, packaging materials, and other short-lived products. She processes the things she finds with subtle humor, taking them out of context and modifying their appearance. The familiar, the recognizable, becomes unfamiliar, the conspicuous inconspicuous. Mackillop’s artist books—she frequently works with pages appropriated from large-store catalogues and typewriter manuals—reveals her preference for systems of order, seriality, and patterns, which are subtly questioned and undermined.
I’m now taking a short break on my small terrace. The noises of the city are quieter, not as much. The twittering of birds mingles with this unusual quietness. Talking of birdsong, in the mumok library you can look up—or even chirp yourself, if you like—the calls of birds, transcribed into fifty-one human languages.
Elfi Seidel, What Birds Say, 2018
The content includes:
What birds say in Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Basque, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. And for all those who would also like to listen to them: https://www.thehagueartists.nl/cv/81079
Elfi Seidel is a fine artist. “Her work explores the relation between the materiality and immateriality of language, its poetic potential as visual material and the context-dependent meanings of words, letters and signs. She approaches linguistic fragments and abstract utterances as autonomous entities, working towards a plurality of possible readings.” (Quote: https://elfiseidel.com)
Now my stomach is telling me it’s lunchtime. Instead of darting to the nearest shop as usual, I have to make do with the provisions I have. Of course one doesn’t go to the shops as often at the moment. Which brings the following to mind:
David Kühne, ja! buch (ja! book), Rhein-Verlag, 2017
Artist books are highly valued in David Kühne’s works. At Rhein-Verlag, the publishing company he founded with Sarah Kürten, they produce all their books in-house, from printing to binding. The uniform black-and-white design and consistent use of lower-case font has become the publishers’ trademark. Kühne’s ja! buch, published in 2017, presents goods from the Rewe supermarket’s brand name ja! (yes!): “Neither assertive nor cynical, but also not completely detached, the book’s calm coolness can only mean one thing: Say yes! To life!” And, as the artist experienced himself, a courageous yes to venturing into the “battle zone” between artistic freedom and copyright.
(Photo can be found on the mumok page, art book Thursday, David Kühne https://www.mumok.at/de/events/david-kuehne)
After lunch, a second coffee. How else can I indulge myself? Other than buying another book, perhaps.
Alwin Lay, mod. Classic, Rhein-Verlag, 2017
The book, whose cover looks like the operating instructions of Gaggia’s mod. Classic espresso machine mentioned in the title, is a systematic portrayal of an art installation by Alwin Lay. Lay places an espresso machine in a display case, allows it to run and spill over, and documents in images what happens next. Readers can follow page by page how the liquid continues to overflow, gradually filling the display case, until eventually the machine is swallowed up by the coffee.
“Similar to the methods of a magician, Lay uses these everyday situations as a foundation for the manipulation of their physical, temporal and aesthetic laws. The result is an array of strange or absurd, humoristic interludes.” (Quote: http://www.unttld-contemporary.com/kuenstler/alwin-lay/)
Since working from home allows the luxury of dividing up the day as one chooses, I decide to stretch my legs. The street is as good as empty; you rarely come across anyone, and when you do, you keep your distance. I can’t help it—thoughts on susceptibility keep pressing on my mind. At this point, I think of the photo artist Agnes Prammer, whose work addresses in a sensitive critique the interplay of nature and man, of man and man. This handcrafted book seems to be particularly worthy of mention here.
Agnes Prammer, Idiot Hats, 2016
Idiot Hats is a humorous collection of photographs of the natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park. In contrast to the usual books that focus on this famous park’s beautiful landscape, Prammer’s photos concentrate on lost hats and baseball caps. Each unspoiled landscape that has been photographed is marred by a hat. And it is not only the photography that has been spoiled but also nature itself—the fragile ecosystem of a geyser, for example, is also threatened by these lost items. For Prammer the thoughtless approach of visitors translates into the way humanity approaches the world as a whole.
[Photo can be found on the mumok page, art book Thursday, AgnesPrammer: https://www.mumok.at/de/events/agnes-prammer]
My work day is drawing to a close. I wistfully think about my empty workplace at the museum and bid farewell for the evening with an instruction from Yoko Ono, quoted from her book Grapefruit.
Listen to the sound of the earth turning.
Yoko Ono, Grapefruit, 1964, 1970, 2000
The book begins with Yoko Ono’s words, “Burn this book after you've read it – Yoko” and John Lennon’s reply, “This is the greatest book I’ve ever burned – John.”
In 1964 the artist book Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions by Yoko Ono was published, whose almost 300 pages of directives comprise so-called event scores as well as conceptual outlines for music, painting, film, dance, and other activities carried out between 1955 and 1965. The small square Fluxus book, a work full of poetic force, was published by the artist under Wunternau Press in Tokyo with a print run of 500 copies. A second edition was published in 1970 by Simon & Schuster (New York), this time expanded with an introduction by John Lennon: “Hi! My name is John Lennon. I’d like you to meet Yoko Ono.” The title Grapefruit goes back to Ono’s conjecture that the grapefruit is a cross between an orange and a lemon. Grapefruit also symbolically stands for Yoko Ono, who sees herself as a “spiritual hybrid” between East and West, between the visuals arts and music. The book became a prominent example of conceptual art and soon went out of print. Therefore, in 2000, a third, expanded version was published. Whoever bought the first edition of the book before publication, incidentally, paid a subscription price of three dollars, after which the amount doubled. Today, the first edition, if indeed it is available at all, is a costly collector’s item and coveted iconic object.