European Month of Photography & Book Days Art Fair 2016
By Rachael Vance
As the largest German festival for photography, EMOP, has been taking place every two years since 2004. Continuing to cement its position within the art world festival calendar, this year the impressive, widespread event was dynamic in its offering. For the entire month of October Berlin’s cultural sphere dedicates a focus on the photographic medium with key highlight exhibitions at the Berlinische Galerie, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Museum für Fotografie - Sammlung Fotografie der Kunstbibliothek, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, and C/O Berlin.
Marking the Opening Days of EMOP, artists, curators and media experts flocked to the German capital for a range of talks and panels surrounding the topic of “Filtering the Future”. Much of the program was held at C/O Berlin alongside its internal exhibition schedule that included the shows: Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin: Don’t start with the good old things but the bad new ones, Gordon Parks: I am you, Talents 39. Praesens II Präsens: Maja Wirkus / Jule Schaffer, and Making Memeries by Lucas Blalock / Self Publish, Be Happy. Of particular note from the program were artist talks by Thomas Seelig (Director of the Fotomuseum Winterhur, Switzerland) with acclaimed Dutch artist Anne de Vries and French art-star Sophie Calle, who also concurrently opened a solo exhibition at Arndt Art Agency on Fasanenstraße. Moderated by Jörg Colberg (Author), the panel, PRINT IS DEAD, LONG LIVE PRINT! included participants Gerry Badger (Photographer and curator), Irma Boom (Typographer), Bruno Ceschel (Publisher, Self Publish, Be Happy SPBH), and Dr. Lesley A. Martin (Editor, Aperture Foundation) who examined the often asked question, “why do artists and photographers continue to make books in the digital age?”.
In tandem, C/O Berlin curated the book fair, Books Days, that included 35 international publishing houses displaying their most recent projects from the 30th of September to the 2nd of October. Located within the Museum für Fotografie and Helmut Newton Foundation, the short walk from C/O on Jebensstraße was lined by vibrant yellow festival balloons to the museum’s entrance. Set upon the backdrop of mementos and works from the Newton oeuvre, the unique setting made for cosy surrounds. Within the grand building’s foyer, a significant program of Education Workshops open to the public ran over the three full days that helped to unlock and engage with technical, conceptual and experimental photographic processes via dialogues with artists, scenographers and animators. The workshop Lodret Vandret / Swap Party included two artists and two publishing houses who had previously worked together to “swap”. For this project, they produced the same book again live and on location, but this time swapping the working relationship between publisher and artist. This behind-the-scenes project made visible the process of production between the two parties in the resulting finished product. Live presentations of published works, signings and talks were also staged during Book Days with publishers such as Kehrer Verlag, Peperoni Books, Polly’s Picture Show, Do you read me?!, and Aperture, allowing direct contact with publishers, photographers and editors.
Interactive elements of the fair throughout the weekend included Hungarian artist Peter Puklus’ selection of Curated Tables. This imaginative installation of tables in the centre of the fair displayed three-dimensional objects that engaged with ideas about photobooks, and were positioned in a studio-style set-up whereby fair visitors could also photograph their own book purchases.
Moving through the curated exposition of participants, there were a number of booths that left an impression. Italian publishing house, RORHOF’s display of publications had a strong air of authenticity. Producing books, editions and exhibitions from a farm house in Bolzano, originally known for producing wine and grappa, the titles were far from homespun. The 2015 book TRANSART - A JOURNEY INTO AURAL SPACE commissioned on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the contemporary music and art festival Transart, acted as high quality festival archive chronicling performances in silver on black paper. The publishing house is also known for documenting the photography of its founder, Nicoló Degiorgis, in pieces such as La Laguna di Venezia (2014) that captures unsung elements of Venetian imagery and Peak (2014), a homage to the alpine region of the Dolomites.
Berlin-based booth Tumuult was one of the standout booths at Books Days. Founded in 2014 as an independent art and research lab with a specific focus on man’s relationship to contemporary northern societies, the initiative is run by Antonin Pons Braley and Lena Gudd. Their combined artistic projects and academic research explore photography from an anthropological standpoint. The focused, minimal presentation included a published work demonstrating Gudd’s own photography entitled Traces (2015). The book acts an accompanying catalogue her solo exhibition held earlier this year at the Parisian photography museum Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau. The publication’s black-and-white, very human imagery of figures in arctic environments are prominently presented in 12 independent poster-like pages that unfold from the ingenious simple construction of two binder rings.
The German-based Der Greif”s striking presentation of publications was also memorable. The print and online magazine champions the work of international living authors and photographers, in both analogue and digital formats. Since its inception in 2008, the proudly ad-free publication now in its 9th issue, has become known for its bold portrait covers, haptic layout and single image with text combinations.
Also from Germany, Anne Schwalbe presented her book Wiese XXI - XLVIII—which translates as meadow—presenting sublime sun-kissed imagery of nature with details of flowers, trees, plants and woodlands. Her new handmade book There is a white horse in my garden depicting photos of a magical garden was also showcased in a self-crafted cardboard box. Spector Books’ high calibre curation of artist books was equally eye-catching. The inclusion of German photographer’s Andrzej Steinbach’s black-and-white portrait photographs were captivating.
Further afield, Štokovec, Space for Culture, from Slovakia, that focuses on art residencies, books and editions, had a beautiful selection of published works. Additionally, Artbeat Publishers (ABP) from Japan had a key selection of titles by contemporary Japanese visual artists such as Kishin Shinoyama, Mika Ninagawa, Daisuke Yokota, Taisuke Koyama and Lieko Shiga.
The collaborative project between four French artist/graphic designers based in four different European cities, 1/2 zines’ creative display included their vibrant handmade zines alongside curious driftwood, crystal and stone objects. Continuing the theme of partnership, the artistic initiatives Caravan/Clara Bahlen and Polly’s Picture Show were also noteworthy on a conceptual level, whose documentation of various photography projects and publishing arm represent an integrated component of their broader artistic research.