CFP: GSA Panel (Portland, OR, October 3-6)
DDR 1980-1989: Structure, sequence, dynamics, and mediality of 1980s East German artists books
In the 1980s, the last decade of the German Democratic Republic, East German art witnessed an extensive production of artists books (Künstlerbücher) and unofficial magazines made throughout polycentric artistic networks, collaboratively and across media. Disrupting the conventional illustrated book distinction between image and text, these artist groups were highly interdisciplinary, combining printmaking, poetry, photography, and collage in innovative and dynamic ways. Ranging from high-end limited editions to the forerunners of today’s zines, these groups‘ experimental publications were produced mostly by small independent presses (Eigenverlage) working beneath the surface of the official artistic canon, but were ultimately canonized by book scholars such as Jens Henkel, whose bibliography DDR 1980-1989: Künstlerbücher und originalgrafische Zeitschriften im Eigenverlag is now one of the most authoritative reference works on the genre.
According to Johanna Drucker’s The Century of Artists’ Books (2004), 20th-century artists books fall into categories such as auratic objects, verbal explorations, narratives/non-narratives, agents of social change, conceptual spaces, documents, or democratic multiples, among others. Building on Drucker’s methodology, this panel will begin to tackle these fascinating yet understudied cultural artifacts by investigating what might constitute an artist book with regard to its structure, sequence, dynamics, and mediality. In addition, it will examine how these highly collaborative and interdisciplinary East German works may or may not fit within the categories established by Drucker for the genre of 20th-century artists books in a broader transnational context on either side of the Iron Curtain.
Who were the artists, publishers, printers, distributors, and audiences who played a major role in the flourishing of this genre in 1980s East Germany? How can the sequential narrative in these books be interpreted? What kind of distance did these authors and artists assume in relation to state power? How did they engage with past and contemporaneous cultural currents, including the avantgarde and dissident cultural movements across the political spectrum? Was the interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to this genre unique to the GDR? If so, what political, economic, and cultural circumstances might explain this? And if not, what transnational resonances exist between these artifacts and analogous enterprises abroad?
This interdisciplinary panel aims to convene scholars who have studied these Eigenverlag Künstlerbücher/originalgrafische Zeitschriften from varied yet intersecting perspectives, individually or collectively; it also seeks to bring the Eigenverlag Künstlerbücher und Zeitschriften of the Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA) into dialogue with the holdings in other collections/archives across the Atlantic. Topics may focus on poetry and literature, graphic/visual arts, printmaking, photography, alternative art spaces, printing presses, galleries, and artists books production, all of which should be discussed in relation to the GDR and/or its transnational contexts.
Anna Horakova, College of William & Mary
Isotta Poggi, Getty Research Institute
Further information about the GSA conference can be found here: www.thegsa.org/conference/current-conference
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