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Reading Room catalogue

Lukas and Sternberg
Sternberg Press

Pecafil is named after the bright yellow, biodegradable building material which Michael Beutler used for a series of outdoor sculptures in the city of Frankfurt am Main. At stake in most of the German artist’s work is an experimental sculpture process where basic materials—wood, plaster, or glass—are used to analyze the standardization of common goods. His temporary, playful structures and forms constitute “a serious continuation of 20th century sculpture and architecture traditions and can function as almost pedagogical in relation to traditional public art. Seldom have attitudes from art history and the amateur carpenter been so interwoven” (Maria Lind).

This first monographic book discusses issues of art in public space and the social-political implications of Beutler’s work.

Contributors: Thomas Bayrle, Maria Lind, Ariane Müller

Sternberg Press

“Is it the intentionality described by phenomenology and the ambiguous flesh of the active viewer who enters the work of art and fully explores its most extreme possibilities that determine the limits of possible subjectivation? Or is it the work itself that defines the parameters of new potential forms of subjectivity, perhaps involving modes of awareness that dodge the framework of phenomenology? Such are the questions that constitute the ultimate horizon of this essay.”—Daniel Birnbaum

A philosophical essay on time, phenomenology and beyond, Daniel Birnbaum’s Chronology was presented in frieze as a “compelling and sophisticated take on the common theme of Deleuzian immanence.” Whereas many theoretical books littering the bookshops of art institutions are laudations of excess, Birnbaum’s convictions presented in Chronology cut a way through the “caesuras of non-meaning and blankness into the thick web of sense.”

The works of artists such as Stan Douglas, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Doug Aitken, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Tacita Dean, Darren Almond, Tobias Rehberger, Pierre Huyghe, and Philippe Parreno are scrutinized as so many attempts to capture the very dialectic of time itself. As Brian Dillon writes in frieze, “Birnbaum’s notion of an art of unpredictable becoming … has its aporias too. A brief aside apropos Matthew Barney – to the effect that his art is all meaning, all of the time – is quite telling.”

Daniel Birnbaum is Director of the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main and Director of its Portikus gallery. He is also a member of the board of the Institut für Sozialforschung. A contributing editor of Artforum, he is the author of numerous texts on art and philosophy.

Sternberg Press

In the essay Postproduction. Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World, French writer and curator Nicolas Bourriaud discusses how, since the early nineties, an ever increasing number of artworks have been created on the basis of preexisting works; more and more artists interpret, reproduce, re-exhibit, or use works made by others or available cultural products.

This art of postproduction seems to respond to the proliferating chaos of global culture in the information age, which is characterized by an increase in the supply of works and the art world’s annexation of forms ignored or disdained until now.

Nicolas Bourriaud was the co-director of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and an art advisor for the Victor Pinchuk foundation in Kiev. His previous books include L’ère tertiaire (Flammarion), Esthétique relationnelle (Les presses du réel), and Formes de vie (Denoël).

The radicant
Sternberg Press

“In ordinary language, ‘modernizing’ has come to mean reducing cultural and social reality to Western formats. And today, modernism amounts to a form of complicity with colonialism and Eurocentrism. Let us bet on a modernity which, far from absurdly duplicating that of the last century, would be specific to our epoch and would echo its own problematics: an altermodernity whose issues and features this book seeks to sketch out.”

In his most recent essay, Nicolas Bourriaud claims that the time is ripe to reconstruct the modern for the specific context in which we are living. If modernism was a return to the origin of art or of society, to their purification with the aim of rediscovering their essence, then our own century’s modernity will be invented, precisely, in opposition to all radicalism, dismissing both the bad solution of re-enrooting in identities as well as the standardization of imaginations decreed by economic globalization.

To be radicant: it means setting one’s roots in motion, staging them in heterogeneous contexts and formats, denying them any value as origins, translating ideas, transcoding images, transplanting behaviors, exchanging rather than imposing. The author extends radicant thought to modes of cultural production, consumption and use. Looking at the world through the prism of art, he sketches a “world art criticism” in which works are in dialogue with the context in which they are produced.

“And if twenty-first-century culture was invented with those works that set themselves the task of effacing their origin in favor of a multitude of simultaneous or successive enrootings? This process of obliteration is part of the condition of the wanderer, a central figure of our precarious era, who insistently is emerging at the heart of contemporary artistic creation. This figure is accompanied by a domain of forms and by an ethical mode: translation, whose modalities and cardinal role in contemporary culture this book seeks to enumerate.”

Books, Magazines, and Newspapers
Sternberg Press

Irish artist Gerard Byrne (*1969) focuses on the way photography and film have influenced visual culture in the twentieth century. Byrne’s conceptually based photos and videos explore the genealogies underlying each picture, the different frames which guide its perception, as well as the references in which a mediated image evolves. Demonstrating a wide-ranging engagement with quotation and citation, the work seizes upon mass-media forms that were never intended to serve as “models,” but now have become such.

George Baker has written a theoretical essay where he links Byrne’s work to theater and notes that the presence of avant-garde dramatist Bertolt Brecht has never been less discussed, but more widely explored, than in the last decade of artistic practice. The author traces “a set of provisional conjectures about the ‘underground connection’ of … contemporary art to the present forms of capitalist crisis. They are new forms on both sides—the crises and transformations of both capitalism and culture—and more than ever before they demand critical elucidation alongside one another.”

George Baker is an assistant professor of art history at UCLA, a long-standing critic for Artforum and an editor of OCTOBER and OCTOBER Books.

Sternberg Press

Isa Genzken’s sculpture is concerned with what surrounds us and shapes our everyday existence, from design, advertising, and the media to her most enduring subject, architecture and the urban environment. The artist is interested in the ways in which aesthetic styles—the unadorned angularity of modernist architecture for example—embody and enforce political and social ideologies.

Urlaub constitutes Genzken’s multilayered inquiry into the meaning of work and leisure. “Artists never take vacations,” Genzken says, “but the entire art system urgently needs a vacation.”

Vanessa Joan Müller examines how Genzken’s recent work establishes a critical discourse about architecture and design as exposed sites of aesthetic and cultural formation. Discussing the artist’s “beach house” series, small architectural models with playfully defined interiors/exteriors, the author writes that one can read them “as a pointed commentary on postmodern architecture, as a subtle attack on the predominant taste of the times. When Genzken gets involved with the miniaturization of this kind of architecture – which could be realized in principle – turning it into small-format sculpture, the procedure emphasizes the ambiguity of the subject toward a particular ‘resort-style beach life’. The aspect of playing with form and material should therefore not deceive: the beach house is a status symbol that can only be found on the exclusive beaches of this world, and hence it is simultaneously the object of envy and a hallmark of distinction.”

This book was published on the occasion of the exhibition “Urlaub” at Frankfurter Kunstverein, May 27–August 6, 2000.

five or six
Sternberg Press

“What’s the scenario? A constantly mutating sequence of possibilities. Add a morsel of difference and the results slip out of control, shift the location for action and everything is different. There is a fundamental gap between societies that base their development on scenarios and those that base their development on planning. It could be argued that the great Cold War divide in socio-economic structuring was rooted in the different kinds of results that you get if you apply either one or the other technique to working out how things might end up in the future. And it is claimed that scenario thinking won. Our vision of the future is dominated by the ‘What If? Scenario’ rather than the ‘When do We Need More Tractors? Plan.’”

five or six contains texts selected from more than 100 reviews, articles, and catalogue essays published by Liam Gillick since 1989. The book includes some of the formal, social, and ideological concerns that have merged in Gillick’s “What if? Scenario.”

This book was published on the occasion of the exhibition “David,” Frankfurter Kunstverein, September 17–November 21, 1999.

Sternberg Press; Witte de With

With playful certainty, Greenfort uses detailed interventions, subtle alterations and imperceptible influences on functional processes to test ‘man’s freedom.’ The processes remain intact, unchanged, yet the interventions reveal opportunities which are there to be taken. This lightness of touch allows an opposition that eschews the pompous political gesture by focusing again and again on aesthetic or playful elements. In this sense, Greenfort’s work is political, but it never lets its political content become its main aim. Everything always stays the same, but slightly different.”Maria Muhle

Tue Greenfort’s art evokes a world in which animals, humans, nature, culture, science, and industry, as well as the artwork and its site, are connected by a web of complex relationships. In all of his works the Danish artist demonstrates an interest in an expanded notion of ecology, one that encompasses cultural history and sociopolitics as well as natural resources.

This first monographic book contains an essay by the renowned scientist Jesper Hoffmeyer on biosemiotics, as well as a text by Maria Muhle which discusses the artist’s work in relation to biopolitics. It was published on the occasion of Greenfort’s solo exhibition at Witte de With, June 24–August 6, 2006.

On Boundaries
Sternberg Press

In several theoretical essays, dialogues on collaborative projects and reflections on his own work, the architect Nikolaus Hirsch explores the critical transformations of contemporary space and its effects on spatial practice. On the threshold to disciplines such as visual and performative arts (“Planning the Unpredictable” with William Forsythe) he questions the notion of “boundary”: as a phenomenon of social and political discourse, as a conflict between collaboration and authorship, as well as a physical limitation that negotiates between stable and unstable conditions.

Nikolaus Hirsch is a Frankfurt-based architect, educator, and curator. He was the Dean of Städelschule and Director of Portikus Kunsthalle in Frankfurt am Main. His architectural work includes the award-winning Dresden Synagogue (2001), Bockenheimer Depot Theater (with William Forsythe), Cybermohalla Hub (Delhi, 2012), and “Do We Dream Under The Same Sky” (Art Basel, 2015/LUMA Arles, 2017). Hirsch has curated “ErsatzStadt” at Volksbühne Berlin (2005), numerous exhibitions at the Portikus, the Folly project for the Gwangju Biennale (2013), “Wohnungsfrage” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (2015), and the German Pavilion at the Architecture Biennale 2020 in Venice. He is the co-editor of Institution BuildingSuperhumanity, and the Critical Spatial Practice series from Sternberg Press, and co-founder of e-flux architecture.

Changing Society: Lithuania
Sternberg Press

The central theme of Changing Society: Lithuania is the state of transition in a Post-Soviet state, which has achieved political stability but is still looking for appropriate images to portray itself in the domestic spheres of politics and society. It appears that a country’s cinematographic and artistic film production often fulfils a seismographic function when it comes to depicting the effects of radical historical change.

Published on the occasion of the Lithuanian Cultural Program at the Frankfurt Bookfair in 2002, the texts and interviews in this book document how the complex and contradictory constructions of cultural identity may not only be discussed in the social, political, and economic context, but also in aesthetic practice.

Contributors: Tobias Berger, Anders Kreuger, Artūras Tereškinas, Birutė Pankunaitė

Digital Magma
Sternberg Press

The emergence of electronic music with its new generation of artists and digital technologies has disturbed the world music landscape. From the musicians’ angle, since the end of the eighties, techno, house, and their multiple subgenres, have brought in a new breath, sometimes sweeping aside the order established by rock and pop, and imposing new game rules: ephemeral and shared creations, widespread sampling, DJ rule, the practice of mix and remix, new and micro-economy. But that aesthetic revolution, which ended up contaminating most music during the nineties, is not only limited to artists. The democratization of the digital, of the means of diffusion, and of exchange and listening, transforms the relationship between the audience and music. Today the MP3 generation, beyond the simple question of piracy, invents new codes and practices which have shaken our way of “consuming” culture.

Writer, DJ, and sound artist Jean-Yves Leloup has followed the evolution of electronic music from its first appearance in Europe at the end of the eighties. A fortunate witness to the electronic scene, he is also interested in all questions relative to contemporary art and digital technologies.

With a preface by David Toop.

Giving the Story a Treatment
Sternberg Press

“I have always been interested in what forms radical or sub-cultural activities will inhabit once they eventually make their debut upon the greater cultural field. Perhaps, in these new forms, the message becomes buried under commodification and the particularities of critique lost through the move towards a greater generality and appeal to the largest demographic. In Free Room one question I sought to ask was: are these forms capable of carrying a viable critique? Or in simpler terms: which is more effective, direct action or cultural production?”—Alex Morrison

Giving the Story a Treatment is the first comprehensive publication on Canadian artist Alex Morrison (*1972). Best known for his documentations of skater culture, Morrison’s videos, photographs, and drawings take a critical look at the marketing and strategies at work, and reveal the growing aestheticisation of the political within the cultural spectrum.

The renowned Canadian writer Jeff Derksen and Danish art critic Lars Bang Larsen contribute penetrating perspectives into Morrison’s work, linking it in a historical continuum with activist moments of recent history and contemporary events.

Sternberg Press

“Often in a cosmogram there’s an aim that goes beyond mere description or depiction: it’s often a redescription, in the conditional or future tense: not the world as it is but the world as it could be. There can be a utopian intention, the goal of projecting new possibilities into a world which seemed fixed. Or to use a recent example, Philip K. Dick’s novels map points where the standard ontology slips, where there are cracks in reality, out of which a new, more complete world can emerge.” – John Tresch, Humanities Institute, University of Chicago

Cosmograms is conceived as an extension of Melik Ohanian’s film Seven Minutes Before (2004), a cinematic allegory of both the exhaustion of a certain narrative form and the new privilege accorded to space over time. Collecting twenty-three texts by authors from diverse fields of investigation and research, Cosmograms attempts to map the multiple coordinates of this new spatial paradigm. In his conversation with the editors, the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk claims that “we are now living an epoch in which a more or less satisfied and luxurious conscience is learning the art of arranging its space. Modern man is a sort of ‘curator’… which is to say, an exhibition planner of the space that he himself inhabits. Every man has become a museum curator. We could say that installation art is the common meta-profession that everyone is obliged to practice. The innocence of the traditional habitat is lost for good.”

Contributors: Cecil Balmond, Gilles Clément, Beatriz Colomina, Tacita Dean, Richard Drayton, David Elbaz, Patricia Falguières, Medard Gabel, André Gaudreault, Paul Gilroy, Edouard Glissant, Anna Halprin, David Held, Pekka Himanen, Bruno Latour, Charles Musser, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jane Poynter, Jean-Christophe Royoux, Saskia Sassen, Peter Sloterdijk, John Tresch, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Robert Whitman

Sternberg Press

This book discusses Michael Sailstorfer’s most recent work, with a special focus on issues of space and site specificity. Pieces such as Study for Breathing House (a detonation which causes a house to shrink and expand, almost imperceptibly), Endless column (a light beaming into the sky through an open ceiling) or Andy Warhol (perfume dispenser) involve light, smell, energy, and noise as suitable material for the artist’s sculptural interventions.

Characterized by a wild sense of absurdism, subversive poetry and melancholic humor, Sailstorfer’s oeuvre can be read against the backdrop of the conceptualization of space. Along the lines of philosopher Franz Xaver Baier’s texts, his work involves the experience of invisible, moving, and existential space, where time and distance become relevant categories for a continuing expansion of spatial knowledge.

This comprehensive book contains an essay by art critic Jennifer Allen, a text of fiction by the author Ingo Niermann, a text by Schorsch Kamerun, singer, author, and director, extracts from Franz Xaver Baier’s book Der Raum and an interview by curator Neville Wakefield. Michael Sailstorfer has forthcoming solo exhibitions at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt am Main, and at P.S.1, New York.

New York Conversations
Sternberg Press

New York Conversations is a text film. Shot in a Chinatown storefront converted for this occasion into an improvised kitchen/restaurant, the film documents three days of public conversations between artists, critics, curators, and a free floating public. The talks, lunches, and dinners were organized by Rirkrit Tiravanija, Nico Dockx, and Anton Vidokle in response to an invitation by Brussels-based art journal A Prior to be the subject of their new issue. Instead of commissioning essays or producing artwork to be printed in the journal, the artists decided to rethink the structure by which an art publication is produced and to attempt to do this discursively in a public setting.

The film is a subjective record of these conversations, which explored various topics ranging from questions concerning precarious and immaterial labor in the field of art, possibilities for non-alienated life and working conditions, the feasibility of artistic freedom, and possible means of reclaiming dignity in the work of art criticism, to more immediate questions concerning whether what was actually taking place throughout the course of the event was in fact an artwork. In the tradition of underground cinema, essay films, and experimental language-based films from the conceptual era, New York Conversations insists upon a certain degree of participation from the audience—by way of critical reading.

With Francisca Benitez, Nico Dockx, Daniel Faust, Media Farzin, Liam Gillick, Egon Hanfstingl, Jörg Heiser, Steven Kaplan, Shama Khanna, Anders Kreuger, Miwon Kwon, Valerie Mannaerts, Sis Matthé, Hadley Nunes, Saul Ostrow, Marti Peran, Simon Rees, Els Roelandt, Dieter Roelstraete, Martha Rosler, Joe Scanlan, Maxwel Stephen, Monika Szewczyk, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Jan Verwoert, Anton Vidokle, Lawrence Weiner, Andrea Wiarda, Louwrien Wijers and others.

DVD, 64:40 min., PAL, 4:3, b/w, stereo

Sternberg Press

By its very nature, graphic design is primarily concerned with giving shape to ideas and information generated by others. For the last decade, Markus Weisbeck has been redefining this prevailing client-designer relationship and subsequently challenging what constitutes a graphic design practice today. This pocket book presents a selection of seminal graphic design projects developed by Weisbeck and his firm, Surface, over the last ten years; projects that strongly reveal Surface’s experimental approach and conceptual dexterity, contributing to and informing contemporary graphic design.

As the designer of the Lukas & Sternberg series, Weisbeck has implemented his graphic strategy with twenty distinct titles, the twenty-first of which he is both designer and author. This book presents select projects by Weisbeck and Surface, each illustrated by the graphics themselves, short descriptions, and texts by Weisbeck’s clients and collaborators.

Contributors: Daniel Birnbaum, Adam Budak, William Forsythe, Anselm Franke, Liam Gillick, Christoph Keller, Albrecht Kunze, Andrej Kupetz, Zak Kyes, Aram Lintzel, Stephan Mathieu, Michaela Melián, Lars Müller, Vanessa Joan Müller, Carsten Nicolai, Christine Peters, and Georg Schöllhammer