First things first
Design: NORM, Zürich
Photographs: Shirana Shahbazi
Printer: DZA Druckerei zu Altenburg
Publisher: SternbergPress*, Berlin
Fuchsia-coloured book linen coats the cover of this large, thin volume. A piece of dark-red imitation leather is flush-mounted in an embedded area – a sign taking the form of a picture, you could say, that cuts off the printed white letters of the title. The book contains 4 pages of blue paper as an integrated endpaper, 8 pages of accompanying text on light, uncoated paper, and 16 pages of plates on thin offset paperboard. The gutters on the text pages, meaning the white paper frame around the text, extending to the edge of the page, also form the frame for the arrangement of the pages with the pictures. There are only two rules for the determination of picture size and position – without the use of a layout grid: each photograph touches the imaginary outer frame and is oriented on its neighbour according to aesthetic criteria. In other words, each individual picture is meticulously balanced on the page, enters into formal dialogues, and each keeps its distance from the others. The very different, even contradictory visual styles converge to find unequal pairs or groups. In a fascinating way, each picture succeeds in awakening the awareness of hidden aspects in its neighbouring picture. Each picture becomes, as it were, the teacher of its counterpart (or companion). The conglomeration that is initially distracting, if the first glance remains the last, disappears upon further observation, because the visual analogies increase, and meanings are generated, every time you look again. This publication does not serve as merely the catalogue for the exhibition of the same name. It is an independent work that develops its own strength.
Louwrien Wijers, Lidweji Edelkoort, Laura M. Richard, Marietta de Vries, Pietje Tegenbosch
Design: Irma Boom
Printer: Tienkamp, Groningen
Publisher: nai010 publishers
Wire spine binding cuts through the thick bundle of 180 sheets. Somehow it appears unfinished. As it has not been cut back, the edges of the matte India paper jump to and fro; at the front the inner pages shoot forward by half the binding thickness, and the folded sheets are closed at the top. The book cover is filled with the name of the artist in capital letters. Columns of upside-down letters are printed over with vertical lines in different colours. The letters are printed at right angles and on top of each other. All kinds of directions and colour combinations are encountered. Along the edge there are small squares, with the names of the colours written in tiny words. Like those on final artworks prior to printing, which the bookbinder normally cuts off. An unusual continuation of this theme inside the book is promised by the four colours: indigo blue, madder red, chamomile yellow and black indigo. The Dutch artist creates large-dimensioned textile pictures. Her work begins with her own sheep. In her garden she grows plants in order to extract dyes. This book shows the catalogue of works at the end on only four pages, while inside you become the companion of an alchemical process. Photographs lead through the garden, show inflorescences, helpers gathering their produce, dyeing processes, samples of coloured wool. And time and again, miniatures of the corresponding colours are printed under the colour images, with didactic intentions – in the colours indigo, madder and chamomile, which are unusual for four-colour printing. Even the colours are interchanged. This book design work serves as a metaphor for the exploration of unfamiliar shades. Rarely have artistic media come into such close contact with one another..
Lu Yu (Tang Dynasty) and others
Design: Pan Yanrong
Printer: Nanjing Amity Printing Co. Ltd.
Publisher: The Commercial Press
Soft, supple, heavy – this book feels like Chinese tea culture in concentrated form. The rough paperboard used for the cover has a natural colour that alternates between shades of brown, green and beige, which may result from the shadow effect in the micro-relief structure. The coated endpapers at the front and back reinforce the toughness of the cover, which astonishingly forms a rounded spine while the innerbook remains straight. The eight historical books from the imperial library are presented on ultra-thin, yellowish-white paper. The vertical characters are printed in a traditional, red line grid that is given modern inter- pretation on the separator pages: black hairlines structure the captions in a manner that produces interesting areas of paperwhite. These separator pages are made of a special Chinese paper, very finely ribbed, which responds to the touch almost like fabric. And so these pages also display pictures – admittedly as high-resolution reproductions here – for which Xuan paper is intended: calligraphic works and ink painting. Their sophisticated folding with a shortened side and two sheets that are closed off at the front compels you to use your hands more than usual when looking at the pictures, instead of just turning over the pages as normal. This decelerates any examination of the work, and heightens the pleasure involved. The matte gold edging all around the book intensifies the aura radiated by this gem of a book. It seems refined with a velvety, shining patina as if through ritual use.
Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation
Design: Ricardo Báez
Printer: Druckerei Kettler, Germany
Publisher: Verlag Kettler (English), Actes Sud (Français)
ISBN 978-3-86206-657-5, 978-2-330-07805-8
The title makes you feel sceptical. Does the ® symbol after the brand name indicate a corporate profile, commissioned by the company? Or is it the defence against constantly lurking legal dangers, averting disaster? Extremely thick, virtually overbred grey boards create a kind of super-stiff cover. Its harmless design proves to be an allegory: on the pure, fresh, universally exhilarating green, the sign bearing the title shows a flash of orange – which is not just a signal, it bears a distinct warning: “The following book contains pictures that may be disturbing to some viewers.” Documentary portraits of people, sober scenes of a ghost town. Contaminated houses, poisoned ground, genetic deformities, illness and death. Polychlorinated biphenyls, Agent Orange, Round up. The photographic tracking pursues associations through four chapters. Interspersed with a number of newspaper articles, re-archived from microfilm miniatures. And empty pages, many unprinted pages, vacant areas of concealment, placeholders for unresolved issues. Document facsimiles are pasted in and serve as an overriding link. At the front, even before the first photographs appear, you leaf through a separate, stapled booklet with reprints of Monsanto® advertisements from three decades. This is contrasted at the back by a form – the declaration of consent for grain growers. This book concept transforms the promise of an imminent, ideal world, enforced by the hopelessness of the fine print, into hypocrisy, seen through the eyes of reality.
II Concurso Nacional de Poesía Joven Rafael Cadenas
Prolog: Luis Enrique Belmonte
Design: Juan Fernando Mercerón. Giorelis Niño (Assistent)
Printer: Gráficas ACEA C.A.
Publisher: AutoresVzlanos, Team Poetero Ediciones, Libros del Fuego (Editorial Production)
The cover beckons with an expanse of enticing, intense salmon-pink. Printed on it: the title, compactly in ink blue. The barcode – usually a tiresome addition – adorns the spine here as traversing lines that spill over to the front and back. On the inside cover, a truncated portrait of the writer Rafael Cadenas, whose gaze seems to watch over the contributions for the National Young Poetry Competition in Venezuela. The poems by 26 individualists have individual forms as well – their verse lengths, structures, peculiarities of typesetting: contour type, italicisation, indents, unusual word spacing. Which makes it tricky for the designer. The name of the competition is presented as a vignette, together with double page numbering, at the top on the left side of the left-hand pages – this defines the double page as an open space. The font is chosen particularly carefully, used for the first time ever in this book. The serifs are designed as fluent recollections of a quill pen; the structure of an Antiqua is alive in the grey tone – and its bold-fine style is borrowed from the Wild West versions of the Egyptienne typeface. This is noticeable on the rounded minuscules, but is even more striking in the bold capitals where the low lines lie horizontally. Writing, book printing, Latin America – these features are breathed into the font modestly yet confidently. The book designer casts a spell on the competition documentation, turning it into a document of graphic poetry.