Fotograf Magazine

Miss Read: Conceptually Poetic Days at HKW

Don´t wait for others to validate your ideas.

Do it yourself.1 


One of the most important European events for the field of independent publishing is Miss Read / The Berlin Art Book Festival, held in May at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. This year, more than three hundred editors, publishers, and artists, representing both well-established names and entirely independent DIY projects got together for a period of three days.

This year’s edition of the festival was moved from an open space on the ground floor to the auditorium on the first floor, which made it possible to arrange the tables in an entirely original way to form a tiered audience space, thus facilitating more personal and informal contact with festival visitors. Conceptually, Miss Read focuses on removing the barriers that exist not only between the visitor and the exhibitor but also between the exhibitors themselves using the principle of “the same size table for all”. The ability to use the screen in the auditorium may have been only a secondary benefit, but it nevertheless allowed for a very pleasant sub-programme – every ten minutes, any of the exhibitors could use this space to page through their own books.

Within the focus of this year’s festival on the Scandinavian scene, a sampling of the most interesting representatives was given priority, such as the publishers B-B-B Books, Hverdag Books, Lodret Vandret, Timglaset, Trema Förlag, House of Foundation, Timglaset, and hurricane publishing, as well as the art magazines Pist Protta, and Scandinavian Kunstforum, which cover the spectrum of publishing ranging from the experimental and alternative scene to the serious and established periodicals and publishing houses.

Another part of the programme was the Conceptual Poetics Day, which mapped out the boundaries between the visual arts and literature. This marked the seventh year in a row when this event was organised by Michalis Pichler, the festival’s founder. Much like last year, he promoted the publication of Publishing Manifestos, produced this year by the prestigious MIT Press publishing house, which offers theoretical and critical reflections about publishing practices from the start of the twentieth century to 2019. The scope of this extraordinary anthology of international artists, publishers, editors, and designers also takes a look at new possibilities for production and distribution, the political potential of state aid, and the power of self-organising collectives.

The production of art publications in a wide variety of formats and with diverse focuses has been on the rise over the past few years, and the number of book fairs is also increasing. According to Pichler, the editor of Publishing Manifestos, art publishers experienced a similar boom in the 1960s and 1970s. Art book fairs today are not only meant to present art books and art projects separately from major distribution endeavours, but they are also a forum which supports and interconnects the community from the field of publishing as an artistic practice. In the introduction to this year’s publication, Pichler writes: “One could say that art book fairs today serve the function of marketplaces, but not primarily in the economic sense; rather, they are marketplaces in the sense of the ancient agora: a physical place accessible to the common public, and a public sphere for negotiation and exchange.” 2 Miss Read has been conceptually fulfilling this mission over the long-term, and the publication of these comprehensively organised publishing manifestos is one of the reasons.


1               Publishing Manifestos: An International Anthology from Artists and Writers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019. ISBN 9780262537186, p. 263.

2               Publishing Manifestos: An International Anthology from Artists and Writers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019. ISBN 9780262537186, p. 17.


Barbora Soukupová