Our 5 Dirtiest Discoveries from Miss Read: The Berlin Art Book Fair
With over 200 publishers present, the best way to stand out at the 8th annual Berlin Art Book Fair was with poop jokes and graphic sexual imagery.
The entrance to the fair. All photos by the author.
Art book fairs are often a lot to take in, and the Miss Read: The Berlin Art Book Fair, which brought together over 200 publishers, was no exception. With all the art theory, conceptual packaging, photobooks, magazines, and posters, the only surefire way to stand out was with bright colors, flashy illustrations, and graphic images.
To be clear, Miss Read isn’t all about filth. Its relatively short, yet storied history has close ties to the fine art world, and it’s innately enmeshed with the complex story of Berlin itself. Founded in 2009, the fair was held at K-W Institute for Contemporary Art until 2011, and then took place in conjunction with abc Art Berlin Contemporary for two years, before jumping around to the Literaturwerkstatt, a meeting place for authors and readers. Finally, in 2015, the fair landed at Akademie der Künste’s (AdK) exhibition halls in the Hansaviertel, a neighborhood in the city’s Mitte district that was nearly leveled during World War II and was rebuilt as a community of housing estates in the late 1950s by architects like Walter Gropius, Max Taut, and Oscar Niemeyer.
The 2016 edition of Miss Read returned to Werner Düttman’s giant concrete slab of a building just above Tiergarten. The rich history of AdK and its surroundings, however, was soon forgotten once inside the fair, where visitors were confronted with—amongst mostly NSFW books—some truly titillating publications.
Here are five of the dirtiest discoveries we could find:
1) Djohan Hanapi at Knuckles & Notch
Singapore-based print and publishing studio Knuckles & Notch brought a handful of posters and zines by illustrator Djohan Hanapi, whose recent work includes electrifying pop drawings and erotic Disney princesses in 3D. One poster riffed on the classic “hilarious optical illusion” of X-Ray Spex: put on a pair of red-blue 3D glasses and close one eye to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Switch eyes, and almost everything disappears—the dwarves, the cottage in the woods...and Snow White’s dress.
2) Paul Soulellis, Printed Web 3
Undertaking the huge task of printing out the internet itself was Paul Soulellis, whose Library of the Printed Web archives the work of artists working with screenshots, search engines, and other web-based practices. How does Soulellis decide which parts of the web to print? “I treat each edition like a group show,” he says, calling on artists he admires to create work for the Printed Web volumes. At the fair, he was also selling individual artists' contributions, like the above by Jeona Cuberta, which comes from Printed Web 3. There’s a lot of disgusting filth on the internet, but Cuberta manages to make the idea of posting poop on Instagram cute.
3) Christian Gfeller, Naked in the Gallery
Artist duo Christian Gfeller and Anna Hellsgård run a print shop and exhibition space in Mitte called Resurgo. At their booth, the obvious standout was a small, glossy book, the cover of which was a photo of a woman wearing nothing but red Converse sneakers, sitting on the floor of an art gallery. The name of the book? Naked in the Gallery, obviously. Inside, more unnamed people strip down in front of paintings, some holding glasses of free gallery wine.
4) Sta. Rosa Editora, Point of Lovely Sun
This year, Miss Read had a special focus on publishers from Spanish-speaking countries, and among them was Buenos Aires' Sta. Rosa Editora. At their booth, visitors could find copies of Point of Lovely Sun, a punky, zine-y book of black-and-white photographs taken at underground parties in Buenos Aires between 2002 and 2004. These years mark a time of transition for Argentina, as the country was exiting economic depression and just before a nightclub fire in 2004 led to a crackdown on these semi-legal club spaces. Point of Lovely Sun captures a specific era of Argentine youth culture: inspired by grunge and goth from other countries, the faces in the book are pierced, sweaty, and, often enough, swapping spit.
5) Dan Mitchell, Hard Mag
London-based artist Dan Mitchell had his own booth showcasing his magazine Hard Mag, the “specialist anti-fear magazine.” With an all-caps, '90s WordArt aesthetic, the mag is nearly impossible to read... and once you do, you almost wish you hadn’t. Each issue is filled with collages of hardcore porn and superheroes, gross-out buzzwords, and insane sentence-long stories about everything from Quaalude binges to a “DIY porno holocaust nightmare.” The magazine claims to be “an instrument for dismantling the everyday propaganda of the spectacle” and “the treatment of oneself as the enemy that needs to be provoked, subverted, and eventually overcome.”
As a tame bonus, Mitchell was also selling copies of his zine Alcoholism, containing a series of impressionistic still lifes of different alcoholic beverages.
Find out more about Miss Read: The Berlin Art Book Fair on their website.