Instalment at MoMA in Warsaw

The Book Lovers
The Novel as an Art Form

Public programme

26 and 27 October 2013

Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
ul. Pańska 3, 00-124 Warszawa

Guest speakers: Bart de Baere, Barbara Browning, Angus Cameron (on behalf of Goldin+Senneby), Sebastian CichockiGuy de Cointet, Ann Demeester, Jan Gondowicz, Yayoi Kusama, Chus Martínez, Tom McCarthy, Momus, Simon Morris, Ingo Niermann, Mark von Schlegell, Lindsay Seers.

Curators: David Maroto and Joanna Zielińska

Organiser: Cricoteka the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor
Partner: the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw,  M HKA in Antwerp

Polish and English (with simultaneous translation)

The Book Lovers is a systematic attempt to study the phenomenon of artist novels, curated by David Maroto and Joanna Zielińska. There are some examples of artist novels in the 20th century, but it is only in the last fifteen years that an increasing number of artists have begun to choose the novel as an artistic medium. Surprisingly, there is a lack of research on this subject. This circumstance gives rise to a situation in which artists who write novels are not aware of others doing the same. The Book Lovers will help to create public awareness of this silently widespread artistic trend. The project develops in a number of different stages. Its base is the creation of a collection of artist novels with a parallel online database, which is complemented with a series of exhibitions and public programmes, a pop-up bookstore and a publication.

There are some artists who simply write novels and others who use the novel as an artistic medium, as valid as performance or video could be. The latter, who are the main object of the present research, are artists that seek a protracted engagement of the spectator with their work. Their creative strategies, focused on process rather than end results, are opposed to the predominant conventions of art institutions and the art market. The artist novel introduces elements particular to narrative literature into the visual arts, like fiction, identification and issues of authorship. All of them point to a certain interest in undermining notions of personal identity and in creating new spaces for intersubjective exchange. Situated in a historical perspective, the artist novel seems to be a derivation of relational aesthetics rather than of conceptual art, even though the creation of works that are purely textual might lead one to think otherwise. Artist novels also enable mass production and distribution, and become a means for intervention in the public sphere.

The presentation, organised by Cricoteka in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Warsaw, will take the form of a discussion platform dedicated to the phenomenon of the artist novel viewed from different perspectives. The two-day programme will study the crossover between narrative literature and the visual arts: from the space of the page to the novel understood as a relational object, a form of public intervention ‒ from uncreative writing to the social life of the book. There will be a wide range of presentations: lectures, interviews and performances, prepared especially for the project. It is hoped that, together with the invited specialists, and with the help of the variety of research methods employed, this investigative programme will succeed in amplifying the notion of literary space and arrive at a new way of regarding the spectator-turned-reader.

The Book Lovers
The Novel as an Art Form
Public programme

Saturday, 26 October 2013,
Auditorium at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

11.00  |    Welcome

Natalia Zarzecka (Director of Cricoteka) and Sebastian Cichocki (Director of Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw).

11.30  |   Introduction

Presentation of the Book Lovers project by curators: David Maroto and Joanna Zielińska

12.00  |   Lecture: In the Grey Darkness of a Mental Whirlwind

Jan Gondowicz – essayist and literary critic will open the programme with a lecture about concepts related to narratology. This will serve to lay the ground for further discussions by elucidating terms such as plot, fiction, characters and identification against the work of artists/novelists like Witkacy.

13.00  |   Lecture: Learn to Read Differently

Simon Morris, the author of Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head, will address strategies of appropriation and the conceptual approach to literature, along with the issue of authorship. These strategies are employed by many artists and can be interpreted from the vision of ‘uncreative writing’ (taking a lead from Kenneth Goldsmith’s book).

14.00–15.00  |   Lunch break

15.00  |   Performance: Espahor Ledet Ko Uluner!

Reading performance from Guy de Cointet‘s novel Espahor Ledet Ko Uluner! (Los Angeles, self-published, 1973). He wrote it under the pseudonym Qei No Mysxdod in an invented language.  Courtesy of Air de Paris.

16.00  |   Lecture: The column which, licked till the tongue bleeds, cures Jaundice (The Novel, after Roussel)

Mark von Schlegell’s lecture will unravel the historical and ideological origins of the literary genre known as the novel. The question is whether the lack of an obvious social function nowadays liberates the medium – and if this is a fact that artists can turn to their advantage.

17.00  |   Reading performance: Foxgloves of Central Park

Public reading of a fragment of Yayoi Kusama’s novella from the trilogy The Hustler’s Grotto of Christopher Street. Kusama is one of Japan’s most prominent contemporary artists and the author of twelve novels. Her text will be performed by Marta Ojrzyńska, wearing a costume design by Duet Bracia.

Sunday, 27 October 2013,
Auditorium at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

11.00  |   Artist’s talk

English artist Lindsay Seers will present her novel and art project It Has To Be This Way. She will be presenting fragments of her novel and will reflect on how typical notions related to narratives such as fiction, identification and the narrative are being introduced into her art practice.

12.00  |   Lecture performance: Being Nothing

Angus Cameron (academic) on behalf of Goldin+Senneby (Swedish artist duo) talks about their Headless project. The particular writing system employed by Goldin+Senneby, in which each chapter breeds an actual event that, in turn, gives way to a new chapter generates a particular overlapping between fact and fiction. This lecture performance will examine the paradoxical relationships between nothingness and being, absence and presence, facticity and fiction, both for their enduring cultural currency and because of what they can tell us about the experience of the artist novel.

13.00  |   Interview: Art is a Haven, But Where’s the Crane to Unload?

Widely acclaimed writer and artist Tom McCarthy (author of Remainder) and writer Ingo Niermann (The Future of Art) will reflect on the unwritten book: what is not published, and also on what is in fact published: the mainstream literature and the possible crisis of the novel as a literary genre and the book as an object – and the role of the visual arts in this state of things.

14.00–15.00  |  Lunch break

15.00  |   Lecture: ‘Dear Reader’: The Novel’s Call to Perform

Barbara Browning’s talk will focus on the role of the reader as an active one: the act of reading as a performative act, which forces the artwork to acknowledge the other as subject, to include the reader in the creative process. The novel is thus defined as an intersubjective space, which gets distributed in the public domain through dispersion.

16.00  |   Performance: Failed Comedy

Momus is a well-known experimental musician, artist and writer. Especially for the presentation in Warsaw, he will prepare a performance based on one of his latest novels, The Book of Jokes. The idea is simple: Momus appears as a stand-up comedian whose jokes fail; he “dies on stage”, as comedians put it. Paradoxically, however, the failure itself fails, for this estrangement is precisely what a traditional art performance requires.

17.00  |   Conclusion: Curating Artist Novels

Chus Martínez is the author of The Malady of Writing, a project on artist writing at the MACBA in Barcelona. Her talk will lay out the ground rules for the discussion in the final part of the programme, devoted to the public dimension of the artist novel. The intention is to move away from the idea of the reader as a solitary individual and to define the artist novel as a form of public intervention. The process of reception goes beyond the exhibition space and is embedded in the spectator’s daily experience.

17.30  |   Panel discussion: The Institutional Role

The programme will culminate in a panel discussion, including curators who are collaborating with The Book Lovers: Bart de Baere, Ann Demeester, Chus Martínez, Sebastian Cichocki. The topic under consideration will be the consequences of deeming the novel an art form in its own right. They will be seeking to answer the question of how to present a kind of art which, to a large extent, is based on narrative and which demands long-term engagement from the audience.



Looking for Headless by fictional author K.D., chapters 1-4, 2008

Projec subsidized by the Ministry of Culture and the National Heritage, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Flemish Representation  at the Belgian Embassy
Partners: Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, M HKA in Antwerp
Media patronage: TVP Kultura, Polish Press Agency, Księgarnie MatrasWarsaw Insider, Radio Kraków, NOTES.NA.6.TYGODNI,


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