Beni Bischof – Download Edition
Birgit Brenner – Download Edition
Dani Gal – Download Edition
Guerilla Girls – Download Edition
Clare Kenny – Download Edition
Daniel Knorr – Download Edition
Lucy Kolb – Download Edition
Monochrom – Download Edition
Felipe Mujica – Download Edition
Fabio Marco Pirovino – Download Edition
Ana Roldán – Download Edition
Shirana Ahahbazi – Download Edition
Riikka Tauriainen– Download Edition
by Dorothee Richter, Andrea Roca
in collaboration with Milena Brendle, Chantal Bron, Melanie Büchel, Jeannine Herrmann, Amber Hickey, Sonja Hug, Garance Massart-Blum, Candida Pestana, Corinne Rinaldis, Dimitrina Sevova, Lindsey Sharman, Catrina Sonderegger.
Ready to Print was a project conceived as an innovative format, a crossover between contemporary art, media and design.2 We asked thirteen artists with differing backgrounds and formal interests to produce PDF editions. Each of them produced a work consisting of 16 A4 pages of paper which in most cases were assembled to form a single two-dimensional work in A0 format. These contemporary editions are downloadable as PDFs on the internet from the web journal at on-curating.org, issue 10. The editions are available to everyone in the world who has a computer, a printer and tape at his or her disposal.3
The artists were chosen by a relatively large group of young curators4 who, in the selection process, were guided by various concerns: we had been very interested in the work of these artists for quite a long time: Beni Bischof,5 Birgit Brenner,6 Dani Gal,7 Guerilla Girls,8 Clare Kenny,9 Daniel Knorr,10 Lucie Kolb,11 Monochrom,12 Felipe Mujica,13 Fabio Marco Pirovino,14 Ana Roldán,15 Shirana Shahbazi,16 and Riikka Tauriainen.17 Several of them worked with paper in special ways, whether exploring its haptic, sculptural or ‘demonstrative’ political qualities.
Many of the artists we invited live in Western European metropolises but come from very different cultural backgrounds. As a multicultural group of organizers, we ourselves also had the feeling of being in a kind of ‘transfer zone’. In this context the term ‘transfer’ refers to nomadic living conditions in Post-Fordist societies (i.e. the living conditions of migrants, expats, commuters, artists and scholars). A large number of different subjects within this zone lead a kind of provisional life. Its neoliberal description as “bearable”, or better still as “desirable”, bears reference to traditional stable models of society and implies a loss. Is there such a thing as radicalness of provisionality, or would such radicalness prevent the solidarization of persons in precarious employment circumstances and make those temporary situations easier to exploit? In the world of art and scholarship, on the other hand, there are frequently situations in which the protagonists cite Deleuze and Guattari in the endeavour to legitimize their own mobility.
A number of the questions we asked ourselves can surely not be answered by an artistic project, but only through conflictual political processes. These questions nevertheless formed the project’s background. We asked ourselves how the state of provisionality is mirrored in the pictorial media and architectures of everyday cultures. What role do urban architectures play, where do they function as dehistoricizing authoritarian structures, where do they provide globally recognizable containers for roving subjects, how do they permit other subversive possibilities? How do subjects create niches and identifications in these environments dominated by the flow of money? How do they organize a reversal of power-shaped structures at the nodal points, the architectures, the pictorial media, the agreements and discourses? What temporary alliances and communities are formed? Interventions into the project were to be fundamentally possible in all kinds of situations and contexts.
The editions can turn up in completely different environments ‒ in galleries, private homes, public spaces ‒ or be passed on from hand to hand. Once an edition has been chosen and downloaded, it can find its way anywhere: be whirled through the air in Chicago, hidden in a drawer in London’s financial district, on a tree trunk or a street billboard, in private galleries, on windshields, carried as a banner in a demonstration or passed on subversively from one person to the next. The project is rounded out by ‘documentary photographs’ sent to us by users and made available to the internet public by us. The ‘artwork’ is constantly co-composed by its public.
We wanted to put the public in the coveted (imaginary) position of the curator from the start. It was the unknown guest/user who, having downloaded the edition/s, decided on its/their assembly and presentation. Yet we also wanted to be involved ourselves, and therefore asked that the interventions or presentations be photographed and returned to us. Surprisingly for us – but perhaps also characteristic of the neoliberal power structure in Western European countries – the artists hardly proposed any slogans or other statements of opinion as editions. Perhaps that was the reason why the editions were installed far more frequently in private settings than in the public space. In the photos we received, the private thus also transformed into something exhibited, another situation we hadn’t entirely anticipated.
We considered the project’s historical point of departure to be the multiples and editions by artists of the sixties who, on a symbolic level, founded mail-order houses and presented art and edition objects in display windows, as practised by the Fluxus artists. Interestingly, however, the Fluxus mail-order house existed only as a photo ‒ in a sense as a fake. Art was to be emancipated from its auratic exaltation and made accessible to everyone. Edition MAT and Edition Block are still producing and distributing editions to this day. We were inspired by projects such as the Parkett-Editionen18 and John Armleder’s hard hat multiples.19 In the project Ready Trade Trailer we ourselves also produced eighteen small editions with artists and sold them at different locations from a mobile platform, the trailer.20 We consider the latest development to be editions that are disseminated by way of the internet ‒ as in the case of the screen savers produced by artists and downloadable for free at www.schimmer.ch,21 a project initiated by Mirjam Steinhauser in 2005, and www.apzle.com22 curated by Mirjam Varadinis and Annie Wu from 2007 onward, a website that made editions available for limited periods as A3 formats – and that we found especially stimulating.
As a way of expanding the discursive space with visual media, we wanted to couple Ready to Print specifically with the web journal www.on-curating.org, which is concerned with issues of curatorial praxis and theory.
In all of these projects and forerunners, the public’s stance on artistic/curatorial work plays a decisive role. The users/curators also interacted with the ‘artworks’. The latter were used in ways different from what was suggested by the respective instructions. The DIN A4 sheets were assembled in a completely different arrangement or thrown in the air, which in turn created completely different meanings. The public is empowered on a symbolic level; it has the opportunity to respond. This freedom remains symbolic, however, in the sense that the public has to have initial access to contemporary art, a circumstance which naturally produces numerous exclusions. What is more, in a certain sense the opportunity for self-empowerment had to be staged or pre-arranged. The project was presented, for example, at the White Space Zürich,24–25 the Kunststiftung Baden-Württemberg Stuttgart,26 the Pro Qm bookshop in Berlin,27 the International Museum of Graphic Arts (MGLC) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the Zurich University of the Arts and the Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv.28 When the ‘installation photos’ were sent to us by e-mail, we were in some cases able to draw conclusions about the locations the works had been sent back from; where we know those locations, they are included in the picture caption. The first phase of the project was usually announced with Print it,29‒32 the second with Share it.33‒42
The “dematerialization of the art object” proclaimed by Lucy Lippard has reached a new level. The art object has been alienated from itself, transferred to a series of objects of the infinitely same kind and value. It subverts the logic of the original and thus also the aura, that “unique phenomenon of distance, however close it may be” (Walter Benjamin). The revolutionary access to digital editions creates new relationships and effects that not only formulate aesthetic pleasure in a new way but also have a bearing on our conception of art / visual messages, and position them both as part of everyday life and as a political act, as an event that interrupts narration and formulates new narrations as poetic actions.43‒49