The Book Lovers

  • The Book Lovers

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 wants 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 Modern 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.


We invite you to participate in another event dedicated to fiction in visual arts, taking place during the same weekend. It is the third edition of the "Otwock" project (initiated by the Open Art Projects Foundation and Mirosław Bałka) under the title: "Nothing about that. Fictional narratives ". After the symposium, a bus will take the guests from the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw to Otwock on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 18.30. Return to Warsaw at approx. 23.00.

More information:

Saturday, 26 October 2013

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

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.

Bart de Baere

Bart de Baere (b. 1960) has been the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Antwerp since 2002. Before that, he was involved in policy-making for two years, developing a policy for cultural heritage that envisages the whole of it as an immaterial activity. Prior to that, he was chair of the Flemish Government Council of Museums, and now he is chair of its Council for Culture. He was, among other things, an advisor to the City of Johannesburg for the foundation of the Biennale of Johannesburg and a member of the International Board of the network of Soros Centers of Contemporary Art in Eastern Europe. He was a curator of Documenta IX in Kassel.

Barbara Browning

Barbara Browning is the author of two novels, "The Correspondence Artist" (2011) and "I’m Trying to Reach You" (2012), both published by Two Dollar Radio. She has also published an audionovel ("Who Is Mr. Waxman?") and two academic books ("Samba" and "Infectious Rhythm"). She has a PhD in comparative literature from Yale University and teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. She is also a poet, a dancer, and an amateur ukuleleist.

Angus Cameron

Angus Cameron is a British academic based at the University of Leicester School of Management. He has a varied academic and professional background embracing Art History, International Relations, International Political Economy, Human Geography and journalism. His research concerns interconnected themes of spatiality, indeterminacy and in-betweenness, performance, narrative, exclusion and exception and money. In addition to his academic work, since 2008 Cameron has acted as ‘spokesperson/emissary’ for the project Headless initiated by Swedish performance art duo Goldin+Senneby. During this collaboration Cameron has delivered a series of ‘lecture performances’ and other public appearances where he stands in for the absent artists. He also appears in the various outputs from the project, a documentary film, several installations and the murder-mystery novel "Looking for Headless".

Sebastian Cichocki

Sebastian Cichocki (b. 1975), sociologist, curator and art critic, is deputy director at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Warsaw. His focus is on neo-conceptual reflection in art referring to land art and environmental art of the 70s. Curator of numerous exhibitions, including Monika Sosnowska’s exhibition in the Polish Pavilion in the 52 Venice Biennale and Yeal Bartana in the 54 Venice Biennale, The Sculpture Park in Bródno (2009–2012), New National Art (2012). Author of curator projects in the form of publications, e.g., A Cookbook for Political Imagination (2011), and The Future of Art Criticism as Pure Fiction, the libretto of the institutional opera Spoken Exhibitions (with Michał Libera, Grzegorz Piątek and Jarosław TrybusTrybuś 2011).

Guy de Cointet

Guy de Cointet (1934 – 1983) was a French-born artist based in California who created text and sculptural works, often combining them as props and stage sets in theatrical performance pieces. One of his performance pieces combined literary puzzles inspired by the works of Raymond Roussel and the tropes of TV soap opera. The pieces were performed by actors such as Factory ‘superstar’ Viva and diminutive comedian Billy Barty. Theater critic Frantisek Deak once wrote of Cointet’sstructuralist approach in plays such as Tell Me (1979) in which fashionably attired actresses variously describe a white cardboard square featuring the black capital letters A, D, M, and T – the artist juxtaposed “lifelike casual conversation with contrived literary language … [pointing] out that both are particular styles and that, with a certain distance, the casual conversation will appear contrived as well.” His work has influenced that of Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley, and Catherine Sullivan, among others.

Ann Demeester

Ann Demeester (b. 1975) has been the director of de Appel arts centre and de Appel Curatorial Programme since 2006. She studied Germanic philology and worked as a cultural journalist for the Belgian newspaper De Morgen and as the literary editor and coordinator for the newspaper De Financieel-Economische Tijd. Demeester was the assistant curator of Jan Hoet in Ghent (Municipal Museum for Contemporary Art, SMAK) and Watou (Poetry summer 2000) and worked as his deputy director in the German Museum MARta Herford. From 2003 to 2006 she was the director of W139, an exhibition and production centre for contemporary art in Amsterdam. She was a member of the editorial team of the literary journals, Yang, A Prior Magazine and F.R. David, and wrote texts for catalogues on the work of, amongst others, Luc Tuymans, Michael Borremans, Jennifer Tee, Richard Hawkins, Mika Rottenberg and Bjarne Melgaard. Together with Kestutis Kuizinas she was the curator of the X Baltic Triennial of International Art in Vilnius (Lithuania) in 2009.

Jan Gondowicz

Jan Gondowicz (b. 1950) is a critic, translator and essayist living in Warsaw. He studied Polish Philology, but his way of thinking was influenced by natural sciences in his youth. Shaped within a circle of surrealist inspirations, he favours characters, works and facts that are indirect, eccentric and defy categorization. Unordinary interests and the consequences that followed them were the reason for his giving the title Pan tu nie stał (2011) to a collection of essays. He is the author of a bestiary Zoologia fantastyczna uzupełniona (1995, 2007), an anthology of surrealist texts Przekleństwa wyobraźni (2010) and a volume of essays Paradoks o autorze (2011) as well as a short monograph Schulz (2006). He translated works by Daniil Kharms, Joseph Brodsky, Karel Čapek, Gustave Flaubert, Alfred Jarry, Raymond Queneau and Georges Perec, amongst others, into Polish. A collection of his essays Duch opowieści will come onto the market this year.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) lives in Tokyo (Japan). Well known for her use of dense patterns of polka dots and nets, as well as her intense, large-scale environments, Yayoi Kusama works in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance, and immersive installation. Born in Japan in 1929, Kusama came to the United States in 1957 and quickly found herself at the epicentre of the New York avant-garde. She established her name with her enormous Infinity Net paintings and her gallery-filling installations, which ensconce the visitor in thousands of colorful little stuffed textile protrusions – often phallus-like. Kusama’s fame also spread thanks to the succès de scandale surrounding her public happenings, which have included men and women performing naked in the streets of New York. In 1973, mental health problems prompted Kusama to return to Japan, where she continued to play a prominent role in the world of art. In the West she gradually disappeared from the radar until about a decade ago, when a new art public became acquainted with her work. Working across several disciplines, Kusama continues to develop an increasingly diverse, rich and multilayered oeuvre. Her interest in sensory experiences and space-filling installations combined with her radical and obsessive history has had a marked impact on a number of prominent trends in contemporary art.

Chus Martínez

Chus Martínez (b. 1972) Spanish curator living in New York. She has a background in philosophy and art history and is chief curator of El Museo del Barrio in New York. She was dOCUMENTA (13) Head of Department and Member of Core Agent Group. Previously she was chief curator at MACBA, Barcelona (2008–10), Director of the Frankfurter Kunstverein (2005–08) and Artistic Director of Sala Rekalde, Bilbao (2002–05). For the 50th Biennale di Venezia (2005), Martínez curated the National Pavilion of Cyprus, and in 2010 served as a curatorial advisor for the 29th Bienal de São Paulo. She lectures regularly and has written numerous catalogue texts and critical essays.

Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy (b. 1969) lives in London. He is a writer and artist whose work has been translated into more than twenty languages. His first novel, Remainder, which deals with questions of trauma and repetition, won the 2008 Believer Book Award and is currently being adapted for cinema. His third, C, which explores the relationship between melancholia and technological media, was a finalist in the 2010 Booker Prize. McCarthy is also author of the 2006 non-fiction book Tintin and the Secret of Literature, an exploration of the themes and patterns of Hergé’s comic books; of the novel Men in Space, set in a Central Europe rapidly disintegrating after the collapse of communism; and of numerous essays that have appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the London Review of Books, Harper’s and Artforum. In addition, he is founder and general secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious avant-garde network of writers, philosophers and artists whose work has been exhibited internationally at venues including the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Tate Britain and Moderna Museet, Stockholm. In 2013 he was awarded the inaugural Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction by Yale University.


Momus (b. 1960) is the pseudonym of Scottish musician, artist and writer Nick Currie. Momus has released twenty-five albums of electronic folk music on independent labels. Brought up in Edinburgh, Currie lived in cities like Athens and Montréal as a child, thanks to his father’s work as an academic. Since graduating from Aberdeen University with a First in literature in the mid-1980s, Momus has lived in London, Paris, New York, Tokyo and Berlin. His current home is Osaka. His books of speculative fiction include two volumes about possible futures for the nations of Japan and Scotland, and a novel told entirely in jokes. As a performance artist he’s best known as The Unreliable Tour Guide, telling tall tales in public spaces.

Simon Morris

Simon Morris (b.1968) is a conceptual writer and teacher. He understands his role as an artist is to create a theoretical space that others feel comfortable working in and to erase his own ego in order to stimulate desire in others. Morris works to create a space of transference where linking and connecting can take place – a shared space of encounter wherein non-meaning allows the reader to construct their own meaning – and has engaged extensively with models of collaboration, digital technologies, performance writing, psychoanalysis and art history, though he describes his engagement with all such areas as being ‘poetic rather than logical’. He is the author of numerous experimental books, including "Re-Writing Freud" (2005), "Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head" (2010). He is an occasional curator and a regular lecturer on contemporary art, and also directed the documentary films "sucking on words: Kenneth Goldsmith" (2007) and "making nothing happen: Pavel Büchler" (2010).

Ingo Niermann

Ingo Niermann (b. 1969) lives in New York. He is a novelist and editor of the book series Solution. His debut novel "Der Effekt" was published in 2001. Recent books include "Solution 247-261: Love" (ed., 2013), "Choose Drill" (2011), "The Future of Art: A Manual" (2011, with Erik Niedling), "Solution 186–195: Dubai Democracy" (2010), "Solution 1–10: Umbauland" (2009), "Solution 9: The Great Pyramid" (with Jens Thiel, 2008), and "The Curious World of Drugs and Their Friends" (with Adriano Sack, 2008). Niermann co-founded the revolutionary collective Redesigndeutschland, and invented a tomb for all people, the Great Pyramid. His work has been featured at the Serpentine Gallery (London), MACBA (Barcelona), ZKM (Karlsruhe), dOCUMENTA(13) (Kassel), and MoMA (New York). Together with Rem Koolhaas he is building a tool for public ballots – Vote – in Gwangju, Korea. In cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin) Niermann is developing the international digital publishing project Fiktion.

Mark von Schlegell

Mark von Schlegell (1967) is american/irish since fiction author and experimental art writer based in Cologne (Germany) and L.A. He began his career in the 90s as a critic and “contemporary writer,” publishing widely in the new york and los angeles art scenes. His alternate occupation in speculative fiction had been occurring in sideways relation to his life since childhood. This is immediately obvious in his sf, which is dogged and esoteric, psychedelic and intellectual, a wry mix of stupid fantasy and peculiar insight. Although they’re clearly influenced by the awe and slime of pulp paperbacks, his novels are the kind of books that get published by MIT and the anarchist philosophy press Semiotext(e). Von Schlegell’s activist literary theory, published by Merve Verlag Berlin in the books "Realometer" and "Dreaming the Mainstream", fictionalizes the very discourse of literary theory at the expense of philosophy, received history and other transatlantic delusions of the Enlightenment — bringing into focus a peculiar sort of activist modern novel in the process.

Lindsay Seers

Lindsay Seers (b. 1966) works and lives in London. She creates highly personal narratives, which interweave concepts of philosophy, science and photographic theory into work that charts an ongoing investigation into how cinematic and photographic technologies shape us. These narratives are punctuated by incredible plot devices that mimic the rupture at the heart of image production, creating a dramatisation of selfhood in all its melancholy and failure. By re-casting photography/film as an act that actually creates experiences rather than records them, or as David Burrows describes it in Human Camera, by creating ‘an indexical process that is transformative’, the boundaries of photography in her work are truly extended.