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  • Publishing as artwork: Miss Read 2023


Publishing as artwork: Miss Read 2023

We spoke to the organisers about what to expect at this year's Miss Read Art Book Fair.

Photo: (c) Miss Read

Can you give us a quick summary of what Miss Read is? 

Michalis Pichler: Miss Read is an annual art book fair and festival taking place in Berlin. Since 2009, Miss Read: The Berlin Art Book Fair has been bringing together a wide selection of the most interesting artists/authors, artist periodicals and art publishers and is accompanied by a series of lectures, discussions, book launches and workshops exploring the boundaries of contemporary publishing and the possibilities of the book. This year Miss Read will present 340 exhibitors from 55 countries, making it the largest and most diverse edition so far. Once more, Miss Read is gathering the intellectual elite of the contemporary art world.

Photo: (c) Miss Read

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s event?

PO: We’re excited to celebrate Miss Read in HKW’s newly restored space with the arrival of Bonaventure as new director. We’re also excited about the launch of the new manifesto collection with the great Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bekolo. We’re looking forward to discovering new publishers, but also to seeing those who have been involved with Miss Read for a very long time, and who always give us the pleasure of supporting us with their presence. 

You’re focusing on publishing practices from the East this year. How has it differed from what you’ve focused on before (such as African publishing practices last year). 

PO: Artistically and economically, it’s completely different. The publishing market is huge in the East – more books are published there and production costs are lower. What’s more, there are lots of art book fair events with large young audiences who attend and buy books. Whereas in Africa the art publishing industry is less developed, with very few publishers specialising in art publishing. It is a very young market that is not very well known in Europe. This is why Miss Read strives to highlight and encourage these publishers who are fighting to keep art publishing alive despite the difficult working conditions there.

Photo: (c) Miss Read

What kind of common themes (if any) do you see emerging through the works you’re showcasing at the book fair this year? 

We have reached a privileged historical moment when running a publishing house—or a book fair—can be artwork.

MP: There are multiple threads, but one of particular interest to Miss Read, and as it turns out, also within the program proposals we received this year, is artist-run culture. Artists and authors must not leave the field of contextualising and theorising publishing practice to scholars or other interested players of the art world (dealers, collectors, curators, and so on).

We have reached a privileged historical moment when running a publishing house—or a book fair—can be artwork. At the same time, it is Sozialarbeit (social work), a mode of production analogous not to the creation of material goods but to the production of social contexts.

Which art magazines/books should we be checking out that visitors can come and pick up at the book fair?

MP: There will be some 28 magazine publishers at Miss read 2023, and you should check out all of them! Some of them publish not just magazines, and there are other exhibitors who publish magazines as well. Some examples are White Fungus (Taichung City), 20 Seconds Magazine (Berlin), and TAKE on Art (New Delhi).

Berlin has a very active informal publishing and zine culture. Are there any Berlin publications which you particularly like? 

MP: There is a Zine called ‘How to Book in Berlin’ that is just being published in 2023 by einBuch.haus, and which will be launched on Sunday, 5pm, on Miss Read STAGE. It includes interview excerpts from independent publishers based in Berlin, who address research methods, funding strategies, production techniques and distribution approaches. The editors of the book will be joined by contributors.

This is Miss Read’s 15th year. How has it changed since it started? Where would you like it to go in the future? 

MP: It has grown both in size and scope. And as it turns out, Art Book Fairs are not only a venue for representing a separate, prior publishing scene, they are also a central forum for constituting and nurturing a community around publishing as artistic practice. If the 1960s and 70s were the heyday of artists’ books, the 2010s and 20s strike us as the heyday of publishing as artistic practice. Art Book Fairs are at the centre of that. We don’t see that slowing down any time soon.

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Can you tell us a bit about the organising team?

PO: We have a new team with a diversity of people who have expertise in different fields open to the world. Like me, originally from Cameroon, and based in Paris. I am a curator who has been working for a long time on decolonial issues in the field of publishing, and I am very happy to be joining the team of Miss Read as a co-director. We are very pleased that the Miss Read team has been strengthened this year with passionate people, who want to share their love for art and publishing. 

Also, since this year, we are having monthly Miss Read talks in our space in Wedding, to develop a conversation with local publishers, based in Berlin. You can check out the annual program here.