Metamorphoses of the Book

"As a mediator of information, the book is a "Körpermuffel": if the reader immerses himself in the content, the book increasingly loses its physicality, its visibility and evidence. The reader's fingertips forget that they have a book in their hands; his eyes forget the shape of the letters they are reading. The book disappears in its physicality from the reader's consciousness. [...] Things are different with the artist's book. The book, conveying its own aesthetic information, claws its way into the consciousness of the reader with the totality of its physical, sensual stimuli."

With these emphatic words, Rolf Dittmar sums up the special nature of the book as an artistic medium in the documenta 6 catalog: at that time, for the first time, artists' books, book objects, and "concept books" were presented in a separate section within a documenta (but already at the second documenta the book art had had an appearance within the department of print graphics). In 1977, Dittmar (1924-1999), a lawyer from Wiesbaden and passionate book collector, together with the New York art historian and critic Peter Frank, was in charge of the conception of the section "Metamorphoses of the Book" on the upper floor of the Neue Galerie. Based on the revival of the book art and painter's book movement of the 1960s, the show brought together such diverse positions as Dieter Roth's bound and punched clippings of Icelandic daily newspapers, Gerhard Rühm's concrete poetry, Timm Ulrich's invitation "Always remember to forget me" carved in stone (as a tombstone in the form of an opened book), or Alice Koch's "Knüll-Book" - a plastic-bound crumpled object in a plastic bag.

On the basis of selected highlights, our current studio exhibition provides insight into the collection of artists' books in the documenta archiv's special library. The presentation throws a special spotlight on the historical documenta 6 book art section, supplemented by diverse documentary material on special book art works from the history of documenta: from Hubertus Gojowczyk's brick "Door to the Library" (created for documenta 6, 1977, today a permanent installation in the Neue Galerie) to Marta Minujín's "Parthenon of Books" (1983/2017, documenta 14) to the lumbung press of documenta fifteen.


The exhibition is complemented by a small library selection with literature to browse and read.

We cordially invite you!
Enter the world of book art and be sensually clawed.

Curated by Emily Denyer and André Biribanti.

On view in the reading room of the documenta archive

Culture House Dock4
Untere Karlsstr. 4, 34117 Kassel, Germany

Tuesday to Friday
9.00 to 16.00