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B. Cella, L. Findeisen, A. Blaha (eds.)

A book about extraordinary books that deliberately withdraw from the international book trade. What role will self-publishing play in the 21st century? Will the new kind of book printing develop to become an alternative to electronic communication? How is it possible to distinguish subversive gestures and New Biedermeier?

NO-ISBN – On Self-publishing investigates extraordinary books that withdraw from the international book trade. A register contains 1,800 items that have three features in common: they are recent, printed on paper, and circulate without an ISBN.

What role will self-publishing play in the 21st century? Will the new kind of book printing develop to become an alternative to electronic communication? How is it possible to distinguish subversive gestures and New Biedermeier?

NO-ISBN – On Self-publishing provides an outline of media history from 15th century book printing to the present time, a schedule of micro- and fanzine fairs from four continents and manifestos of historical and current avant-gardes. They are interspersed with texts about the international boom of artists´ books, written by protagonists of self-publishing.

This first, richly illustrated reader offers an apparatus to discover a new, yet uncharted terrain. It is published in separate German and English versions.


From the table of contents:
... more real than art The art of collecting * NO-ISBN * No return to analogue *
Printed space as a legacy of conceptual art * Archival strategies * The downfall of the Gutenberg galaxy * Do you like Mexico? * Tackling Tactility * Surviving on books * Post-digital publishing * Gezilla vs. ISIStanbul * UbuWeb wants to be free *
NO-ISBN as a political strategy * The new art of making books * Balcony manifesto




Register of NO-ISBN: authors, title, format, place of publication, print run, and page count; 1,800 items in alphabetical order. Outside of the international system of exchanging goods, it’s about escapism ahoy, private poverty, fashion in the GDR, the noosphere II, and food in Prince’s song texts. The concrete poetry of unintentional vicinities.

… more real than art: How did the international boom of artists’ books come about? What role do Lucy Lippard, Ulises Carrión, and Dick Higgins play? What results come from the art of negotiation? What are anarchives? And who will produce the artists’ books of the future? Bearing in mind a motto of Dan Graham – more real than art –Bernhard Cella and Leo Findeisen talk about NO-ISBN.

The downfall of the Gutenberg galaxy: Europe’s first literary salon emerged parallel to modern opera. The foundations of the US constitution were distributed on more than 500,000 flyers. ZineWiki connects the cultural spheres of zines and free software. Technical and socio-cultural milestones from the 15th century letterpress until today.


Printed space as a legacy of conceptual art deals with the tradition of understanding books and magazines as an alternative to exhibition spaces, a tradition that goes back to the 1960s. This approach is set in context with institutional criticism and the actors’ interest in expanding their scope for action.

Tackling tactility juxtaposes the great importance of material aspects and craftsmanship for publishing artists with their remarkably low relevance within the discourse of the humanities. Possible reasons for this discrepancy are discussed using examples from philosophy and cultural studies.

Post-digital publishing:
How do digital tools change the conditions for unknown authors looking to break into publishing? In the 21st century’s intermediality, hybrids between digital and printed media emerge, as well as projects located between art and political activism.

NO-ISBN as a political strategy
: What types of political action are possible or adequate today? Following a sketch of current theoretical positions, examples are discussed. Publishing strategies of social minorities, fan cultures, and fine arts aim at documenting processes, granting visibility, and fostering a sense of identity.

Surviving on books: Under extreme circumstances, publishing assumes an existential dimension. Historical examples originate from the samizdat culture of the Soviet Union and the GDR as well as from prisoners’ publishing practices.

The irregular life and uncanny death of Publish and be Damned: Kit Hammonds recounts the beginnings of the artists’ initiative and fair he co-founded. For this, he combines Derrida’s notion of the specter and Friedrich Kittler’s reflections on cultural memory.

Actually it’s quite simple. Artists are people, and people make books: More than forty art book fairs in Europe, America, and Asia are presented under a heading borrowed from Lawrence Weiner, and introduced by an interview with Moritz Küng, co-curator of the Arts Libris fair Barcelona.


Do you like Mexico? This cluster of self-edited works offers a graphic impression of everyday life in Mexico: violence, corruption, sexual assaults. Gabrielle Cram analyzes the Mexican fanzine culture of autonomous artists’ initiatives.


The phenomenon of micro-editions. A silk road: Where does the boom of self-publishing among those active in the areas of art and culture stem from? Sylvie Boulanger proposes that it originates in the desire for an alternative to the regular art scene and to articulate an emancipatory agenda.

A Chronicle of unauthorized copies and their metamorphosis: In her thesis, Sara Käsmayer analyzes six pirated copies of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold created during the 1970s and 1980s.

UbuWeb wants to be free: In 2001, Kenneth Goldsmith, founder of the legendary online repository, presented the guiding principles of the platform for visual and concrete poetry in an open letter.

Once it’s done, it’s done for all times: Since the 1970s, Gilbert & George have chosen books to distribute and preserve their pictures: ‘The artworks are important, but they are always lost in some collection somewhere in the basement. But they live through books.’

The Political Body beyond its limits: Fernanda Nogueira explores publications used as evidence in 1977 in a political show trial against Uruguayan mail artist Clemente Padín.

Gezilla vs. Isistanbul: In an interview, Serhat Köksal a.k.a. 2⁄5bz talks about the fanzines he produces and their connection to Turkish traditions of dissidence with poets and musicians.


ISBN or NO-ISBN? – What ‘tis nobler? In her text, Lisa Rosenblatt investigates self-publishing as a feminist practice and observes a blurring of the borders between DIY and the traditional publishing industry.

Print on Demand: Taking the artist ‘beyond the wall’: An interview with Christophe Boutin deals with the contemporary production of artists’ books and the adaptation of print on demand for this genre since the beginning of the 21st century.

The new art of making books: Ulises Carriòn analyzes the language and logic of images from the point of view of a former writer and linguist. His classical manifesto of artists’ books from 1975 is republished in this volume.

NO-ISBN – The anarchive as subject: Gabrielle Cram investigates the NO-ISBN collection with an emphasis on publishing as an open space for art scenes and subcultures.

Balcony manifesto – by Constant Dullaart: ‘On the balcony, contemporary art reclaims its communicative sovereignty by reminding of a freedom that used to exist on the internet.’

We might yet survive this - On the state of free media in the year Snowden 02: Media theorist Leo Findeisen contextualizes contemporary print cultures with digital writing and the desire for control they create.

Language: English