Why do artists write novels? What impact does the artist’s novel have on the visual arts? How should such a novel be experienced? Visual artists such as Salvador Dalí, Leonora Carrington, Carl Andre, and Andy Warhol have written novels since the 20th century. But the artist’s novel is something else: in recent years, there has been a proliferation of visual artists who create novels as part of their broader art practice. They do so in order to address artistic issues by means of novelistic devices, favouring a sort of art predicated on process and subjectivity, introducing notions such as fiction, narrative, and imagination. In this sense, it is possible to see the artist’s novel as a new medium in the visual arts, as is the case of video or performance, for example. Yet very little is known about it.
As part of their research on the artist’s novel, The Book Lovers (David Maroto and Joanna Zielińska) have created a collection and bibliography of artists’ novels (642 titles as of today) with the continuous support of M HKA, which has generously loaned it for It’s Hard Being a Character in Somebody Else’s Novel exhibition at KRIEG? The collection of artists’ novels is put on display in its entirety, so that the audience can freely access and read them. The public will thus have the opportunity to come into direct contact with the artists’ novels and experience them first-hand.
On 29 and 30 March, there will be a public programme and workshop aimed at students from PXL-MAD School of Arts as well as the general public. The Book Lovers will offer a keynote presentation followed by an afternoon of discussion and performance that will examine the work of artists Cally Spooner and Georgina Starr, whose artists’ novels are currently in progress. The attention will be placed on the creative process, in order to discuss how their projects lie at the intersection between writing, art making, and performance.
It’s Hard Being a Character in Somebody Else’s Novel finds its momentum in the current international art scene, where the debate about the hybridisation of the visual arts and literature is becoming increasingly prominent. The Book Lovers research project does not intend to fix a definition of what the artist’s novel is, but rather to situate the artist’s novel within the broader context of the visual arts in the hopes of sparking a much-needed discussion about a practice that has long been ignored by the main critical strands in art discourse.
The Book Lovers is the name of a collaborative artistic research project on the artist’s novel, carried out by David Maroto (visual artist) and Joanna Zielińska (Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, M HKA). As its cornerstone, The Book Lovers have created a collection and bibliography of artists’ novels. These are complemented with a series of exhibitions, performance programmes, publications, commissions, and pop-up bookstores. This collaboration has enabled them to engage with a host of international institutions, including Whitechapel Gallery (London); Museum of Modern Art (Warsaw); Kunstinstituut Melly (Rotterdam); EFA Project Space (NYC); CCA Glasgow; Fabra i Coats (Barcelona); Index (Stockholm); De Appel (Amsterdam); Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art (Warsaw); a. o. The Book Lovers have edited and published the anthology Artist Novels (Sternberg Press, 2015); the artist’s novel Tamam Shud (Sternberg Press, 2018); as well as the double-volume book The Artist’s Novel: The Novel as a Medium in the Visual Arts (Mousse Publishing).
This project is possible thanks to the generous support of the Flemish Community, M HKA and the Mondriaan Fund.