We barely turned a page and BOEKS’ Giving Up Reading is underway. The eponymous self-help book was published in early 2018 by Troebel Neyntje, an initiative in Antwerp which organises exhibitions and publishes books, often of an absurdist and unrealistic nature.
“At a time when Web pages containing text are viewed for an average 1.5 seconds, we must be honest with ourselves and give up reading,” says Idris Sevenans of Troebel Neyntje. The manual’s attempts to achieve this are indebted to “double artists” like Marcel Broodthaers and Marcel van Maele*, who died exactly ten years ago. These poets-cum-visual artists were exploring the possibilities of rendering their poetry unreadable as early as the 1960s. In 1964, for example, Broodthaers used plaster to encase the last fifty copies of his poetry book Pense-Bête, while van Maele muzzled books by means of white paint, clothes irons, spikes, and trash cans. From 1972, van Maele started bottling poems in wine, beer, and milk bottles. Two years later, Broodthaers produced the bottle edition Le Manuscrit trouvé dans une bouteille. Stopper it!
Inspired by these leaders of illegibility, we endeavour to follow their example. BOEKS, Sevenans, the legacies of both Marcels, and a group of installation art and graphic design students take over the entire length of the convent corridor connecting the Kunstenbibliotheek with the STAM in order to overwhelmingly confront us with new, custom-invented giving-up-reading exercises.
In the library, original sculptures, editions and prints by van Maele will be exhibited: these include Gebottelde Gedichten [Bottled Poems], Vakkundig Hermetisch [Skillfully Hermetically], Gekooid wit [Caged White] en Hoe bewaar ik mijn boeken? [How do I preserve my books?].
During the opening event, on 21 February, attendees will be subjected to a collective performance demanding muscle power and a stack of bulky books; a speech by van Maele; and Broodthaers’ attempts to read and write in silence in the short films La Pluie (Projet pour un texte) (on 16mm) and Berlin oder ein Traum mit Sahne. In addition, the plastic exercises devised by Sevenans and the students will be tested on the audience for the first time.
Let us therefore leave the last words to van Maele: “More than ever, words are abused and undermined, they are neatly straitjacketed, they are raped or castrated, strangled, prepared and wrapped. Words do not show the way, but are shown the way.” (quote from the acceptance speech “Don’t forget to read”, delivered on the occasion of accepting the Arkprijs van het Vrije Woord on 10 May 1972)
*This experiment is the first in a series of initiatives organised in honour of Marcel van Maele (1931–2009) in 2019 at Troebel Neyntje, the Letterenhuis, the library of Harelbeke and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, among others.
Giving Up Reading is the second BOEKS presentation. Every month, for one night,
a book, its maker and publisher take centre stage. Afterwards, remains stick around on walls, ceilings and floors. Along the way a BOEKS collection comes into being.
BOEKS is an initiative of KASK and the Kunstenbibliotheek and is housed in the 15th-century convent corridor connecting the Kunstenbibliotheek with the STAM.
Troebel Neyntje in collaboration with BOEKS, backed up by Idris Sevenans, Marcel van Maele, Marcel Broodthaers and students of KASK / School of Arts Gent: Nienke Baeckelandt, Laurène Buchheit, Pooja Hukku, Hilde Onis, Mona Schrevens, Jivan van der Ende, Veerle Vervliet, Aron Wouters and Finn Waters.
13.03.19 - 17:00
Title: Dead Letters. A heated plea to stop reading.
Advocate: Jan Van Herreweghe
Duration: 60 - 75 min
Location: Kunstenbibliotheek, 2nd floor
On March 13, Jan Van Herreweghe takes his stand behind the lectern. In three steps he, a librarian and bibliophile owning ca. 15,000 books, will tell you how it ever came this far followed by a plea to stop reading. A series of "unreadable books" from his collection that will be present for your perusal.
An excellent opportunity for students and teachers, book addicts, book haters, reading patients on the road to recovery and climate activists.
Jan Van Herreweghe is a librarian at the library of Harelbeke and author of about twelve books on the many aspects of bibliophily. At the end of 2017 his book "Dead Letters" was published.
The lecture is organized within the framwork of BOEKS 02: 'Stoppen met lezen'. Preceding the plea, it is possible to see the exhibited works in the corridor and Kunstenbibliotheek.