7 September 2021
When Christopher Wilde packed his suitcases in Los Angeles for a trip to Germany in 2004, he included an unusual object in his luggage: a book of handcrafted and hand-stapled paper blanks without a cover. This book was an invitation from the Organik Art Group, represented by Wilde himself, Marshall Weber and Kurt Allerslev (both from New York) to the artists’ group ‹usus›, whose name is formed from the initials of its two founders: Uta Schneider (Offenbach am Main) and Ulrike Stoltz (Berlin). Schneider and Stoltz accepted the invitation, paving the way for a collaboration that was to be the culmination of years of dialogue, friendship and mutual inspiration.
‘There were no rules for this book. Anything was allowed, any technique was possible,’ is how Ulrike Stoltz describes the project. To create the artist’s book, the various contributors took it in turns to work on it, each elaborating on the work of the previous artist. Stoltz began the process by filling the book’s 196 pages with her handwritten text Lady Mikado. Subsequently, various layers of colours and shapes were added, and the text began to disappear as seams, adhesive strips and stamps gradually filled the book.
‘The text you can read now is a poetic description of what was visible in the book at that point in time, what I spontaneously associated with the abstract shapes – often it was a landscape’, says Ulrike Stoltz. Hence the title: Lady Mikado’s Landscape.
The artists had had bad experiences in the past with sending things by post, so the book always travelled across the Atlantic in hand luggage. The American artists came to the Frankfurt book fair, while the ‹usus› artists did lecture tours of the United States. It took eight years to complete the artist’s book, with each artist responding to the work of the previous one. Today, even the participants are not always able to tell who added what when.
‘The book underwent a process of permanent change,’ says Stoltz. ‘The radical approach of making the book a free-for-all meant that sometimes artists discovered the next time they saw the book that their own drawings or texts had disappeared or been completely changed: colleagues had cut pieces out, stuck things onto them or painted over them. To participate in a collaboration of this kind, you have to completely trust your partners always to keep the book as a whole in mind while working on it. The identity of the individual artist always needs to yield to the work as a whole, so that five artists can become one.
Today, Lady Mikado’s Landscape belongs to the HAB’s collection of artist’s books. Marshall Weber, who was involved in the continuous evolution of the book as a member of the Organic Art Group, won the HAB’s 2019 Artist’s Book Prize for his project The Wolfenbüttel People’s Library. Stoltz and Weber have been working together as artists for many years, a collaboration that has now assumed visible and tangible form in the HAB artist’s book.
In 2020 the HAB, in conjunction with the Curt Mast Jägermeister Foundation, awarded the Artist’s Book Prize to Ulrike Stoltz. A typographer and book artist, Stoltz was professor of typography at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig (Braunschweig University of Art) until 2018 and is considered a pioneer and an educator in that field. She won an award for her design of the project Caro Giordano: Resonanzen & Gestrüpp (Resonances and thickets), an artist’s book that can best be described as a ‘kaleidoscope of texts and images’ and took her a year to produce. It approaches the life and work of the philosopher Giordano Bruno from various perspectives, following a variety of resonant ideas. Stoltz found the starting point for her project in the HAB itself – namely, in the famous letter that Bruno wrote in Helmstedt on 6 October 1589, which has been preserved in the library.
At the prize-giving ceremony on 9 September Stoltz presented the finished artist’s book Caro Giordano: Resonanzen & Gestrüpp to the public for the first time. The event was broadcast via livestream. It was accompanied by a small exhibition in the Zeughaus devoted to the artist’s creative process and the inspiration she drew from the works of Giordano Bruno. For more information, please click here: Caro Giordano – Award ceremony and presentation of the artist’s book – HAB