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The Most Beautiful Swiss Books of the year 2007

Allan Kaprow. 18 Happenings in 6 Parts. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Archäologie der Zukunft. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Arosa – Die Moderne in den Bergen. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Barkow Leibinger. Reflect. Building in the Digital Media City Seoul, Korea. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Bernhard Willhelm. Het Totaal Rappel. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Carsten Nicolai. Static Fades. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Casco Issues, #X: The Great Method. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Christian Marclay. Crossfire. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Dieter Roth. Drawings – Zeichnungen. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Freibad Letzigraben. Von Max Frisch und Gustav Ammann. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Gary Hume. American Tan. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Hanspeter Hofmann. Bonheur Automatique. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Jim Shaw. Distorted Faces & Portraits 1978-2007. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Johannes Wohnseifer. Werkverzeichnis 1992-2007. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Linus Bill. Meistens macht man die im Haus, aber im Sommer gehts auch draussen. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Lyon Biennal. oos – The History of a Decade that Has not Yet Been Named. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Marc Camille Chaimowicz. The World of Interiors. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Die Mitte des Volkes. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Ofoffjoff – One to One. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Peter Saville. Estate. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Projekt Vitra. Orte, Produkte, Autoren, Museum, Sammlungen, Zeichen; Chronik, Glossar. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Rirkrit Tiravanija. A Retrospective (tomorrow is another fine day). Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Ein Tag im Leben von. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

It's Time for Action (There's No Option). About Feminism. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Umsichten. Jahrbuch des Departements Lehrberufe für Gestaltung und Kunst 2006. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Vitra. The Home Collection 2007/08. Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

Wouldn't it be nice... Photography: Marianne Vierø, Amsterdam
© FOC

About the awarded year

With the competition inspired by Jan Tschichold back in the '40s en titled The Most Beautiful Swiss Books, the Swiss Publishers Association initially and for more than 30 years the Federal Office for Culture created a tool for selecting the best produced books each year. In the beginning the aim was to increase book production, but nowadays the com petition aims to promote the quality of book creation in Switzerland and to introduce the award-winning books to a broad public at home and abroad. The award-winning books are the result of a jury’s decision based on guidelines, entry requirements and jury criteria that are fixed both with regard to inclusions and exclusions. The annual selection thus reflects the changing quality requirements and framework conditions of the competition very exactly. Not only has the manner in which the jury is put together changed over the years, but also the number of people on the selection committee. Since the beginning of the year the jury for the competition has been largely reselected and now comprises five members, which is the same as the very first jury in 1944. The committee in the '70s comprised up to 15 members. The reduction from seven to five members and the abolition of the special jury was made as part of the Federal Council’s call for and approval of the abolition of a number of extra-parliamentary commissions and juries and led to the merging of the Federal Design Commission with the jury for The Most Beautiful Swiss Books.

 

The five-person, international jury, under the new chairmanship of Cornel Windlin, selected 27 publications as The Most Beautiful Swiss Books from the 408 entries submitted. The books were judged based on their graphic form and typography, the technical composition in the quality of the print and the book covers, the workmanship of the bookbinding and the materials used. The relevant jury reports reveal what makes a book worthy of an award. An interview with the members of the jury, specialists from the different disciplines of book creation, book production and sales gives an enlightening first insight into the criteria used in making the selection and also into current trends. The focus of the assessment this year was on innovation and originality, or, to use the words of the chairman of the jury, on the ’authenticity’ and 'appropriateness' of the graphic conception. Every year the books selected as the Most Beautiful Swiss Books find a positive resonance on the international stage. This year, more Swiss books than ever before were honoured at the Leipzig competition The Most Beautiful Books in the World. Honours in the shape of one gold medal (Walter Keller (Ed.), Ein Tag im Leben von), two bronze medals (Fabian Biasio, Margrit Sprecher, Die Mitte des Volkes and Vitra AG, Vitra. The Home Collection) as well as an honorary diploma (Dorothea Strauss (Ed.), Carsten Nicolai. Static Fades) were awarded to Swiss books. Switzerland was the only country to receive four medals.

 

As well as exhibitions and supporting events at home and abroad, this catalogue forms an important platform for considering critically current questions and problems in the art of book creation. What can the books selected show us and how are they representative of Swiss book creation? What has happened to the passionate debate that was raging on and off the pages of distinguished specialist journals in the '60s about Swiss graphics and book creation? The current catalogue The Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2007 is the first of a trilogy to be spread over three years and is seen as the impulse for a renewed and active discourse. The publication that appeared at the opening of the exhibition in the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich was conceived and designed this year for the first time by Laurenz Brunner. He was responsible for the overall editorial work together with the literary specialist Tan Wälchli. If production-specific aspects took centre stage in the last three years, this tim e the contents - in the form of a rich selection of fascinating essays - focus on relevant themes and observations to do with the book per se and book creation. We can look forward to its sequels in the years to come with keen anticipation. The target is to create a lively and stimulating debate about the medium of the book, its creation and the conditions for its representation and production in all their many facets.

 

After nine years of being responsible for the organisation of the competition The Most Beautiful Swiss Books I am leaving the Federal Office for Culture with a tear in my eye to go on to pastures new. However, I can pass on the baton with confidence and wish my successor just as much enrichment, interest, enthusiasm and scope for influence as I have been lucky enough to enjoy in the last years.

 

Mirjam Fischer, art historian
In charge of the competition The Most Beautiful Swiss Books
Federal Office of Culture, Berne

Jan-Tschichold Award

Aude Lehmann

 

A first glance at Aude Lehmann’s design work encourages the impression of an almost neutral, signature-free visual language. The designer seems to retreat as author behind the task of providing a service, as befits modernist or neo-modernist ideas. This is a deliberate decision. And it is not made in a spirit of giving something up. On the contrary, it is based on an interest in taking a more integrated view of design that resists visual language as a pure logo. This view does not reduce design to the surface, to the level of appearance. So formal decisions can be taken that tend towards the general and non-individual. This could be called Aude Lehmann’s non-mannerist approach. What shifts into the foreground instead is a committed examination of how the project com municates as a whole: this extends to the integrity of the individual components and can also include conceptual and editorial aspects.

 

It is therefore not surprising that as well as various commissioned works - many of which are in the field of art and culture - Aude Lehmann has also taken on and realized a publication project of her own (working with the literary historian Tan Wälchli): in 2004, Wälchli and Lehmann launched a three-part publication called Whyart. The first two volumes, Aura and Glamour, have already appeared; the Mode (Fashion) volume will be published soon. The two co-authors are responsible for form and content. One symptomatic detail: Lehmann has conceived a fashion feature and designed a fashion line for it that corresponds with her own ideas in this area. This is another modernist impulse, but the claim to be absolute is relativised to the extent that the fashion feature was created primarily to make a fiction possible or - put in a different way - to initiate a game that asks questions about the place of design. This topological interest identifies Lehmann as a designer who has internalised postmodern construction principles such as sampling, quotation, mise en abîme etc. The interesting tension this creates lies somewhere between the historical project of com municating Modernism authentically and a design epistemology of more recent date, directed at fiction.

 

What is the place of design? How does design locate itself? This question can be taken literally, and of course seen in a transferred sense as well. Taken literally, design is always just surface. When working with books, Lehmann’s primary medium, this means the individual page, its form at and its internal structure consisting of text, image, area, material quality, but also the narrative structure, the sequence of parts, chronology and ’parataxis’ for the flow of reading and perceiving. In the transferred sense it means aspects of publication formats, their history and their coded nature. This is how the ‘intellectual’ aspect of Lehmann's work is expressed.

 

One instructive example of this is Album - On And Around Urs Fischer, Yves Netzhammer, Ugo Rondinone und Christine Streuli, Participating at the 52nd Venice Biennial, 2007 (a project for which I served as editor-at-large). The process started by analysing the context - an international art exhibition - before discussing possible publication formats. And of course this included the question of how publications are deployed and used in such contexts: are they essentially a more or less stylish promotion device, or do they actually have a discursive function to fulfil? Whatever the answer was, it was clear that we were not just asking about the best choice here, but working towards examining the symbolism of functions that probably affect everyone in a communication society and are familiar to most of us, that is to say a statement on the level of codes.

 

The question that insisted on an answer in the case of an integral design concept was: how should we address the standards and customs relating to publications? The process came down to choosing a format that would legitim ize the heterogeneous nature of the content, or make it obvious, even on the level of form, in this case a kind of 'reader'. As a reader, the publication also represented a form al quotation of a publication form that favours discourse, in other words: art examined through argument. As well as this, the inherent heterogeneity allowed some additions in terms of subject matter that went beyond the four central individual artistic positions to address the exhibition context and some of the present day’s obsessions of the art world on the plane of cultural analysis.

 

It is precisely in this sense that the idea of design acquires a conceptual dimension for Lehmann. Design means the obvious solution to a set problem, including historical reflection and potentials for different formal and visual codes. This reflection relates strictly to the present, to present conventions, routines and standards, to trends, to the Zeitgeist, to fashions. Here Aude Lehmann’s position, as far as I can say, is not to fulfil or imitate these standards, but to offer an intelligent, highly individual and - however paradoxical this may sound - compliant form of resistance. Perhaps this has something to do with her understanding of communication, which cannot function as a subjective act, but more as a reinvestment of conventions, including the reactivation of historical codes (history as an impulse, as a potential). Precisely this reactivation of historical code implies that there is room here for some things that are unforeseen, intellectual and strategic potentials, relevant for a more profound view of design. Aude Lehmann realizes all this - permeated by the integral approach of modernistic and neo-modernistic design, which strives to achieve a compelling interplay between the material qualities of paper, print, typography, colour, finish etc. - as language communicating materially, i.e. as language realized physically, through contact with eye and hand.

 

Daniel Kurjakovic
Art historian, free-lance curator, Zurich