I could write multiple portraits of John Holten, Berlin-based _________. One as the publisher of Broken Dimanche Press, a three year-old project committed to publishing the adventurous works of various authors, artists, and designers. Another could be: John Holten, ambitious novelist, who, with The Readymades, forged into being an entire Serbian art collective. About this, Holten says, “The LGB Group is a group of artists I assisted in bringing back into the public realm and helped re-align within the history of art. The Readymades goes a way to telling how this process started, and indeed contains the definitive account of the group.”
John Holten could also be the charismatic Irish gallerist managing the burgeoning careers of his Eastern-Bloc progeny through his own Galerie Gojkovic, working alongside Serbian filmmaker Darko Dragicević on the realisation and exhibition display of the LGB group’s body of work.
Holten could also be an archivist, culling information from Balkan war crime tribunals as well as the work of pioneering collectives like the Neue Slowenische Kunst (New Slovenian Art) in order to construct and contextualize his artists’ careers.
Finally, John Holten could be John Holten, the main character of The Readymades who both taps into and shares our artforum-diary obsession with cultural backstory, engineered persona and group sex. This John is slated to make an appearance at David Zwirner’s gallery for People Who Work Here, in a video discussing the aims of the LGB group with Aengus Woods.
John and John make muddy the fiction/nonfiction designations that seem overly important to a public hungry for a veracity of personhood (recall the indignation surrounding James Frey or Mike Daisey and his Foxconn embellishments). Holten says that he “performs” the role of publisher, although Broken Dimanche Press is more than an idea, and resides in a cool, well-lit office near the sprawling Tempelhof Airport. BDP’s books are similarly corporeal, lovingly designed and clearly made with the sensual plane in mind.
Un Coup de 3 Dés by Brian Larosche is an oversized 3D edition of a Mallarme poem that BDP published last year. The book is an edition of 200 and comes with 3D glasses. In the fall, BDP also hosted Wordpharmacy, an installation from Morten Søndergaard coinciding with the release of his graphic project which is sold both as multiple box set “prescriptions,” and as invidual pieces.
BDP’s latest book is Shane Anderson’s Etudes des Gottnarrenmaschinen. Anderson’s dense and evocative prose (reminiscent of Angela Carter, or according to one writer, the literary equivalent of Ryan Trecartin’s visual frenzy) is coupled with visual inserts or “static post-its,” by net artist Eilis McDonald.
Interested in alternative formatting, BDP also publishes the Kakophonie which has appeared in the past as butcher paper, a bookmark, and a takeaway poster. This year, Holten thinks it may be published as a beer label.
Holten doesn’t bother to distinguish realities in his own book, The Readymades, instead preferring an “ueber-realism” that complements his self-styled historical tome. The Readymades chronicles the history and manifesto of the LGB group, who most recently exhibited at the Armory Show in collaboration with Belgian Gallery D.O.R.
Djordje Bojić is ostensibly the protagonist of Holten’s novel and the leader of the LGB group, which emerged in the mid-90’s in Belgrade among disaffected male youth, who, hollowed out and existentially exhausted from their time in the war, began to emphasize mundane and everyday gestures through text pieces and interventions. The trio of artists question rampant nationalism, the idea of the “epic,” and assumed masculine power structures. The novel takes them to Paris, where they engage in a kind of bodily exorcism that seems to erase their artistic impulse along with their past. Bojic records the disintegration of the group as well as his relationship with the Hungarian curator H. Warmann, to which the book is dedicated. The Readymades, like the rest of BDP’s books, has an unconventional format, containing two separate books and extensive photo documentation of LGB art work.
The Readymades was released as a book and an exhibition at Motto in Berlin, which is an increasingly common occurrence for Holten and BDP. With this and subsequent exhibitions, the post-war practices of LGB artists were quickly brought into reality. In an art world that sometimes seems impenetrable and immobile, it’s exciting to think of the efforts of Holten and his LGB group at repurposing history.