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DDR Artists Book Scene in the 1980s and Beyond: About

This is a guide to the East German artists books and publishers at Stanford Libraries.


In 1990, Stanford Libraries curator Henry Lowood identified a group of new publishers in East Germany to collect in order to document the impact of the Wende on literary publishing and East Germany's countercultural movements, most notably the Prenzlauer Berg writers. The major publishers in this group were Druckhaus Galrev (2nd link), Janus press, and Corvinus Presse, all located in Berlin. These collections include ephemeral material and information about the publishers, such as book announcements, catalogs, publicity flyers, and postcards. (In Special Collections: Corvinus Presse, 1989-1995, in Misc 297; Druckhaus Galrev, 1990-1994, in Misc 296.) 

The look and content of Galrev's book production in particular could be tied to semi-establishment attempts at hip book design and content in the DDR (viz. the "Ausser der Reihe" series), which in turn were related to the underground book arts scenes in East Germany (see below). Besides Anderson and his colleague Rainer Schedlinski (both since linked to the Stasi), co-founders of Galrev, perhaps the best-known author at Galrev would be Bert Papenfuss-Gorek. Another Galrev author, Ulrich Zieger, is known for contributing to the script of Wim Wender's 1993 film, Faraway, So Close! (In weiter Ferne, so nah!) and for winning the Bachmann Prize in 1997.

Smaller publishers in West Berlin, such as the Mariannenpresse, were linked to trends from the "Prenzlauer Berg scene" that flowered at Galrev. Other writers were published both by the new post-1989 literary publishers and by independent presses in the pre-1989 East German book arts scene, such as Johannes (Jot) Jansen or Flanzendörfer (Frank Lanzendörfer), and there have many examples from both groups of publishers. 

As in the case of Druckhaus Galrev, there is much material relating to a few of the small presses in East Germany. These include Trümmerpresse (F. Jacobi), Katzengrabenpresse (Jan Silberschuh), and others. Other interesting items (1989-1995) came directly from the Corvinus Presse (Hendrik Liersch), which (as the name suggests) has been much influenced by the old Rabe Verlag (V. O. Stomps). This material includes postcards, handmade books (including a rare tribute to Stomps called Verleger für VauO in the form of a handmade Festschrift; the East German automobile, the Trabant, is featured in one set of postcards. As noted above, the collection of ephemeral items from the Corvinus Presse is held in Special Collections (Misc 297). Other interesting examples of the creativity and continuity of the East German book arts scene include Uwe Warnke's Found Poetry (Berlin: 1991), printed in part on colored "DDR-Verpackungspapier," and Serielle Texte (1989).

For the subjects of counterculture, underground book arts, etc. in the DDR, there are now several good references:

  • the exhibition catalog by Jens Henkel and Sabine Russ, DDR 1980-1989: Künstlerbücher und originalgrafische Zeitschriften im Eigenverlag, eine Bibliographie. Gifkendorf, 1991.
  • non kon form: Künstlerbücher, Text-Grafik-Mappen und autonome Zeitschriften der DDR 1979-1989 (Kiel, 1992).
  • Eigenart und Eigensinn: Alternative Kulturszenen in der DDR 1980-1990 (Bremen, 1993).
  • Mail Art Szene: DDR 1975-1990 (Berlin, 1994).

Another generally useful title for several of the topics discussed above, is: Vogel oder Käfig sein: Kunst und Literatur aus unabhängigen Zeitschriften in der DDR, 1979-1989, ed. Klaus Michael and Thomas Wohlfahrt (Berlin: Galrev, 1991).