Fondazione ICA Milano presents, from Friday 16 September to Saturday 15 October 2022 , the Die Bücher exhibition by the German artist Annette Kelm (Stuttgart, 1975), curated by Alberto Salvadori and Chiara Nuzzi.
The protagonist of the exhibition project, originally presented at the Documentation Center of National Socialism in Munich in 2019, is the representation of the book, intended as an object that transcends the mere role of a narrative tool to become instead a living metaphor. In Annette Kelm's work, the book becomes a fragment of a specific historical time and the mouthpiece of a powerful reflection, articulated around the weight of the past and the reflections it projects on the present.
The exhibition is articulated through a narration through photographic images, a selection of shots carefully studied by the artist to return a sadly known chapter of the history of the twentieth century. Each of the 104 photographs on the first floor of the Foundation portrays one of the volumes that were banned by the National Socialist Party starting on May 10, 1933, when a group of students set fire to over 30,000 books in Berlin's Obernplatz. The stake, which sanctioned the point of origin of a progressive alignment of public opinion with the political party that had inspired it, also marked the beginning of the persecutions of the writers and intellectuals who opposed it. Among the authors who fell in the crosshairs of censorship include renowned writers such as Erich Kästner and Stefan Zweig alongside lesser-known and well-known names, up to the authors for children.
The research work initiated by Annette Kelm saw the artist go into a real study of the editions, which led to the careful selection of a series of volumes published between 1913 and 1944 and coming from public and private collections. Kelm's interest is specifically aimed at a specific cultural and urban spirit, a reflection of the avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s. Particular attention is dedicated to the design of the covers which, in the wake of the Book Art movement, draws inspiration from the innovations promoted by contemporary artistic movements such as Expressionism, Constructivism, Bauhaus and Dada. Portrayed according to precise formal criteria, the destroyed books come back to life and regain their dignity through the lens of Annette Kelm's camera. The artist worked on the series from 2019 to 2021, concluding the research last year.