»Better Books: Art, Anarchy and Apostasy«

Review of the exhibition “Better Books: Art, Anarchy and Apostasy” at the ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art

In 1946 journalist and publisher Tony Godwin opened a bookshop at Charing Cross Road 92-94 in London, to which he gave the name »Better Books«. At the time, Godwin had already acquired a certain renown within the world of avant-garde publishing. Together with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a recognized publisher of the Beat-Generation, Godwin augmented the exchange between smaller publishers, and initiated the trading of otherwise out of print or censored books of the London counter-culture.

The cultural revolution, which London underwent during the 1950s and 1960s, transformed perspectives on established culture, and »Better Books« was to soon become the meeting point of a broad spectrum of artists, poets and musicians, but also of writers, filmmakers, and activists of the post-war era. In the process of alienating themselves from the previous generation, they started out in search of new ways of disentanglement, began questioning contemporary art and, in their works, initiated a radical reformulation of artistic creation.

In the show »Better Books: Art, Anarchy and Apostasy« the ZKM presented hitherto rarely exhibited photographs, work of art, films and poems, which testify to this period of upheaval and new departure. The presentation provided deeper insight into the scene in and around »Better Books« which was to evolve into a collecting point for culture critics and become the birthplace of creativity. Along with an insight into the exhibition room, the video shows the curator Rozemin Keshvani who explains the importance of the bookshop for the avant-garde movement in London.

Text: Stefanie Jakob



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