“Does art serve common good?” is a powerful question which leads Edition Taube’s latest dauntless publishing venture with artist Julien Viala and art historian John Beeson, Bien Commun.
A book that is not quite a book, Bien Commun (the French term for common good) refers to “philosophy, economics and political science to what is shared or achieved by all or most members of a given community,” Edition Taube explains. For this academically minded visual and philosophical essay, the usual form of a tome is not satisfactory, instead, designing the publication into a sculptured block of leaning pages. Each page can be satisfyingly ripped off and read, a polished version of a fresh pack of post-it notes, slightly getting smaller as “the object’s dimensions diminish”.
Bien Commun’s unique design is symbolic of Julien Viala’s photographic essay which is featured. Described as “unlimited” by the publisher, the artist “explores how art, cultural artefacts and aesthetics occur in public or semi-public spaces, how they are presented, valued and receipted,” it explains. This term receipted is when Edition Taube’s designer and co-founder Jonas Beuchert’s design decisions become clear: each page sits between artefact and moment, put together randomly like receipts would be in a wallet, only this time each paper piece is bound in 40cm readable oblong.
The design of the book also relates to John Beeson’s essay. Unsystematic in its binding, it visually displays how the art historian “tries to figure out what the term means, breaks it apart, searches for its relevance”. John himself explains: “Despite the “common knowledge” that Wikipedia is unreliable, I continually turn to it. It often arrives as the top result when I Google something. (A friend once said that for all Google’s appearance of access to vast sources of information, it’s actually a terrible, inefficient means of conducting ‘real’ research.) So I Googled ‘common good’, and it returned two different and somewhat contradictory Wikipedia entries.”
As a result Edition Taube, together with Julien and John, have created something equally fascinating visually as a book, photographically and in the content of its essay. It is no surprise however that Jonas describes the object as “tricky to produce: most of this industry is built to create perfectly predictable products, but we wanted randomness,” he explains. They achieved its somewhat impossible form by working with Friederike Goll and Esther Everding “two amazing bookbinders from Berlin, who handcrafted the objects”.
In turn, Bien Commun is also distinctive as you don’t even need to, in fact, you are encouraged not to read it all. “This book is not about knowing all the content or owning all the images published in it. You get one slice and make your mind from it. Someone else gets another slice and potentially another perspective.”
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