This isn’t a book, it’s Studio Yukiko’s “290-page tomb” for postmodernism

The creative agency’s new exhibition catalogue for the Bundeskunsthalle Museum is an eclectic and bombarding display of postmodernist art and design… It’s also pretty hard to pick up.

29 May 2024

Did postmodernism ever really end or are will still in it? “Are we burying it or are we bringing it back to life?” asks Studio Yukiko in its latest book. It’s a wedge of an editorial project chronicling the entire contents of the latest exhibition at the Bundeskunsthalle Museum, titled Everything All At Once: Postmodernity 1967–1992.

The book itself is really heavy, if you couldn’t already tell. With its gravestone cover inspired by the idea of postmodernism’s inability to be marked or tied down, Studio Yukiko’s starting point for the design of the catalogue were some hefty tombstone visuals. To commemorate the impact of the movement, whilst still poking fun at an idea of its permanence, these sculptural motifs adorning the cover and each chapter of the catalogue, are a series that “evolves throughout the book to take different shapes, representing different ‘pieces’ of postmodernism” that contributed ideas to its development. Providing what some might call quite a solid structure for the book’s contents, these tombstone intervals frame the book’s vast collection of design, architecture, cinema, popular culture, philosophy, art, and literature curated by Eva Kraus and Kolja Reichert for the museum’s showcase.


Szymon Stepniak: Studio Yukiko, Postmodernity, Bundeskunsthalle Book (Copyright © Szymon Stepniak, 2024)

Influenced by the exhibition’s title, the publication’s editorial sequence certainly doesn’t hold back from showing everything… And all at once. With opening pages displaying all of the artworks presented in each of the catalogues chapters, followed by all of their captions, “everything fits on one double page spread, a cacophony of images – the audience comprehends everything, literally everything at once” says Yukiko. The book is then somewhat of an overlapping, graphic reflection of an age in which “everything happened simultaneously” the agency explains.

Studio Yukiko’s visual embrace of eclecticism for the project was also a way to “subvert any canonical rules on book design”, the team tells us. In the true spirit of postmodernism, the studio set about “breaking any established rules about style, disregarding any attempt to measure good taste” throughout the book’s visuals. The results? A crazy mishmash of juxtaposing typefaces from different periods, footnotes and page numbers with absurd proportions and captions “almost as big as images”. Something the studio committed to in order to “reverse the widely accepted legibility hierarchy” and reject the narrow ideas of “design rationality” that so defined modernism and its monotonous aesthetics.

So what’s with the bodybuilder? We were also wondering. Working with Szymon Stepniak, Studio Yukiko created this striking series of images showing off the sheer weight and size of the bulky, eclectic catalogue referencing the style of “vintage promo images of body builders”. This decision on the art direction for the book’s campaign was apparently a nod to the likes of Jane Fonda’s aerobics and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reference to his own body as a “sculpture”, as the studio has observed that the body has become somewhat of “a material to be shaped and staged” in the postmodernist era… We’re not sure what’s more impressive – the book's innovative, postmodernist design or this promotional photoshoot.

GallerySzymon Stepniak: Studio Yukiko Postmodernity, Bundeskunsthalle Book (Copyright © Szymon Stepniak, 2024)

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Szymon Stepniak: Studio Yukiko Postmodernity, Bundeskunsthalle Book (Copyright © Szymon Stepniak, 2024)

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About the Author

Ellis Tree

Ellis Tree (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a junior writer in April 2024 after graduating from Kingston School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design. Across her research, writing and visual work she has a particular interest in printmaking, self-publishing and expanded approaches to photography.

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