Meet the small press: Broken Dimanche Press — Ross Fraser-Smith

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Broken Dimanche Press, based in Berlin’s Rixdorf district, is a relatively new and award-winning European press interested in all aspects of books within the wider discourses of contemporary art and literature. 

Instigated by the Irish writer John Holten and Norwegian journalist Line Madsen Simenstad in 2009, the first book Broken Dimanche Press published was a collection of essays, photographic art works, art theory, and political manifesto, entitled You Are Here, which collates work from European artists born in or around 1980. It was this compendium that gave Broken Dimanche its distinguishing quality: a European publisher exploring the depths of a collective European consciousness, and the assemblage of artists and writers who came of age in a Europe characterised by falling borders and ever-growing unity. This was the generation that grew up in the wake of the watershed event that was the fall of the Berlin wall, their art a kick in the balls to the wars of the 20th century, with their population displacements and mania over borders and avidity for ethnically homogenous nation states. Much of the literature that Broken Dimanche publishes takes its milieu in the vastly different Europe we now inhabit — one
of cultural relativism, social mobility and freedom of speech.

Holten has spoken how the press was at first simply ‘a distraction’, ‘a fiction’, to go alongside the novel he came to Berlin to write, The Readymades. Out of this novel, which has been cited as the next progression in a long, alternative, Irish literary tradition, The LGB Group was formed. A conceptual group of post-Cold War Eastern European artists, they came to represent the pan-European sensibility and wilfully daring attitudes to the boundaries of art that Holten’s press now explores. The book, which is due for republication this Autumn, sees this group of influential and entrepreneurial artists making their way across Europe from the war-torn Balkan states of Bosnia and Serbia, and towards the cultural powerhouses of Paris, Berlin and Vienna. Bringing with them the bitter taste of conflict and corruption, the group progresses in the demand for a creative, everyday civilian world.

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Holten, who collaborated with the Serbian visual artist Darko Dragičević in producing a body of LGB work, exhibits these throughout the book, taking the form of photography, sculpture, conceptual art and performance.  For the project, Darko’s work was also featured in several international art exhibitions under the LGB group title. 

Not only a publisher, Broken Dimanche is also a gallery, book showroom, archive for artists’ books, project space and a reading room — a multidisciplinary hybrid of forms which explore the radical potentialities of The Book in the contemporary age. With these concerns, the press resides in the border between literature and contemporary art practice, with a focus on translation, serial editions, print solutions and the meeting point of the core participants in book production: writers, artist, designers, editors, printers, distributors, booksellers and, of course, readers. 

The name ‘Broken Dimanche’, which is based around many mid-century avant-garde movements, was partly inspired by the French Nouveau Réaliste Yves Klein’s artist book Dimanche-Le Journal d’un Seul Jour, a one-day newspaper that he published and distributed on newsstands around Paris. This publication was concerned with a single day, an avant-garde newspaper that explored the object of the day and the fictions that surround it. The famous leap that Yves Klein took from the balcony of his house at Rue Gentil-Bernard, captured by photographer Harry Shunk, is also the partial basis for the logo of Broken Dimanche Press. 

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Interestingly, Broken Dimanche Press doesn’t make ebooks, with the exception of one by Adam Fearon, specifically employing the technology of eink found in early Kindles. The press explores the book as object and as a tangible, haptic medium, and within each book there exists a long process of printing and distributing that is lost in the digital landscape of publishing. Printed mostly in Germany, the books are objects to be valued in themselves. 

Parapoetics is a series the press has been running since 2014. It explores the possibilities for new semantic and linguistic identifiers and language structures, such as the Tree Alphabet of artist Katie Holten, as seen in her artist book About Trees, which imagines this concrete imagery as a language device. In 2014, building on the many aspects of the body and the work of literature in a post-human form, BDP editor Ida Bencke came up with the working title Para-Poetics to capture a new poetic aesthetic. “With experiments that tend towards asemic writing practices and eccentric narrative vantage points, we want to challenge the ideas of what it means to signify, in what manner significations can manifest themselves, and how our relation to the Other can be explored through a poetry that exists beyond our Anthropocentric moment. Parapoetic ventures into sign systems that are – quite literally – unheard of.” A conceptual project built upon the all-too-human quest for monopoly over voice, creator Ida Benke further describes the series as “an investigation into the array of possibilities and problems for a semiotics in various aesthetic modulations. Parapoetics asks: Who speaks, and on behalf of whom? How do nonhumans, ahumans, inhumans articulate themselves, and how can ‘we’ avoid the anthropocentric error of always measuring these articulations against the arbitrariness of human linguistic signs in order to find but an alleged absence or silence? Parapoetics asks what other semiotic possibilities can be afforded to us and how to speculate and engage in parallel vocabularies in unknown sign systems.” This is just another of Broken Dimanche’s vastly elaborate and avant-garde publishing series which pushes the aesthetic boundaries of literature and the printed word. 

Equally alike is the Kakofonie, another series which explores the multiplicity of forms that literature can take, and the guises it appears under. Inspired by the journals of the avant-garde movements of the early 20th century, the Kakofonie is intended to be changing in form and content with each issue, often not translating everything, while simultaneously looking at questions of distribution in the choice of form and appearance. Past issues have included: a beer, a flyer, a poster, a bookmark, a magazine cover and a sound issue. There are ten issues planned with seven already having appeared.

Broken Dimanche also publish series that explore the conflation of words art imagery. For example, A Book, A Room is a spatial series which questions how writers use space, and reconceptualises the notion of the book as a form with clearly delineated boundaries or walls. Each exhibition and intervention has an accompanying publication which is intentioned as an opportunity for artists to use the medium of the book, and, vice versa, writers the space of the gallery. 

As well as this, and above all, Broken Dimanche publishes poetry and fiction, and many books have been shortlisted for international awards. Most recently, the English translation of Third-Millennium Heart by Ursula Andkjær Olsen, which was translated by Katrine Øgaard Jensen from the Danish, was shortlisted for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award.  

Committed to operating beyond and across national borders and language regions, Broken Dimanche Press have published over 70 titles. 

The space regularly hosts events and exhibitions which generally tie in with a book that is being published. Most recently in the gallery, Caitlin Berrigan, a visual artist and poet, launched her new book Imaginary Explosions on the 5th July, which was followed by a two week long exhibition of the artist’s work.  

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Büro BDP is located in Rixdorf, in Berlin’s Neukölln district.


Büro BDP
Mareschstrasse 1, 12055 Berlin
E: editorkakofonie@googlemail.com
W: www.brokendimanche.eu

Their books are available to buy on their website: brokendimanche.eu 

Ross Fraser Smith is an English Literature student at Goldsmiths, UoL, short fiction writer and occasional poet. He has written for various student magazines and has had work published in various publications, such as A-minor, Valve and Neon. He is also a photographer. He is currently undertaking a longer piece of writing which involves memoir and flashback. He lives in Essex and South London.