Exploring the Frankfurt Book Fair: Literature, art and technology
Written by: Christine Chong
I was at the 75th Frankfurt Book Fair (18 – 22 October 2023) recently, in the capacity of an exco-member of the Singapore Book Publishers Association.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest international trade fair for books, with more than 4,000 exhibitors from 95 countries and a packed calendar of events over the five-day annual event.
Luckily, I managed to get some time to explore the fair, including the five art and technology projects below:
1. FANGØ a Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google Obfuscator: “a defensive weapon against surveillance capitalism”, created by artist Martin Nadal as a DIY project for anyone to build.
2. Hineini, a Judeoqueer choose-your-own-adventure story by Ariel Jacob and Joshua Gundlach.
4. D’ORO D’ART – The Grand Voyage by Federico Solmi challenges the essence of traditional bookmaking, weaving it together with the stimulating allure of video art.
5. Symbiosis is a performative, multi-sensory and multi-user VR installation that redesigns the human body. Itis accompanied by a publication and 3D prints of imaginary biological creatures in the world.
On the first public day (Saturday), I roamed the extremely crowded exhibition halls and saw a few interesting immersive book-themed rooms by German bookstore Thalia.
This type of booth appeals to both the escape game crowd and the Instagram crowd, and is a small example of how books can be marketed in the experience economy.
Happily, I managed to attend a panel on Exploring Our Near Future and Shared Concerns, with science fiction writer Chen Qiufan and anthropologist Prof Xiang Bao.
Both are fascinating and entertaining speakers and they engaged with the ideas, audience, and each other so well. I was disappointed I missed seeing Slavoj Zizek in person, but bought one of his books at the Penguin Random House sale.
On the last day, I indulged in one of my hobbies: scavenging for free books.
At the fair, many stands sell, give out, or simply abandon books instead of shipping and storing them. Other than the Korean literary fiction in translation that is the BTS memoir, two work-related titles that I am looking forward to reading are:
The Gutenberg Parenthesis by Jeff Jarvis
The age of print is a grand exception in history. For five centuries it fostered what some call print culture – a worldview shaped by the completeness, permanence, and authority of the printed word. As a technology, print at its birth was as disruptive as the digital migration of today. Now, as the internet ushers us past print culture, journalist Jeff Jarvis offers important lessons from the era we leave behind.
Like a Thief in Broad Daylight by Slavoj Zizek
In recent years, techno-scientific progress has started to utterly transform our world – changing it almost beyond recognition. In this extraordinary new book, renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek turns to look at the brave new world of Big Tech, revealing how, with each new wave of innovation, we find ourselves moving closer and closer to a bizarrely literal realisation of Marx’s prediction that ‘all that is solid melts into air.’
Book reviews to come!