‘Immediate Writing: Pavel Büchler and the untimely use of letterpress’

Speaker: Nick Thurston (Writer and Editor; Associate Professor, University of Leeds)

Pavel Büchler’s formal training, first as a print student at the School of Graphic Arts (1970-72) and later as a typography student at the Institute of Applied Arts (1973-76), and the circumstances in then-communist Prague where his craft learning was undertaken, have indelibly marked his artistic life ever since. They return time and again as an inseverable mix of the learned and the unlearned. Coming from a country ‘that no longer exists’, Czechoslovakia, to Cambridge, England, via Paris in 1981, he found a West he knew less about than he expected. The immigrant experience of living with the real and false antinomies between communism and capitalism during the collapse of History anchors a common perspective in much of his work. It is the lived – in the sense of the everyday – slippages and imperfections in the various forms of cultural unity promised by translation, assimilation, democratization and collective action that seem to preoccupy his attention.

This talk will present a series of close readings of recent artworks by Büchler that depend upon the aesthetic imprint of letterpress printing as both a technological referent and means of production. Through his learned, post-conceptual misuse of the medium, these works pose a radically untimely counter voice to the bland obsession with the now-ness and homogeneity of digital media that dominates much text-led artistic practice today. I will propose that Büchler’s counter voice is one strong example of how the language arts can re-situate contemporary writing in a much longer history of inscriptive, publishing and reading technologies by putting into practice what I call an inmediate mode of writing. In doing so, this talk will connect Büchler’s biography to a nuanced conception of nostalgia and analyse the unique qualities of letterpress in a post-digital mediascape.

Nick Thurston is a writer and editor who makes artworks. He is the author of two experimental poetry books, Reading the Remove of Literature (2006) and Of the Subcontract (2013), the latter of which has been translated into Dutch (2016) and Spanish (2019). He writes regularly for the literary and arts press as well as for independent and academic publications. His most recent book is the co-edited collection Post-Digital Cultures of the Far Right (2018). Recent exhibitions include shows at Transmediale (Berlin, 2018), Q21 (Vienna, 2018), MuHKA (Antwerp, 2018) and HMKV (Dortmund, 2019). From 2006–18 he was a co-editor of the influential publishing collective Information As Material (York), with whom he was Writer in Residence at Whitechapel Gallery (London, 2011–12). He has been Artist in Residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, 2014) and Visiting Research Fellow in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 2016). He is currently Associate Professor in Fine Art at the University of Leeds, where he co-founded the Artists’ Writings & Publications Research Centre and is a fellow of the Poetry Centre.

Organised by Professor Sarah Wilson (The Courtauld) and Dr Caroline Levitt (The Courtauld) 

5:00pm, 30 Jan 2020

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London




Word and Image