Interview

with Katrin Sauerländer

Katrin Sauerländer

Katrin Sauerländer, Managing Editor Publications dOCUMENTA (13)

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dOCUMENTA (13) - Behind the scenes: 

Interview with Katrin Sauerländer, Managing Editor Publications

Ms. Sauerländer, you are responsible for the dOCUMENTA (13) publications. What exactly is your job?

In English, the job title is Managing Editor Publications. Mainly, I deal with processing texts—the copy editing, the translations—in short, I make sure that everything needed for a publication is put together on time. That includes photos and copyright permissions. Naturally, I don’t do all of this by myself, but I work very closely with the head of the publications department, Bettina Funcke, as well as with a great team, without whom this kind of mammoth project would not be possible.

For which publications, exactly?

The series 100 Notes – 100 Ideas, and the three publications that will accompany the show. If you recall that the show will open in June 2012, then you’ll realize that we began comparatively early. I’ve been working for the dOCUMENTA (13) since August 2010.

Here in Kassel?

I’ve been in Kassel since January 2011. I started out working from Berlin. Since the Notebooks series has been appearing since early 2011, we had to establish a publications department very early on, because there is a great deal of material to manage. When work began on the three other publications, the department grew some more, because, at some point, we could no longer work on the photo editing on the side, as we had been doing, for instance.

That means that one hundred titles have already been written and edited?

The one hundred titles are set and most of them have been published already. The material for fewer than ten books is still being edited. It’s incredible to see just how much has actually been edited already.

Do you perform most of your work here in Kassel, or do you also have to travel?

In my profession, there is very little travel. In this field, you’re definitely glued to your desk, because you’re really reading all day long, if you don’t happen to be writing e-mails. Most of my job involves reading texts, comparing translations, doing corrections, and communicating with the authors, designers, and translators.

Have the authors been to Kassel?

Some authors have been here; sometimes there are close ties to the dOCUMENTA (13), for instance, in the case of the agents and consultants. Lots of meetings with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Chus Martinez took place in various cities all over the world. After the personal conversations, the authors were sent written invitations, and then there were discussions with Bettina Funcke about the theme, which was derived from the fields of research and interest. They were infectious themes for the authors, as well as for Carolyn and her documenta, and they are manifested in the exhibition.

At what point does your work begin?

I enter the scene once the author has been invited, the theme has been selected, and the authors have a deadline. That’s when I contact the author and make sure that the text arrives on time, since there is a complicated editing process that has to be planned in advance.

Could you describe that a little?

As soon as a text is finished, it is copy edited. We do the German editing ourselves, but due to the international nature of the Notebooks, few of the original texts are in German. English texts are given to editors who are native speakers. We highlight their changes, send them to the authors for approval, and, if necessary, go back to the editor if there are any questions. The final version is then sent out for translation. We compare German and English translations with the original, and we also send changes to the translator for approval. You can see from this that it takes a great deal of time to process one text, even when everything goes smoothly. It becomes more complicated if you’re not familiar with the original language, e.g., Armenian or Arabic. That usually means the exchanges with the editors and translators are even more intensive, because you can’t judge certain details for yourself.

Are they also here in Kassel?

That would be really luxurious; then we’d be a gigantic team. No, these people work in every corner of the world, all the way to New Zealand. All of the correspondence is done by e-mail and Skype, and in a few cases, by mail, until every little detail is set. We don’t publish any text that is not one hundred percent in accordance with the author’s wishes. We are prepared to discuss every last little comma.

How much say does the author have in the design?

You mean the book design?

Yes, size, color, etc.

Authors have limited say, since the Notebooks have a uniform design, so that you can see that they are part of a series.

But there are different formats . . .

Yes, there are three different formats. The format for each text depends on the material itself. We have various categories of Notebooks. There are, for instance, facsimile notebooks, such as the ones on Walter Benjamin and György Lukács. These consist mainly of reproductions, preceded by an introduction. Here, the format depends on the original size of the printed materials; our goal is to remain as faithful as possible to the original. The volumes of essays—which, as a rule, have only one illustration, suggested by the authors—are often in A6 format. Ultimately, decisions are also made from a design point of view, including the color for the cover. If someone has expressed a desire for a certain size or color, then we are happy to accommodate. Everyone has always gotten what they wanted.

So there were very close consultations . . .

The contents are as individual as the authors, and even though we have certain givens, we have also reacted individually, within the framework, to all of the situations. The cover, the fly-title, and the imprint are untouchable. As far as the rest of the contents are concerned, we allowed for many exceptions and fulfilled various requests for illustrations or text layout. A special example is the artist’s book by Lawrence Weiner, which is designed entirely by him, even the fly-title in this case. Another case is Nalini Malani’s Notebook with Arjun Appadurai, in which a drawing runs through the entire text.

It sounds like very satisfying work, making many authors happy—and, hopefully, readers too—with these Notebooks. . .

Working on this series of 100 Notebooks has been a fantastic experience, because of the unbelievable diversity and quality of the texts and everyone’s great enthusiasm for the project. You deal with extremely different authors from extremely different fields; we get amazingly positive feedback. All in all, this project is buoyed by great enthusiasm.

Let’s talk about the main publications. What will they be?

There are a total of three publications accompanying the show—Catalogues 1-3, which complement and supplement each other; even their design makes them a compact compendium of the contents of this documenta. Catalogue 1/3, The Book of Books, will be published in both a German and an English edition, and each one will have more than 750 pages. They’ll contain the whole series of 100 Notes – 100 Ideas, which is so crucial to the path toward the dOCUMENTA (13). A challenge for the Lefloft Graphics Agency, since they had to condense about three thousand printed pages for a book of about 750 pages. They solved the problem with a new layout, which echoes the design of the individual books . . . like a trace of memory. Then there are essays by Carolyn, Chus Martínez, Franco Berardi Bifo, and others, along with an illustrated list of participants and their works, with brief biographies. In later years this will be the most important reference book for anyone researching the history of the documenta.

What other publications will there be?

For the dOCUMENTA (13) there is also the indispensable tool for each and every visitor: The Guide Book, our Catalogue 3/3. It provides the most important information about the show’s artists in short texts. The special thing about this publication is that, instead of using classic photos of works, we asked all of the participants to provide a visual contribution, which could be anything—a photo, a text, a drawing—the only premise being that the contribution had to refer to the work being shown.

And what did you get? What did most decide to submit?

Photos, texts, drawings, even reproductions of the works . . . the contributions are all very different, personal, and made especially for this occasion. For us, of course, it was a very intriguing concept and we’re very excited about the results.

That’s two out of three publications. Let’s turn to number three. What’s it like?

The third publication, Catalogue 2/3, is The Log Book, the volume documenting the exhibition. It’s in two parts: a collection of photos and correspondence, which provides a very intimate look at the creation of an exhibition, the sort of insight you usually don’t get. Here, the agents and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev are interviewed about ideas, backgrounds, and concepts. The second part is a visual tour of the finished show, and so it won’t be released until after the opening.

When exactly?

Not much later, the beginning of July, right on the heels of the opening. Everything else has already been prepared, and all we have to do is add the pictures. It’ll all happen very quickly.

How does the collaboration with Hatje Cantz work?

We are working very closely together. This isn’t the first time that Hatje Cantz has produced the documenta publications, and that’s obvious, of course. The company has a lot of experience with the unusual magnitude of this project, which is also new to me. My colleague, Cordelia Martin, and I worked for the last two Berlin Biennials, but the sheer size of things here is simply, strikingly different. In that respect, it’s good to know that you have a partner who knows what they’re doing. Of course, we’re in constant contact, because we have deadlines to meet, and the production for the big publications has been going on the whole time in the background.

Most of the team working here now does not come from Kassel. Have you been able to settle down in the city? Have you found any places you like to visit, anywhere you like to go during documenta-free times?

Due to its sheer size, there’s very little documenta-free time. But you can really set up a good lifestyle in Kassel, even though work is so prevalent. One of the places I like is the swimming pool. It’s right around the corner, a big luxury. Otherwise, I would probably never make it there.

The swimming pool is a place where you can relax, maybe go over the day’s events, contemplate things?

The good thing about it is that I can’t think when I’m swimming.

Interviewed by art journalists Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas.
April 24, 2012

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