Better Books: Art, Anarchy and Apostasy

Better Books: Art, Anarchy and Apostasy

ZKM | Center for Art and Media

Better Books, 92-94 Charing Cross Road, 1972. ©/Photo: Richard Friedman, Oakland.

November 3, 2012

November 3, 2012–January 6, 2013

ZKM | Center for Art
and Media Karlsruhe

Lorenzstrasse 19
76135 Karlsruhe, Germany

T +49 (0)721/8100 1200
info [​at​]

In the 1950s and 1960s the small English bookshop Better Books of Charing Cross Road became the center of the London avant-garde movement. Situated across from Saint Martins School of Art, this humble bookstore developed into a den of discontent and cradle for creativity, catalyzing a new breed of “angry young men.” United in their distrust of the cultural norms, the post-war generation of artists, poets and writers found new ways to distance themselves from the previous generation. Many of these artists first met one another and took refuge at Tony Godwin’s Charing Cross bookstore Better Books. Under the management of Bill Butler, Barry Miles and Bob Cobbing, Better Books became not only a haven but also the platform and “voice” of the explosively radical spirit within London. Some came to meet writers, to hear a poetry reading, catch an underground film screening, or find a publisher, some came for a publication that would not be found elsewhere. Others came in search of a fix or a party, or to find a kindred spirit or temporary bed. The bookshop enabled and initiated meetings, gave room for ideas, and became a sanctuary for numerous avant-garde artists, poets, filmmakers, musicians and writers. 

The exhibition Better Books: Art, Anarchy and Apostasygives a deep insight into the scene around Better Books from which a multitude of activities and events arose, such as “The International Poetry Incarnation,” Gustav Metzger’s “Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS), “The People Show, the foundation of the London Filmmakers’ Cooperative and John Latham’s and Jeffrey Shaw’s “Book Plumbing” events.

This exhibition at ZKM | Karlsruhe presents the events and activities which transpired at Better Books together with documentation, artworks and films that were created there. The archive-structured exhibition portrays not only the growing significance of this bookshop, but recontextualizes and unites the disparate histories of the artistic avant-garde whose actions centred around Better Books.  

Curator: Rozemin Keshvani
In collaboration with Flat Time House, London

Artists: Antony Balch, Pip Benveniste, William S. Burroughs, Bob Cobbing, Stephen Dwoskin, Group H, Simon Hartog, Jeff Keen, Bruce Lacey, John Latham, Annea Lockwood, London Filmmakers’ Cooperative, Gustav Metzger, Jeff Nuttall, Jennifer Pike, Criton Tomazos, Alexander Trocchi, Werner Schreib, John Sharkey, Jeffrey Shaw, Islwyn Watkins, Peter Whitehead, among others.

Accompanying Events with Luke Fowler:

Film Screening
Luke Fowler, Pilgrimage From Scattered Points (2006) 
A film about the British composer Cornelius Cardew
Introduction and discussion with Luke Fowler 
Fri, December 14, 2012, 8pm

Luke Fowler and Richard Youngs
Electronic modulations and cosmic synthesizer-experiments
Fri, December 14, 2012, 9:15pm

Film Screening
Luke Fowler, All Divided Selves (2011)
A film about the Scottish psychoanalyst Ronald D. Laing
Introduction and discussion with Luke Fowler 
Sat, December 15, 2012, 6pm

Opening hours:
Wed–Fri 10–6pm; Sat & Sun 11–6pm
Mon & Tue closed

Press contact:
Dominka Szope
T +49 (0)721/8100 1220 / F +49 (0)721/8100 1139 / presse [​at​]




Better Books: Art, Anarchy and Apostasy at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe
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ZKM | Center for Art and Media
November 3, 2012

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