The Kippenberger Challenge is an open invitation for artists and designers to equal the German artist Martin Kippenberger’s average printed output of 7.45 books each year. Participants simply sign up by emailing the organizer to announce the start date of their attempt. It’s a project that continues to be exhibited at prestigious institutions and shows for contemporary book arts, like The Best Dutch Book Designs in 2015 and de Appel’s Library & Archive in June of 2016. Attempts are documented on the project’s website, with congratulatory green stickers designating those who succeeded with the project, and less-enthusiastic brown “sehr guts” (meaning very good) acknowledging those who didn’t quite make it.
For the York-based graphic designer and educator Joe Gilmore, 2018 marks the start of his second time signing up to the challenge after a successful stint between 2016 and 2017. As a designer whose practise revolves around designing artist books, gallery catalogs, and conceptual book-making, engaging in self-motivated experiments has become a crucial part of his practise. “Exploring to the extent that there is perhaps no formal use for a book is an exercise you rarely get to do as a designer involved in client work,” he says. “When I’m teaching, I encourage my students to engage with the book and making books in innovative ways, considering: What is a book? What could a book be? I suppose that through pushing them, I started to think, why aren’t I doing that?
“I feel like I need to be critically engaged with my own practise; it’s important to question, test, and investigate.” Taking The Kippenberger Challenge as an opportunity for such exploration, his last round centered on the possibilities of book space, the meaning of a book, and structural devices and typographic interplay informed by the modernist experiments of James Joyce. Today the designer takes us through his first 7.45 books for the Kippenberger Challenge.