Interview with Distanz Verlag – Uta Grosenick and Christian Boros

Art of Publishing

Distanz is a publishing company based in Berlin under the management of Christian Boros and Uta Grosenick. It releases books and exhibition catalogues on the visual arts as well as photography, architecture, design and fashion of the 20th and 21st century. Furthermore, Distanz Publishing produces artist monographs and anthologies in collaborations with prestigious editors and authors and collaborates with leading institutions and museums.

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We usually begin our interviews with a short introduction on who you are and what you do. Could you briefly tell us a bit about Distanz Verlag, please?

Distanz is a publishing company based in Berlin under the management of Christian Boros and myself. Distanz releases books and exhibition catalogues on the visual arts as well as photography, architecture, design and fashion of the 20th and 21st century. Distanz produces artist’s monographs and anthologies in collaboration with prestigious editors and authors and cooperates with leading national and international museums.

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We are sure a lot of time, maybe even many years, of preparation went into Distanz Verlag, at the same time one from the outside could think Distanz appeared over night. Have you worked on book projects before or have you immediately planed with a proper, complete publishing house?

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Distanz appeared really over night. Christian and I had of course worked on book projects before, but only on two in common. During these two collaborations we discovered that we work very well together and that our skills complete each other.

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What steps needed to be climbed to arrive from the initial idea to the realised company? What where the motivations, drivers and difficulties?

We had to find a name for the company and some desks for our laptops. Then we went to a notary for the paperwork. We were motivated to make books that we like and that look good and we wanted to move things fast.

In your eyes, what differentiates Distanz from other publishing companies? Hence, what is the readership you are trying to reach?

We want to make books that are loved by their initiators, because then they are loved by the reader as well. We want to reach every reader.

In previous interviews, you described Distanz Verlag as a “platform for a strong authorship and successful compositions”.  Is Distanz thus, merely the executor of completed projects or do you develop the projects together with authors, designers or artists from the blank page to the finished book?

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Every book is a world on its own. Every book has its own history and genesis. But many artists or editors come to Distanz, because they find an open ear for their project and are accompanied and advised from the first idea to the release and distribution of the accomplished book.

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How can one imagine the company? Is it mainly a platform for the products or do you actually have an in house design team, the printing facilities, writers etc.. for instance?

We have an in house design team, but also work with designers from outside. Many clients bring their own designers along. We work with printers all over Germany. Sometimes we recommend writers, often we edit their texts.

To go a little into detail. Could you please elaborate on the usual process of producing a book for Distanz Verlag a bit further? How does a book project start, how is it then being executed and finally reaches the bookshelves?

There are different scenarios for the start of a book: either Christian and I develop an idea for a book, set up a financing concept and then approach the people who are part of the book idea.

Or people – artists, photographers, curators, gallerists – approach us with a book project and we support them in realising their idea. We find authors, translators, designers, colour separators, etc. as well as a printing company. Once the book is finished our distribution partner Gestalten brings it into bookstores and museum shops all over the world.

The discourse on the future of the book is quite a vivid one, with advocates of the traditional books on the one hand and those pledging for the advantages of going paperless. Hence championing electronic devices such as iPad or Kindle which make it easy to carry along as many books as you like. Where would you position Distanz Verlag in this debate, being active on both the digital and physical side?

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Distanz books are illustrated books and therefore very special items, they can’t be experienced on an iPad or Kindle. But we are open to elaborate independent Apps with the content of a book.

Mr. Boros is coming from a marketing background and Ms. Grosenick from the field of art through working as curator for Hamburger Deichtorhallen as well as form a background in publishing through working as program manager for DuMont. How do your different professional backgrounds influence your practise at Distanz, and maybe also vice versa?

Our different professional backgrounds and our different personal networks are essential to our collaboration. It is a great pleasure to learn from each other.

Alongside the books on artists, designers, architecture, fashion and lifestyle, you produce artist editions.  What is the purpose behind those? Do they for instances serve as a mean to make art more accessible to a wider audience?

Sure, as we are both art lovers, we want people to enjoy the presence of an artwork in their home. But an artist edition can also be a tool to acquire additional financing for a book. Therefore all our editions are generated in connection with a book.

As oppose to the limited artists editions, your books are unlimited in numbers. Are you possibly interested in producing limited editions of books, to maybe create pressures collectibles in itself?

Our books are not unlimited in numbers and some are already sold out as Maria Lassnig and Katharina Grosse. We want to make our books affordable for everyone, nevertheless the most art books come in modest print runs.

Distanz Verlag is based in the former pumphouse in Berlin, later the Lapidarium and today a listed building. Olafur Eliasson has installed the lighting for example, it is thus, fair to say that you love the detail, in art and architecture? This is not only reflected in the books but furthermore that Distanz Verlag is a coherent concept.  Is this the key to success?

If you see it this way…

To finish in our usual matter, what’s next?

The next book is always next… and the next book is always my favourite book. Right now it is the publication for the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale with Mathias Poledna.

Thank you!

all images © Distanz Verlag