2015 is set to be a very exciting year for Pluto Press, with a wave of original and adventurous books, as well as a return to some old classics. Here are some of team Pluto’s highlights from the upcoming season –
Being a sucker for that beautiful Venn Diagram where architecture meets politics, I could not wait to crack open the spine of one of Pluto’s most eagerly-awaited books of 2015: White City, Black City by Sharon Rotbard. Reading the story of the aspirational yet darkly prophetic Bauhaus wave which transformed Tel Aviv into a ‘white city’ for the state of Israel was a revelatory experience. For me, reading books which describe public and private spaces and the buildings which populate them always transports me directly to their various locations. In this instance, the idea of walking the cool, paved avenues of Tel Aviv left me with a sickly feeling in my stomach. The second half of the book, ‘The Black City’, revealed why: it uncovers Jaffa, the original Arab city which was negated by Jewish colonisation in the 1930’s. Today, it remains only in traces, hidden behind the ‘mental iron-curtain’. And I hope, as Victor Hugo remarked, ‘The book will kill the edifice’, for a few of us, at least.
Of all the books we have coming out in the new season, I’m anticipating David Rosenberg’s Rebel Footprints the most. This is not merely because I have had a hand in its creation (specifically, the maps), but because the author’s enthusiasm for his subject is completely infectious. Having spent a fair bit of time with David, photographing the book’s walks, and listening to him talk about Chartists, anarchists, suffragettes and early trade unionists, I am now utterly captivated by the people and the struggles which have defined the very fabric of London.
As the book demonstrates, this radical history is all around us, but risks being lost or forgotten amidst an ever changing physical landscape. As part history and part self-guided walking tour, Rebel Footprints is the perfect remedy. It is a wonderfully written, and – if our proof copies are anything to go by – a beautiful book. I will be counting down the days until its publication in March, and if you’re looking for the perfect outdoors activity this Spring, a walk down Cable Street (chapter 10), or a trip to Clerkenwell Green (chapter 2) would certainly fit the bill.
Reading Adam Hochschild’s magisterial counter-narrative To End All Wars last year, I came across a reference to a play by Sheila Rowbotham, Friends of Alice Wheeldon – and recalled that this was a book that we had acquired back in 1987 when Pluto Press changed hands. While we had kept Sheila’s early landmark publication Hidden from History in print ever since, Friends had slipped into the shadows – unremarked and almost forgotten. But now that we are commemorating the horror of the First World War, what could be more fitting than a new edition – as one of Pluto’s correctives to the general triumphalism of other publishers’ offerings? Would Sheila agree? Did she think it would be worth it? Fortunately, she responded with enthusiasm and set about adding, correcting and updating, incorporating subsequent research findings – as part of a continuing campaign to clear Alice Wheeldon’s name. Alice’s granddaughter even checked the proofs in Australia: a reminder that historic injustices can continue to resonate, maybe even more powerfully, a century later. I’m proud to have been able to help revive Sheila’s work, and to understand just how important history from below can be.
Curationism is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. Despite its necessarily critical stance I found it remarkably even-handed and, far from a simplistic denunciation of contemporary art practice, infused with real passion for its subject which held my attention even where I disagreed with the book’s judgement of exhibitions or artists. Balzer is an able and engaging writer who does not presume anything from his reader above a basic literacy in matters pop cultural and yet manages a depth of discussion which can still impress a regular reader of the arts press.
Alison Alexanian, Publicity Manager
Of all the books in 2015, I’m particularly excited about Curationism by David Balzer. As soon as I heard about this project I was intrigued because it taps into a phenomenon that we’re all familiar with but haven’t looked at closely. Balzer, in a clever and entertaining way, looks at curating in the art world and how it has penetrated popular culture. He also writes with biting wit and fresh insight which makes this an especially enjoyable read.