Grace Ambrose:
I came to the Alpenhof to make a book

I came to the Alpenhof to make a book. For five years, I have been working on an English-language translation of Marlene Marder’s diary, originally published in 1986. Marder was the guitarist of the Swiss bands Kleenex and LiLiPUT (the second a natural progression of the first!) and her diary is a strange and fascinating text, her personal accounts of the mundane and sublime elements of playing in a rock’n’roll group set alongside reproductions of press clippings, reviews, interviews, photos, flyers and more. 

Marder and Kleenex/LiLiPUT existed at the center of a particular punk-cum-art milieu in 1970s/80s Zurich. Impossibly cool-looking (and with great tunes to boot!), they are more beloved outside of Switzerland than within, though knowledge about the band and their story is limited, thanks to the available information being mostly in German.

I initially intended to come to the Alpenhof to learn more about their peers — to spend time thinking about how the story of Kleenex/LiLiPUT related to the story of Peter Fischli, Livio Piatti, Bice Curiger, Erna Krips and more, to understand how they fit into the picture of Zurich-counter culture of the moment, at a place where the student movement, women’s lib, the F&F art school, and punk rock met. I was supposed to visit in March 2020, at which point I was at a very different, research-based stage of my project and we were in a very different stage of life on earth! Two years later, I spent my time at the Alpenhof thinking instead about the materiality of the book and preparing it for publication — what should it look and feel like? How should these images talk to each other? How do we preserve the feeling of the original while updating and expanding it for the present day? What does it mean to make a book that feels grounded in history but still contemporary, specific yet timeless?

I explored books about Kleenex/LiLiPUT’s peers and predecessors, yes, but more than that I pulled books off the shelf and thought about how they felt in my hands. Where is the balance between readable text and a coffee table tome? Should the paper stock be coated or uncoated? How many pages feels just right? I worked with the designer, Conor Lumsden, who visited from Dublin and we spent days making infinitesimally small adjustments to layouts and pages, arguing about the tails on capital Q’s, and printing out and mocking up true-to-size versions of book spreads, looking at them, living with them and floating them past my fellow residents until we landed on something just right. A screen is no substitute for the real thing!

My time at the Alpenhof allowed me to approach the end of this project with the single-minded focus required to sort through hundreds of images and thousand words and the time I needed to puzzle through some of the text’s challenges. Plus, it was fun! Shared meals, long walks, and a late night dance party to Andreas Züst’s record collection… the highlight of which was of course singles by the forever-cool Swiss fräuleinwunderpunks, Kleenex/LiLiPUT. I look forward to sharing their story, reframed and reexamined, with the world soon.

Text: Grace Ambrose
April 2022