Roberto Aguirrezabala presents ‘Hidden Book’, an artist’s book that recreates novels banned in the 20th century and published underground

Hidden Book is Aguirrezabala’s sixth self-published book in the last five years and completes a trilogy on intellectual resistance in the former Eastern Bloc, which includes Two Thousand Words (2021) and Samizdat (2002).

Hidden Book is a tragicomedy of 20th century social and political life, a choral story of a grieving and resilient Europe making fun of itself. A drama and a comedy with hilarious characters and visible from the depths of human tragedy to the most biting satire.

The narrative is based on various plots drawn from a selection of fourteen novels banned by communist governments in the Eastern Bloc. Most of the novels deal with political issues, critical of Soviet supremacy over communist satellite countries, and sarcastically ironic of the social, economic and governmental environment in the homeland. The stories cover the most relevant themes of the 20th century, such as autocracy, invading occupation, repression, censorship of free speech, the rewriting of history, false heroes, in short, our previous complex social, cultural and political life.

Hidden Book features photographs of great literary figures of the 20th century, taken from the most important novels banned by communist governments, such as The Master and Margarita by the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, White Book by Czech writer Pavel Kohout, The cafe on Cemetery Street by Czech writer Ota Filip, Life and Fate by Ukrainian writer and war correspondent Vasili Grossman, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Russian writer Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Czech writer Milan Kundera, The Axe by writer and political activist Ludvík Vaculík, and The Cowards by Josef Skvorecky, co-founder of one of the most important publishing houses of Czech literature in exile, among others.

Their protagonists are portrayed in fictitious settings, along with objects and belongings that define their personalities or question an aspect of their contemporary historical environment. Each character is enveloped in a parallel context, with heterogeneous collections of old personal photographs, family albums and archival documents. Hidden Book is thus composed of portraits of marginal characters, historical objects, memories and life in all its magnitude, a singular journey that crosses the 20th century to take a close look at the most vibrant aspects of subversive critical thought.

Hidden Book is structured into fourteen chapters, one for each novel on display. Each part presents a new design and even a different binding. An immensely baroque work in terms of its concept and form, which constantly seeks the physical and conceptual limits of the book as an object, while also continually questioning itself. Folding and binding are handmade by Aguirrezabala and also contain numerous artisan processes, such as embroidery on the fabric of the cover of the box, silkscreen printing, creasing, original cyanotype, pigment ink printing, photopolymer printing, and handwritten text, among others, which makes each copy a unique piece.

This artist book is a limited edition of 45 copies plus 5 artist’s proofs. This work is part of the concept of Self-Publishing as Resistance, which Aguirrezabala has been working on in recent years. It vindicates the value of self-publishing, beyond the industry, where the author produces each phase of publication as if it were a life cycle.

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Concept, edition, design, photography, text and compilation of personal and archive images: Roberto Aguirrezabala
English translation: Interwords Global Services
Printing: Grafilur
Hand folding and binding: Roberto Aguirrezabala
Cyanotypes, prints with pigmented inks on washi paper, and stamping: Roberto Aguirrezabala
Print Run: Limited edition of 45 copies + 5 artist’s proofs
The original copies of the archive photographs included in this book come from the private collection of Roberto Aguirrezabala.
The image of The Threatened Swan by the Dutch painter Jan Asselijn is on loan from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
The photographic series Banned Books, which is included in the artist’s book Hidden Book, is produced with the support of the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sport with the collaboration of Bilbao Arte Foundation.
This book was published with the assistance of the Department of Culture and Linguistic Policy of the Basque Government.


Print Run: Limited edition of 45 copies + 5 artist’s proofs
Measurements: 22,7 x 25 x 5,2 cm (case) y 19 x 23,5 x 4,1 cm (book)
Pages: 244
Number of photographs: 170
Papers: Arena Smooth Natural 140 gr, Symbol Tatami Ivory 135 gr, Freelife Kendo White 250 gr, Sirio Pearl Ice White 125 gr, Sirio Perl Red Fever 125 gr, Sirio Ultra Black 115 gr, Washi paper 100% gampi 45 gr, Washi paper 60% gampi 40% cotton 60 gr.
Slipcase: The case that contains the book is covered with red Canapeta fabric, a mixture of cotton and linen, acid-free. Screen printing on the cover fabric and hand embroidery with black 100% wool thread. Metallic ball clasps and elastic rubber.
Book cover: The book cover is lined with a black silk brocaded fabric. Silkscreen with silver ink and hollow stamping.
Binding: Japanese binding with red linen thread.
Year: 2023

Biografía de Roberto Aguirrrezabala

Roberto Aguirrezabala holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country. His multidisciplinary training in audiovisuals, new technologies, sculpture and painting has led him to develop photographic work of an essay nature, a synthesis between documentary and fiction, which coexists with intervened objects, installation and drawing to explore the conflicts, both of identity as social and political, of the individual through historical memory. He has published six artist books: Hidden Book (2023), Samizdat (2022), Two Thousand Words (2021), Fascism + Apocalyptic (2020), Antimanifesto (2020) and War Edition (2019, as well as the monograph Entropy (2016). His current research in publishing focuses on in limited editions made entirely by hand, where the book object concept is the fundamental axis.

In the course of his artistic career he has won several awards: 3rd Prize Winner of the Photobook Award EI2022 – Encontros da Imagem, Braga, Portugal; VI City of Móstoles Artist Book Award 2021; Montehermoso Award in the Viphoto Festival 2018; First prize V Premio Ankaria Foundation 2018; Acquisition Award at the XX Sala El Brocense Plastic Arts Prize 2017; Photographer of the Year in the International Photography Awards IPA 2017, Spanish edition; Special mention PHotoEspaña, Photography Award, ENAIRE Foundation 2017; First Prize Best Work of X Canariasmediafest, Festival Internacional de Vídeo y Multimedia de Canarias 2002; Award to the revelation artist in Festival de Vídeo de Navarra 1998, among others. And the artist books he has published have recently been recognized as finalists at festivals: Open Submission 2023 de Belfast Photo Festival. Belfast, Northern Ireland; Les Rencontres de la Photographie D’Arles 2022 and 2021; Lucie Photobook Prize 2022 and 2021, Los Ángeles, EE.UU; Shortlisted at the Singapore International Photography Festival 2022 (SIPF); Athens Photo Festival 2022, Greece; Festival PhotoBookWeek Aarhus 2021, Dinamarca; Finalist in the Best Photography Book of the Year Award, PHotoESPAÑA 2019. His work has been supported by numerous grants such as: Plastic Arts Basque Government Grant 2023, 2022, 2019 and 2018 in the Publications modality; Grants for artistic research, creation and production in the field of visual arts, Ministry of Culture, Spain 2023, 2022 and 2020; Grant for Creation by VEGAP 2020; Bilbao Art District 2018; Plastic Arts Basque Government Grants 2016, 2010; Bilbao Arte Foundation Grants 2015, 2010; Generación 2001, Caja Madrid Grant and others. He has held several solo exhibitions, including particularly: War Museum, Montehermoso Cultural Center, Vitoria, 2019; Entropy, Bilbao Arte Foundation, 2016; Roberto Aguirrezabala, 1998-2008, Centro Huarte de Arte Contemporáneo, curated by Roberta Bosco and Stefano Caldana, 2008. His work has been seen in numerous international group exhibitions such as: The discreet charm of technology. Arts in Spain, 2008, MEIAC in Spain, ZKM in Germany, Instituto Tomie Ohtake in São Paulo, Brasil; in the Spanish Pavilion, Universal Exposition Hannover 2000; 12º Rencontres Internationales 2007, Paris, Berlin, Madrid.

Hidden Book, 2023