TEXTures: an exhibition of texts, textures and structure in artists' books: David Paton
It is always an honour to be able to interact with the exquisite objects in the Jack Ginsberg Collections of Artists' Books and this exhibition allows another privileged opportunity to engage with, choose and exhibit, selected books which fit the criteria for this exhibition.
A defining limitation in the exhibiting of artists' books, however, is overcoming the lack of a necessary temporal-spatial and physical relationship between the reader/viewer and the book-object. This usually means that any exhibition of rare, unique or private objects centres on their security and their resultant auratic distance from the sensorial touch of the reader/viewer. In two previous exhibitions of the artist's book, we have tried to mitigate these limitations: On the Artists' Books in the Ginsberg Collection exhibition held at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 1996, book openings were regularly changed, mirrors placed under elevated objects revealed their otherwise hidden covers, workshops were held in order to help demystify the genre and the exhibition was curated in such a way that the visitor moved in a zig-zag path exploring books as if they were the individual pages of an artist's book; the thinking being to place the visitor inside the experience of negotiating the complex structural, material, and conceptual relationships inherent in the form. On the exhibition Navigating the Bookscape: Artists' Books and the Digital Interface held at the Aardklop Arts Festival, Potchefstroom and at the FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg in 2006, each book exhibited in a vitrine was accompanied by its interactive digital equivalent.
But here, for this exhibition, we were confronted by a need to find suitable display cases from a variety of very limited sources and our search culminated in a small set of materially and aesthetically diverse display cases. This resulted in an extremely limited 'real-estate' provided by the limits of the collective cases' footprint, and so we were confronted by pragmatic questions of what should be included and why and the more perplexing question of what should be excluded, when our starting point was the broad sweep of the thousands of potential and relevant books from the remarkable Jack Ginsberg Collections of Artists' Books.
Confronting the limitations of the eleven display cases we managed to find, we decided to problematize only three defining characteristics of bookness: Texts and textuality - spaces in which the legible and optical elements of texts are foregrounded or problematized; Texture - operationalizing the printed and material surfaces of the page and book-object, and Structure - foregrounding one of the more characteristic aspects of artists' books' ability to interrogate the conventions by which books normally efface their identities (Drucker 2007:161). It is our intention to include books which are characteristic of more than one category and we have also included a number of Claire van Vliet's broadsides and two framed prints from Willem Boshoff's KykAfrikaans which help drive the exhibition content forward. Also, printed on every label is an image of that book's cover or binding.
It seems important for many reasons, to open the exhibition with a classic of early book art and typographic production, Ilia Zdanevich's (known popularly as Iliazd) Lidantiu Faram (Lidantiu as a Beacon) (Fig.1), published by Izdaniya 41° Editions, Paris in 1923. Not only is this remarkable book a masterpiece of the Russian poetic avant-garde, the book, on its first public viewing in South Africa is bound in its original grey wrappers with a collage by Naoum Granovsky (Naum Granovskiy) on onlaid gold and silver paper, cork and synthetic material. The book is printed using letterpress with the typographic designs by Iliazd. Audrey Isselbacher (1987:37) sates that "Ilyazd's Lidantiu Faram is the last and most fully-realised of his five dramatic works. The text is remarkable typography, and the stunning collage cover by Granovskiy marks a moment of synthesis and a culminating point in his formal experiments". Isselbacher (1987:459) continues:
Each page of this book offers itself as a picture that is, as pure 'graphism', exhibiting a typographical repertory so vast that it defies inventory. Furthermore, so playful is its organization that some of the pages virtually defy reading, breaking as they do with the linear conception of the text and forcing the reader to adopt a circular contemplation, to decipher in a back-and-forth manner more appropriate for viewing a picture. In 'Lidantiu' Iliazd reached a high point in his development of ludic typography as an integral part of the modern page layout; it was a moment of synthesis and a culminating point in his formal experiments.
A seemingly irreverent accompaniment for Lidantiu is Graham Rawle's Woman's World: A Novel (Atlantic Books, London, 2005) (Fig.2) an artist's book forming part of his Lost Consonants series. In this work, Rawle has painstakingly collected words and phrases from 1960s women's magazines in order to tell his heroine Norma's subversive story. Once removed from their context, the words have been reassembled to make the unique novel rich with the flavour and moral tone of the 'donor' material and is as poignant as it is joyful. The book's self-reflexivity is found in the manner in which the cut and assembled text is printed in tonal relief from its paper substrate and, along with an image of scissors, humorously directs attention towards its own constructed reality. Looking at these books in such close proximity might encourage temporal contemplation of how texts have constructed our world.
Another pair of strange bedfellows is Selected Poems 1961-1991 (The Artists' Press, Johannesburg, 1992) (Fig.3) a collaboration between Patrick Cullinan (poet), Judith Mason (artist), Mark Attwood (printer), Bruce Attwood (cover designer) and Johan Maree (binder) and Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works) Band 7, Bok 3b und Bok 3d (Edition Hansjörg Mayer, Stuttgart, 1974) (Fig.4) by Dieter Roth (Diter Rot). Roth's 'accumulated books' of found material were gathered, trimmed and bound to a uniform size. Bok 3b and Bok 3d, consist of die-cut pages from children's comics and coloring books. Each volume is unique, and represents a novel form of collaboration between artist, printer, the products of pulp culture and print ephemera. At the other end of the cultural spectrum lies Selected Poems representing the best of South African artistic, poetic and craft collaboration, and is one of South Africa's truly classic artists' books.
The artist's book which has perhaps the highest public profile is Tom Philips's A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel (Tetrad Press, London, 1970/3) (Fig.5). According to the website devoted to the complex gestation of the various editions both limited as well as trade versions, Philips
… set himself a task: to find a second-hand book for threepence and alter every page by painting, collage and cut-up techniques to create an entirely new version. He found his threepenny novel in a junkshop on Peckham Rye, South London. This was an 1892 Victorian obscurity titled A Human Document by W.H Mallock and he titled his altered book A Humument. The first version of all 367 treated pages was published in 1973 since when there have been four revised editions. A Humument is now one of the best known and loved of all 20th Century artist's books (sic) and is regarded as a seminal classic of postmodern art.
The volume on display in this exhibition only came into the Ginsberg collection in 2013 after I had been contacted by a colleague Elizabeth James who is the Documentation Manager, National Art Library Word & Image Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Elizabeth facilitated discussions between Jack and Tom and now one of only five items of this new edition proudly resides in South Africa. This new volume occurred at the same time as the recent exhibition Life's Work held at MASS MoCA (March 2013 - January 2014), and which represents the most comprehensive exhibition of A Humument ever mounted offering a rare opportunity to examine the work in its 47-year entirety. Tom's aim is to have 'treated' every page of the original novel twice. The first version was completed between 1966 and 1973 and makes up the content of the Tetrad edition. The second versions are still being produced, 1973-present. Thus the top row of the MASS MoCA exhibition showed the untreated Victorian book, row two showed the '66-'73 Tetrad version, and the bottom row showed the second version in progress. The frames have grey placeholder paper where the 2nd version does not yet exist.
Our new edition of A Humument consists of two volumes in a divided black slipcase, but only one volume is exhibited here: The first box, bound in green leather, contains loose pages 1-180. The Colophon, on a card illustrated with a watercolour painting and contained in the pink folded card of the 1973 (1970) edition states: "This is number four of five copies (plus one hors de commerce made for the artist) of a special presentation of the first version of A Humument. It celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the completed publication by the Tetrad Press of the work's first issue in 1973." The bindings are lined with facsimiles of those that ornament two 1896 editions of the novel. Each box also includes the spines of containers within which the Tetrad Press edition was issued. The second box, bound in purple leather (not shown), contains loose pages 181-367, plus a brief history. Both boxes have a watercolour drawing inserted into a window in the front cover which is covered with transparent Mylar.
Grouped together in order to foreground the manner in which textuality may be deployed by artists in book form are five very different approaches. In Rules of Thumb (Scripps College Press, 1986) (Fig.6), the first book in a collaborative publishing series,
... students were asked to write down rules of typography that they probably would not find in typography books. These are the rules of thumb, or conventions for readability, which we use without thinking; like there is a space between words. They had to choose a rule or two from the 24 rules they discovered and try to explain why it exists. This text was set conventionally, with an enlarged capital. Then they had to break the rule on the next page by writing text that might require the breaking of the rule for better understanding or for a typographic effect (Scripps online).
The book is printed letterpress on 80 lb. Mohawk Superfine paper with the conventional text set in 16/18pt. body Scripps College Old Style, and the experimental pages set in various typefaces. Alongside this book is Jen Bervin's The Desert (Granary Books, New York, 2004) (Fig.7). The Desert is a poem 'written' by sewing row by row, line by line, across 130 pages of John Van Dyke's, 1901 prose celebration of American wilderness, The Desert: Further Studies in Natural Appearances. Fields of pale blue zigzag stitching construct a resultant poem. Of the work, Bervin (online) states:
The poem formed its own elemental landscape and shares Van Dyke's poetic attention to visual phenomena. Thinking of the artist James Turrell, for whom the poem was first composed, I found: 'The great get on with the least possible and suggest everything by light.' All drafts of the poem were composed through the process of sewing. The book is experienced both as a poem in which a reader must seek out the words which often hide, and when one turns the page, as a kind of drawing where the acts of poem-making leave their thready record.
Notwithstanding Bervin's cancellation of large sections of Van Dyke's original text, this act is done in order to liberate new visual and textual forms, implying that any text is pregnant with the portent of many others. But if Bervin's is a procreative act, then Buzz Spector's A Passage (Granary Books, 1994) (Fig.8) is a provocative one. "A Passage", writes Joe Elliot in The Journal of Artists' Books (1995:16)
… presents itself as a representative artifact. The title itself is generic, suggesting that, had this one not been chosen, another passage would've sufficed as well. And its binding and typography, so unobtrusive and anonymous, would make it hard to pick out on a library shelf. Clearly A Passage is every book; yet as much as these production values efface themselves, this artifact aggressively confronts us with its disappearance from our culture.
Since 1981, Spector has confronted the cultural significance and history of the book. As a writer, editor, and book designer, he employs the materials of his trade, books and found texts, which he often alters through tearing, and other processes. Spector's intention is not to destroy, but to transform. A Passage develops a fully integrated relationship between book form and textual material, with writing, design, and hand-torn pages. Using the method of 'shortsheeting', Spector has torn each page in a sequence of lessening increments to make a cross section of his text. Each volume in the edition has been altered in this way, leaving a shredded field of typographic characters whose legibility gives further meaning to the poignant personal narrative Spector has written (Granary Books online).
If Spector's tearing of the page is an act of transformation not destruction, then Doug Beube's Hollow Words (Self-published, 1996) (Fig.9) is a cancellation, an obliteration of an existing work - Pierson's Masters and Fellows 1933 - 1938. Beube's actions remind one of the cancellations which Marcel Broodthaers' Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard: Image of 1969 wrought upon Stéphane Mallarmé's 1914 Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hazard. But unlike Broodthaers' careful typographic density and spatial exactitude, Beube (online) describes his act in the following terms:
Overlapping pages of hollowed out letters with frayed edges remain as ghostly shadows of the text's former shape. Since the obliterated words can no longer be read, the book becomes a memory of a memory. What we see in place of the original text is a mysterious, fragmented calligraphy of broken words. Each page is a palindrome and palimpsest, a white veil through which the underlying page is glimpsed. When a page is turned the veil remains. A visual-rather than a linear- read is necessary to understand the meta-language created by this altered syntax of disparate letters and empty spaces.
The final work in this group of five books which explore alternative textualities is J. J. Abrams' S. Ship of Theseus (Mulholland Books, New York, 2013) (Fig.10) which, like Beube, relies on a preexisting text as its point of departure. Jeffrey Jacob Abrams is, of course, an accomplished film and television producer, screenwriter, director, actor and composer. Just as his upcoming direction of Star Wars Episode VII (2015) - as the first film in a sequel trilogy - must rely on existing material, S is an alteration of the book Ship of Theseus by V. M. Straka originally published in 1949 by Winged Shoes Press, New York. Abrams' inclusions contain letters, postcards, telegrams, a map scribbled on a napkin, a fake library sticker along with hand-annotated notes, changes, marginalia and additions on most pages. Doug Dorst is credited with having written the text yet, according to Stuart Kelly (online 2013):
Not only do we get a novel, Ship of Theseus, purportedly by a 'VM Straka' - about a man shanghaied onto a mysterious boat with a demonic crew - the copy in the reader's hand is heavily annotated by two other readers, Jennifer and Eric, who are attempting to make sense of the text and themselves, as well as the enigmatic figure of Straka himself. Interleaved into it are countless pieces of ephemera.
This complex, self-conscious, reflexive, multi-authored and object-laden text can be classified as ergodic, or what Craig Dworking (2005) might term as containing "paratexts" or "textual prostheses". The ergodic, a term coined by Espen J. Aarseth (1997) is characterised as nontrivial effort being required to allow the reader to traverse a text. Ergodic literature is not medium-specific, nor defined by its medium, but by the way in which the text functions. Thus, both paper-based and electronic texts can be ergodic: "The ergodic work of art is one that in a material sense includes the rules for its own use …" (Aarseth 1997:179), while a reader must participate actively in the construction of the text he or she is reading. In these terms, we have included two contemporary novels which we believe are both ergodic as well as cross the boundaries between the conventional novel form and the artist's book.
Jonathan Safran Foer broke with the conventions of the novel with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Hamish Hamilton, 2005). In this novel, seemingly arbitrary images appear throughout the book while disconcerting red hand-annotations, blank pages, text replaced by numerals and a rapidly collapsing leading and kerning resulting in the collapse of textual legibility become scripto-visual mechanisms for advancing the book's emotive content. Included on this exhibition is his Tree of Codes (Visual Editions, The Netherlands, 2010) (Fig.11), perhaps one of the most remarkable departures from the conventions of the novel form and certainly a risk for the publishers. To create the book, Foer took Bruno Schulz's work The Street of Crocodiles and literally cut the majority of the words. Visual Editions, describes it as a "sculptural object" while Foer states that, by removing words, he "… carved out a new story" (Heller online). On the dust jacket, artist Olafur Eliasson describes this work as follows:
[A]n extraordinary journey that activates the layers of time and space involved in the handling of a book and its heap of words. Jonathan Safran Foer deftly deploys sculptural means to craft a truly compelling story. In our world of screens, he welds narrative, materiality, and our reading experience into a book that remembers it actually has a body.
Accompanying Tree of Codes in a vitrine is Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves (Pantheon Book, New York, 2000) (Fig.12). Notwithstanding its serendipitous allusions to nature and the public debate as to whether this is a horror or a love story, House of Leaves is an excellent example of ergodic literature in which the reader is engage in a complex time-consuming and certainly 'non trivial' act of reading. Some pages contain only a few words or lines of text, arranged in strange ways to mirror the events in the story, often requiring the reader to turn the book on its side or upside down to facilitate reading. Multiple authors narrate various elements of the story while in various editions, colours are used to help isolate disparate themes. The book contains copious addenda while the text digresses into a plethora of footnotes (some of which contain their own footnotes) and which span a number of pages.
The interaction between the authorial voices and the optical structures at play in this work are elaborate and disorienting. In both Tree of Codes and House of Leaves reading is as much an act of looking. Here, reader-viewers are engaged in a complex hunt for scripto-visual clues in order to construct meaning. In these terms, then, these novels are engaged in their own acts of border-crossing into a space which Johanna Drucker (2007:161) describes as a book's ability to call attention to its own processes of enunciation. There is no doubt that, when Laurence Sterne wrote Tristram Shandy in 1786, he was anticipating Safran Foer's and Danielewski's provocative works, while such border crossings have helped revolutionise book visuality and communicative power in the fields of graphic and communication design (Hickmann in Samara 2004:122).
Operationalising the printed and material surfaces of the page and book-object presupposes the visual interplay between images and texts, the use of colour and the page surface as a site of meaning rather than as a mere container of information.
Tag (Bird Brain Press, Brooklyn, NY, 2005) (Fig.13) is a collaboration between the artist Mark Wagner, photographer Kathryn Gritt and Dylan Graham who provided the lettering. The book is bound using tags cut from clothing and, like S. Ship of Theseus, contains a complex mass of media resembling a somewhat manic personal journal, complete with fabric tags to help keep track of its burgeoning content. A separate colophon book contains a plastic see-through envelope containing offcuts and thread from the making of the book as well as several pages which describe the mother-book in detail, as if Tag is in need of its own concordance, preventing it from becoming conceptually 'unstitched'.
Accompanying Tag is a gem from the Ginsberg Collection's section of Fine Press books: Pablo Neruda's Las Piedras del Cielo (Skystones) (Emanon Press; Easthampton, (Fig.14). It is made with a variety of hand-made papers, encouraging a reading which is tactile rather than machine-made in quality. Its subtle-coloured illuminations include five two-color etchings on Rives BFK and Arches which accompany the evocative poems seamlessly. On the page illustrated, the reader discovers a poem by lifting a section of the printed illustration as if the act of digging into the landscape of both illustration and page would reveal poetic jewels.
Book artist Sam Winston exploits the tactile, textured and visual qualities of type on the page via the medium of photographic polymer printing plates. Here, we include a unique letterpress printing plate made by Blinford Graphics for his work Backwords (Arc Artist Editions, London, 2013) (Fig.15).
The resulting prints and book (which we are not exhibiting as there are two other Winston books on display) provide the reader with a sense of the tactile and meandering quality of both the form and the content of the titular poem. A fine example of Winston's disintegrating and meandering, visual texts-as-imagery can be seen in A Dictionary Story (Arc Artist Editions, London, 2009) (Fig.16) about which, Winston (online) states "I wanted to see what would happen if words took on their own meanings - both inside the narrative and also typographically on the page". The back cover of the book states:
From order to chaos and back to order, Sam Winston's Dictionary Story graphically illustrates the balance between a world that's safe but boring and a high risk universe full of creative possibilities. Like people, the alphabetically constrained words yearn to release their individual potential. They want to escape the dictionary's regimentation and come together to tell a story. But when the words break free, so do their letters. They scatter and tumble across the page, reflecting meaning through visual representation. For a time it's wild and exciting but when things look to be getting out of hand the Alphabet arrives to remind everyone of their responsibilities. Order returns… but the world and it's (sic) words will never be quite the same again.
The last book in this group is Carolee Campbell's The Real World of Manuel Cordova (The Ninja Press, Sherman Oaks, CA, 1995) (Fig.17). It presents as an accordion-fold, thus the text may be unfolded and read in the hand, stanza by stanza, or opened entirely, revealing all forty-three, fourteen-line stanzas. Fully extended, the book is 4.5m long. The image of a river undulating alongside the poem is printed from photopolymer plates in five colors gradually intermingling one after the other. This is a rich, physically dense object which echoes the story on which it is based: the book about the life of Manuel Cordova Rios (1887-1978), who was kidnapped by a remote Amazonian tribe in 1907, and taught to become a shaman.
Romano Hänni's Typo Bilder Buch (Studio for Design, Basel, 2012) (Fig.18) is printed on paper towels bound between corrugated cardboard covers with a wrap-around cover which is shown separately and is extremely light for its size. In the English supplement which accompanies the book, Hänni states:
Since the invention of script and the printed word, we have lost access to pictorial statements: we have become character devout. Nonetheless, we still read images. Fluent reading is based solely on prejudices. The knowledgeable rdeaer deos not pecie toghteer indaidviul chaearcrts to from wrods but peircvees wrod imeags in tiehr etitrney. However, when reading images, signs and symbols, we seem to struggle, even though they also represent a source of information with a simultaneous effect on various levels. Initially, our visual perception looks for symmetry and a human face…. The design and sequence of the pages were intended to develop during the work process. The first printing forms were blue lines and linear frameworks at the bottom of the pages. New ideas developed during the unrolling and tearing off of double pages of paper towel as well as during composition, setup, printing, and removing of the type. The printing workshop represents the available raw materials: Lead characters, synthetics and wood, brass lines and signs, typographic sign and lead symbols. The typo pictures were composed from individual parts and printed on the hand proofing press; some of them were superimposed in several printing cycles. They are intended to mutually influence and merge into each other and to display an inner connection.
Three books represent explorations of, and meditations on, the texture of place and space, achieving these visually in imaginative and highly idiosyncratic ways. Timothy Ely's books are described by Drucker (2007:93-94) as possessing "auratic character" possessing "a sense of charged presence". Charts 6 (Unique, handmade, 1991) (Fig.19) - which was in fact included in the 'chapter' Artists' Book as Auratic Objects on the Artists' Books in the Ginsberg Collection exhibition (JAG, 1996) - demonstrates Ely's fascination with invented writing and glyphs evoking suggestions of incantations and esoteric language, charging the viewer with a desire to decipher and decode the elusive content (Drucker 2007:227). Drucker (2007:94) continues by describing Ely's books as spaces, places and worlds in which
… the book is an artifact of wisdom, recondite and … precious, available to the initiate rather than the casual or widespread reader. Ely's signature style pages combine motifs of mapping with diagrammatic forms whose suggestions of cosmological information is borne out by tiny indications in glyphic writing.
Ely's esoteric maps dialogue with the constructed ones found in Heidi Neilson's Atlas Dream Sequence (The Center for Book Arts, New York, 2011) (Fig.20). By cutting up existing maps, collaging new ones and then scanning and printing them, Neilson constructs an atlas where each page spread is an imagined magnification from the previous spread. Atlas Dream Sequence was selected by The MCBA Prize jury for special recognition of merit in 2013. In further dialogue with these two imagined maps and charts are firstly, Linda Johnson's World Wise (The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, 2003) (Fig.21) in which four tiny fold-out booklets, slip into the corners of a circular case. Each booklet is printed on map paper, originally created in the late 1800s, and contains proverbs which offer the wisdom of cultures from around the world. Secondly, Macy Chadwick's The Topography of Home (In Cahoots Press, Oakland, CA, 2009) (Fig.22). Chadwick (online) describes her book as follows:
The Topography of Home is the artist's attempted reconciliation of living in the present while longing for her remembered hometown. Letterpress printed maps convey a more emotional than geographical terrain; events and places are recorded and revisited, worried over and examined. Silk tissue apertures punctuate the pages offering the reader glimpses of previous and subsequent images. This sequential aspect of the book literally and metaphorically has the reader both seeing the past through the present and looking forward through history's gauze.
Thirdly, echoing Safran Foer's and Chadwick's cutting away, puncturing and apertures as well as Pablo Neruda's digging into a paper landscape is Julie Fleschman's No Man's Land (Unique, handmade, 1992) (Fig.23) the construction of which only allows the book to open to a single double-page spread yet allows glimpses of spaces below the surface. Fleschman's (online) reveals her process thus:
Initially I started working with books when I wanted to conceal a letter and thought about where best to do that. In a book? I felt that whichever book I chose would compel someone to reach for it. I pictured books being hollowed out to smuggle guns & jewels. From there I thought of hidden worlds, the power of words, the mystery of image & text, and of illuminated manuscripts. Certain words have captured my imagination, and you can see their traces in all my work- I'm enthralled with 'in thrall', 'gist' & 'threshold' to name a few. With my books there is one rule I am thus far unwilling to break: I will not 'cut & paste' a word when I'm cutting down to specific ones. If I don't find it, I don't use it. I've felt like an archaeologist with a book as the excavation site- hoping for & expecting a discovery, but not sure what will be found. Sometimes the reward is in the digging.
Fleschman's notion of the book, given its title, as a site of feminist archaeology, where both physical and intellectual digging and finding take place brings us to the third defining characteristics of bookness: Structure, foregrounding one of the more protean aspects - to use Renee and Judd Hubert's (1999:7) term - of artists' books' ability to interrogate the conventions by which books normally efface their identities.
Naturally each book thus far discussed has exhibited its structure as an integral element of both the design and communicative element of its existence. But because structure is often foregrounded as an element by which bookness is interrogated, we have selected a few items which bring structure to our attention in this exhibition.
Alongside No Man's Land we encounter Volume 2 of 5 volumes in the series The Mechanical Word and titled Wrecking Ball (to be) [blue] by Karen Bleitz (designer and producer), Richard Price (poetic texts) and Sean Matthews & Andy Armstrong (engineering and manufacture) (Circle Press, London; Redline CNC & Plan File Printers, 2005) (Fig.24). Bleitz (online) states:
The idea of constructing a form of 'mechanical' language began as an exploration of the idea that 'language pervades thought - with different languages causing their speakers to construe reality in different ways.' (Stephen Pinker, 1994). The first half of each volume contains a poem which illustrates how the machine acts as a part of speech. In the second half, the 'machine' is put to use in the context of a more complex 'mechanical sentence'. By turning the crank, the reader activates the second poem and is forced to address the changes created on the page. I wanted to use machines to look at the dynamic relationships - people and power relationships - that grammatical rules quietly and sometimes noisily suggest.
For Bleitz, an interactive mechanical structure facilitates the reading and transmission of poetic language. But for Julie Chen and Gerard Charriére carefully constructed and bound paper accordion-fold structures are necessary in the delivering of their content. Chen's Radio Silence (Flying Fish Press, Berkley, CA, 1995) (Fig.25) is composed of five layers of paper sewn at the fore edge. The front-most layer is a band of text, a poem about maintaining metaphoric 'radio silence' to avoid detection while trying to escape a relationship. Subsequent layers include embossed and printed paper plus aeronautical charts- all in varied and complementary shapes- against a black background page. The accordion fold structure, as we have found in Campbell's The Real World of Manuel Cordova facilitates single or multiple openings, while able to be displayed flat, upright in arabesque or in a circle shape. Charriére's L' Afrique d'Aujour d'hui (The Africa of Tomorrow) (Unique, handmade, 1991) (Fig.26) is a much shorter accordion-fold book revealing, in repeat-printed images, lines, arrows and the titular text, a pessimistic view of the future of animal life on the continent. The book's black crystalline covers reveal bone fragments or fossils, indicating that, despite the length of geological time, the actions of mankind might wipe out the natural world in an extremely short space of time.
A particular grouping of books demonstrates particular structures which help to drive their various contents forward. Stephan Erasmus's Bidmat (Prayer Mat) (Unique, handmade, Johannesburg, 2010) (Fig.27) is presented in scroll form Erasmus's fastidious and obsessive approach to his work is evident here, where every Bible verse in the Old Testament containing the word 'land' has been collected and printed. The verses of text have been cut into strips and woven into the form of a scroll with cotton thread. Every woven section contains five lines of text. This scroll formed part of an exhibition Hartland (Hart Land) in which the artist considered the complex relationship between physical and spiritual (God-given) land in religious, political and personal terms.
Words, and the alphabet in particular, are given humorous attention in three selected books. In Ronald King's Alphabeta Concertina (Circle Press, Guilford, 1983) (Fig.28) the accordion-fold structure facilitates the pop-up letters of the alphabet from each double-page opening. This exquisitely and deceptively simple white paper structure is by one of the world's foremost book artists. Displayed next to this work is A to Z (Unique, handmade, Philidelphia, 1990) (Fig.29) by the equally renowned book artist Hedi Kyle. In this book, Kyle uses a form that has become known as the Flag Book structure, perhaps the single most influential structure in the world of contemporary bookmaking. Here, this method of construction, employing tipped on image and letter fragments on alternating sides of a concertina structure, has been adopted by artists worldwide for the creation of unique and multiple bookworks. Finally, we have included one of the most commercially well-known trade books which explores the alphabet in pop-up and interactive structures. This is Marion Bataille's ABC3D (Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2008) (Fig.30). The Washington Post describes it as "Easily the most innovative alphabet book of the year, if not the decade... Beyond clever" while it's advertising blurb included this entry:
Prepare to be amazed. From the lenticular cover that changes with the angle of your hands all the way to the Z, ABC3D is as much a work of art as it is a pop-up book. Each of the 26 three-dimensional letters move and change before your eyes. C turns into D with a snap. M stands at attention. X becomes Y with a flick of the wrist. And then there's U...Boldly conceived and brilliantly executed with a striking black, red, and white palette, this is a book that readers and art lovers of all ages will treasure for years to come.
Broadsides and Prints
Why broadsides? Why not? Martin Luther used them to share his theses, Jefferson used them to declare American independence and the governor of Missouri used them to hunt down Jesse James. And those are just the obvious ones. Broadsides have a centuries old history. These leaves of paper, printed on a single side and communicating new ideas, discoveries, or must-haves, have been produced since the mid-15th century and remained a popular form of communication until the 19th century. In the beginning broadsides were primarily visual, designed to spread a message to a largely illiterate population. As times changed and the level of education expanded, broadsides relied on typography to create impact. In the mid-15th century, printed sheets depicting the passion were primarily visual, closer to today's comic books, depicting a story with woodcuts. Dürer's broadside of a rhinoceros, from a sight unseen and looking as frightening as the 16th century imagination could conjure, is heavy on the visuals but balanced with a block of text explaining the new curiosity discovered in India. Broadsides presented to newspaper and journal subscribers as a New Year's greeting begun in the 18th century and popular for generations, featured poetry and typographic boarders. These 'carrier addresses' were penned by well-known writers; others were written by the newspaper carriers but all were created for collection and display. (From: 30th Anniversary Exhibition, 2005. Center for Book Arts, New York.)
Claire van Vliet's Janus Press, Vermont, is famed not only for its fine-press and artists' books, but for its collaboration with poets and authors using the form of the Broadside, which, in postmodern terms, is perhaps definable as a book with one page. On exhibition are five of von Vliet's collaborative broadsides which feature the poet / authors Margaret Kaufman (Fig.31), William Heyen (Fig.32), Raymond Carver (Fig.33), Tess Gallagher (Fig.34) and Johanna Prins with artist Peter Schumann (Fig.35).
Finally, in honour of one of South Africa's finest examples of concrete and visual poetry we have included the silkscreen prints Verdwaalkard (Fig.36) and Min of Meer (Fig.37) from Boshoff's original print edition of KykAfrikaans (1981). Marilyn Martin (online) describes Boshoff as "a champion of the original, with a particular passion for languages under siege" and concerning KykAfrikaans she states:
A concrete or visual poem resembles a painting in that it is 'in your face' - concerned not only with its literary content, but primarily with its visual or perceivable form. Boshoff's 'poems' have been made with an ancient typewriter, in the same manner that a brush functions in painting. Today KykAfrikaans, has gained almost mythical status and occupies a respected place in the history of art and literature, both in SA and internationally.As the original KykAfrikaans manuscript forms part of the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry in Miami, Florida, our decision to include these two prints is an attempt to get as close as possible to the original two-dimensional instantiations of the original work.