I have a deck of cards that I use with my students when they are ‘stuck’ or just for fun. It has categories of cards for structure, paper, layout, technique, text, image, color and a basic description. Then there are adjective cards. I will draw a set of cards for you and send you this ‘recipe’. You will make a book or book-like project, should be for sale, need not be an edition, due at the gallery on January 31st.
I agreed to take part and a few days later I received a second email, this time with the hand I’d been dealt:
Imagery: none *
Structure: unbound/boxed **
Text: collaborate with writer/poet/other ***
Layout: across folds
Technical: hand drawn, painted/collaged, etc. ****
Paper: pre-treated, crumpled, painted, pasted, etc. *****
Adjectives: personal, scientific, ordinary, complicated, colorful
* Wait, what?
** That’s just lazy!
*** But I don’t even like other people.*
**** Drawing? You mean like in a draft?
***** I’m sorry, did you say “crumpled?” Like when you throw something in the garbage?
Barb let me know I had the option to throw one or two of these cards back and redraw, but the hand seemed so unlike me that I wanted to see what on earth I would do. So I told her I would stick with the hand I was dealt.
Step One: Find a writer/poet/other.
Enter David Allen, currently a Biology professor at Middlebury. I asked Dave to send me some portions of text from his PhD dissertation for the University of Michigan. After reading five or six excerpts, I selected this one:
“Simulations on a two-dimensional grid reveal that if the conditions are met to destabilize the spatially homogenous equilibrium then individual patches cycle out of phase with their neighbors. At any particular time the grid has a checkerboard-like structure (Figure 2.1), and through time individual patches exhibit a two-cycle.”
Clear as day, right? And as if the meaning wasn’t obvious enough, we’ve got Figure 2.1 to rely on!
You still don’t understand? I’m sorry, haven’t you ever taken a Science class? Are you a cave person who stumbled into a time machine? Ok fine, just kidding, neither did I. Working together, Dave and I pared the text down to the following: Simulations on a two-dimensional grid reveal that if conditions are met to destabilize the equilibrium, individuals cycle out of phase with their neighbors. Somehow this now feels like a universal text, open-ended enough to invite us in and call for different interpretations. Collaboration accomplished.
Step Two: Pre-treat some paper
Ok, so I am not a pre-treater of paper. I think about that kind of activity the same way I think about catching moonbeams in jars or painting with my own body. But I am not one to ignore instructions from the Artist Book Ideation Deck, so I took a deep breath and began. Here is something crumpled then drawn then painted:
Around this point, I started thinking about crumpling again. When it comes down to it, crumpling is just folding. And I like folding. And my hand of cards included the instruction: “Layout: across folds.” Here is something printed, drawn, folded, painted, punched and waxed:
Step Three: Continue along those lines.
Now was the time to begin working the paper treatment into the text until they were talking about the same thing. Eventually, I had a working draft, a series of loose sheets that described the narrative introduced by the text with a combination of pen and ink lines, holes, and folded paper:
Here are some obvious facts: This book is not colorful. This book has imagery. This book is not personal. When confronted with these facts I say: not colorful IS my favorite color. This book has no TRADITIONAL imagery. What IS personal, anyway? This exercise is designed to give some parameters and structure that get the brain moving, but not put a person in a strangle hold.
I loved working on this project. It allowed me to try some completely new things. I’ve never waxed paper in my life, but found it strangely addictive. And this folding business is so exciting that it might just show up again soon in other projects. I am continuing to sharpen this project up, and despite the hand-drawn/folded/waxed nature of the book, I still want to edition it. Because that’s my game, ladies and gentlemen. Stay tuned for the final version, soon to ship off to California.
If any of you are headed to the Codex International Book Fair (which I swear I will go to one day,) this show will be opening the Saturday evening just before it kicks off. Other artists who are contributing books generated by the Artist Book Ideation Deck include Barb Tetenbaum herself, Clifton Meador, Julie Chen, Karen Kunc, Macy Chadwick, Pati Scobey, Phil Zimmerman, and many other interesting artists. I wish I could go. The deck will be on sale. (I’m going to get a copy and maybe you want one, too?)
*Actually, I do like other people.
A note from Barb Tetenbaum:
For all of your readers who might be interested, The Artist’s Book Ideation Cards are being printed this week and hopefully will be available during the Codex fair and at the Seager Gray Gallery. If you are interested in a deck, contact myself or Julie Chen through firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie and I decided to offer the cards (a two deck set in a plastic box) through the month of February for the introductory price of $25. After it will go up to $30.
Barb Tetenbaum email@example.com