Category Archives: Artists’ books

Artists’ books

Poésie pour pouvoir

Henri Michaux (1899-1984), Poésie pour pouvoir. Text and frontispiece by Michaux. Design and linocuts by Michel Tapié (Paris: René Drouin, 1949). Copy XII of 46, signed by Henri Michaux et Michel Tapié. Teak wood portfolio printed with the title and fitted with 34 steel nails. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020- in process. Provenance: Collection of Geneviève and Jean Paul Kahn.

Is there a way to release the magic of poetry stagnating within conventional printed literature? Can you make a book with the power to exorcise a condition or complaint? These are some of the questions that led to Poésie pour pouvoir, with poetry by Henri Michaux (1899-1984) integrated into pictorial linocuts by Michel Tapié (1909-1987) and published in February 1949 by Galerie René Drouin in Paris.

Only a handful of copies of this singular “book-object” as Michaux and Tapié conceived it with the nailed wood cover were completed, in fact only two others can be found in North America besides the one now held in the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton University.

A seminal work of post-war Paris, the story of Poésie pour pouvoir’s production is also magical. It began in the late 1930s with Michel Tapié’s involvement in “Les Réverbères,” a neo-Dada group, which led to his collaboration with Aline Gagnaire on the hand-printed publications Le Cheval de 4 and Deda L-E. Tapié eventually joined René Drouin’s gallery as artistic advisor, focusing on the promotion of a wide circle of artists that included Henri Michaux.

 

In 1947, Henri Michaux and his wife traveled to Egypt, where the magical power of hieroglyphics inspired the poems, “Je rame” and “À travers mers et desert.” These texts went unpublished until Tapié proposed to “put them into a space in the form of a book-object.”

Using the crisp, quick black and white technology of linoleum block printing that Tapié perfected while working with the Réverbères, he designed and cut Michaux’s words so they fluctuated between white text on black shapes and black text on white pages incorporated with his own abstract figures. The majority of the 46 copies were produced with only a paper cover.


A full recounting of the year leading up to February 1949, when the final work was exhibited at Drouin’s gallery, can be found in Tapié essay “Commentary on an exorcism,” Les Cahiers de la pléiade 1950.

“…. Mon projet de départ était de graver ce texte sur lino, le lino étant la technique la plus brutale et la plus directe des violentes oppositions de noir et de blanc, et de présenter l’ensemble des tirages dans une couverture de bois clouté, l’ensemble du travail étant jour par jour suivi et approuvé par Henri Michaux; L’esprit d’aventure qui préside aux activités de René Drouin poussa celui-ci à accepter le risque d’édition avec enthousiasme, et il mit l’équipe de sa galerie à notre disposition pour une rapide réalisation. Rapide en effet il le fallait; Michaux nous avait bien prévenus: si nous n’allions pas vite, le poème, lui, irait plus vite que nous et se retournerait contre nous… je pus assez vite graver tous les éléments n nécessaires à l’édification de la maquette complète.

The book’s construction took place at the Drouin family farm, under the daily supervision of Michaux. René Drouin (1905-1979) chose the arrangement of the nails on the covers, Aline Gagnaire (Tapié’s former collaborator) pieced together the wooden cover, and Drouin’s son, Jean-Claude, cut the nails to be hammered into the cover (originally plywood and only later teak wood).

Tapié was almost done with his share of the printing when he became ill and could not finish, leaving it to Gagnaire to complete the book. So many things went wrong, they called it was a cursed project, fueling the myth of a magical book.


As for his part, Michaux wrote:

 “La force exceptionnellement opératoire de ce poème, jointe au fait de son élection unique, centrant justement sur ce texte toutes les intentions d’intervention-de pouvoir-de l’auteur, me donna une furieuse envie d’en faire une édition où je tenterais de forcer les usages du livre dans le même rapport d’échelle qu’Henri Michaux l’avait fait ici par rapport non pas seulement à la poésie, mais même, comme je ne le sentis d’ailleurs que bien plus tard, à l’usage, par rapport à ses plus efficients exorcismes. Le problème consistait à fabriquer un objet receleur de force supportant ce texte de sorte que sa vue, son contact, tant épidermique que musculaire provoque au maximum l’expansion effective de cette force, puisque magie il y avait.

 

It is a tragedy that OCLC no longer allows local notes. To find copies that include the rare nailed wood cover, a reader must log into every library in the world individually. Otherwise they would not know, for instance, that Houghton Library has copy no. V with “unbound sheets, as issued, laid into original printed paper covers; in original hinged wooden boards, with title printed on cover, decorated with metal studs. In burlap-covered board slipcase.”

It was Tapié’s idea to pound nails into the wooden binding using the same aggressive energy as Michaux’s incantatory texts. The action references the practices of the Romans, who manufactured defixion or curse tablets, as well as African practices of incorporating nails into power figures called nkisi nkondi. The physical hammering of the nails into Poesie pour pouvoir was meant to embed magical powers into the book, just as Tapié’s pictographs unleashed the power in Michaux’s words.

 


Galerie René Drouin closed in 1950 (later revived in a different format), Michel Tapié went on to promote Art informel, from which Michaux distanced himself, continuing to draw and write in his own personal style. No other magic book-objects were attempted.

 

For more on this and other works by Michaux, see Raymond Bellour’s Henri Michaux Ouvres Complete (Gallimard, “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, 1998), https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x004550124&view=1up&seq=1276&q1=%22poesie%20pour%20pouvoir%22

Henri Michaux (1899-1984), Commentaire d’un exorcisme ([Paris: Librairie Gallimard, 1950?]). Beach 3269.96.325. Presentation copy to Sylvia Beach with inscription by Henri Michaux.

 Le Cheval de 4 (Paris: M. Tapié, A. Gagnaire, J. Jausion, H. Bernard, 1940). Graphic Arts Collection Q-000727. Issued in 4 fascicles. Each has a separate title: [no. 1] “Le Cheval de 4” (“tirage limité à 26 ex. hors commerce et 6 ex. de luxe”) ; [no. 2] “Dédal-e” (“Tirage limité à 28 ex. hors commerce et 3 ex. de luxe”) ; [no. 3] “Huit poèmes pour Cécile / Noël Arnaud” (tiré à 150 ex. environ dont 35 de luxe) ; [no. 4] “Expédition Tapié” (tiré à 27 ex.).

 

 

Also designed by Michel Tapié while at Galerie René Drouin: Francis Picabia (1879-1953), 491 (Paris, René Drouin, 4 mars 1949). Marquand Oversize ND553.P58 T36 1949e. “50 ans de plaisirs” par Michel Tapié. Catalog in newspaper format issued Mar. 4, 1949 for Picabia exhibition of 136 works dated 1897-1949.

 

A section of Poetry for Power in translation:
I row
I have cursed your brow your belly your life
I have cursed the streets your steps pursue
The objects your hand grasps
I have cursed the inside of your dreams

I have put a puddle in your eye and it no longer sees
An insect in your ear and it no longer hears
A sponge in your brain and it no longer understands

I have chilled you in the soul of your body
I have frozen you in the depth of your life
The air that you breathe suffocates you
The air that you breathe has an air of cellars
Is an air that has already been exhaled that hyenas have expelled

The dung of this air no one can breathe any longer

Your skin is moist all over
Your skin sweats the sweat of the great fear
Your armpits exhale from afar an odor of crypts
The animals halt when you pass
The dogs howl in the night their heads raised toward your house

 

 

 

The irresistible “wow” factor of Charles LeDray’s Book Ends

The unpacking and opening of this new acquisition has been documented below to avoid any misunderstandings with our reading room or the reading public. Seen here is the latest in a continuing series of deluxe limited editions published for the Library Council of the Museum of Modern Art under its editor May Castleberry.

Over the past two years Charles LeDray, an artist known for creating collections made up of a multiplicity of carefully crafted and often very small objects, produced a collection of 177 unique “used” miniature books and this week, the Graphic Arts Collection received its unique edition of LeDray’s Book Ends.

 

 

Writing for the New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl observed, “The bite-size world of LeDray’s miniature sculptures is the real world scaled to thought—which, of course, must be compact enough to fit into our crowded skulls. . . . Beyond the irresistible “wow” factor of LeDray’s workaholic perfectionism, there’s a profound delight in grasping the quiddity of a specific mop or a lonesome cinder block. Even when the works are fanciful . . . they have the obduracy of righteous Minimalism, defying associations with the cute or the twee.” —https://www.newyorker.com/goings-on-about-town/art/charles-ledray

Here is a description from MoMA: “LeDray’s volumes are miniaturized, abridged, and altered versions of eighteen used books that the artist found in secondhand shops, yard sales, or on the streets of New York and his own library. The list of eighteen . . . recall and reveal the multiple histories and fragile aspirations and creations of another era. The artist’s constructed artifacts, seemingly marked by the passage of time, illuminate the journey of a set of books through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

. . . To create miniature ephemera to be placed in each volume, he made over 1,500 drawings based on old bookplates, library cards and other printed or drawn pieces of his own invention that might have been inserted in a forgotten book. These pieces were printed by hand-letterpress by the Grenfell Press and by Peter Kruty Editions in Brooklyn.

. . . Each of these hand-sewn volumes measures less than four by five inches. Some are bound in cloth, some in paper; in all cases their covers have been foil stamped to replicate the covers of the original books. Working from LeDray’s drawings and mostly using letterpress, Miller and Ewing at the Grenfell Press, with the help of Peter Kruty Editions in Brooklyn, New York, printed over 1,100 pieces of ephemera, each unique.”

 


Of the 177 volumes, most of which went to the members of the Library Council, to libraries, and to the artist, 18 copies were set aside to make a unique sculptural set of 18 unique volumes as a gift from the artist to The Museum of Modern Art.

 

 

Read more about Charles LeDray:

https://www.icaboston.org/exhibitions/charles-ledray-workworkworkworkwork

http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/reviews/kley/charles-ledray-at-whitney-museum1-7-11.asp

https://www.speronewestwater.com/exhibitions/charles-ledray/installations

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8a5gXYzK2A

http://www.nyartbeat.com/event/2019/3DA3

https://www.peterfreemaninc.com/exhibitions/charles-ledray/press-release

 

 

VOID

With sincere thanks to Eduardo Cadava, Professor of English, and an Associate Member of the Department of Comparative Literature, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the School of Architecture, the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Graphic Arts Collection has acquired a wide variety of artists’ books and photobooks from the Athens collective known as VOID. https://void.photo/store According to their website:

“Created in October 2016, Void is a non profit organization focused on alternative publishing, exhibitions and education. Our goal is to engage in a series of projects around photography and other visual arts. We are open to new ideas, and you are more than welcome to get involved and be part of our projects. It’s our goal to make Void a platform for exchanging ideas with people living both in Greece and abroad. We have collaborated with many Greek and International photographers and institutions like American Suburb X, ISSP, Athens Photo Festival, Istanbul Photobook Festival, Lucy Art Residency, PHmuseum, LensCulture among others. If you feel like reading more about Void, here you find a nice feature by Cat Lachowskyj for LensCulture.”

The titles come in all shapes and sizes and formats including a variety of bindings, papers, and electrical devices. Each author appears to have designed their own. To see more information, check out the website where each project is described in detail.

As with several other acquisitions, this order was made long before the virus hit everyone but it was worth waiting for. Please note they are welcoming new projects and portfolios:

“Void is a small but very passionate team, formed by only 3 overworking members, struggling hard to deliver the best results to the projects that are already in-house. For this reason, be patient. If we fall in love with your project, you will know it. One day. But you will. Now, send us that PDF. We are as curious as busy.”
https://void.photo/contact

This is just a tiny sample of the 3 dozen or so publications received.

Dictionnaire botanique or livre d’artiste, take your pick

J.J. Audubon spent his life tracking and painting all the birds in America. Edward Curtis spent the majority of his adult life photographing the Indians of North America. In this extraordinary set of four volumes, a Belgian natural history enthusiast or scientist or doctor spent “most of my life” writing and illustrating a study of transformism, or what we would call evolutionary theory. And if that weren’t enough, the elephant folio Étude sur la transformisme comes with a three volume Dictionnaire botanique, every page hand written and hand colored.

This massive and extraordinary gathering of knowledge addresses everything from air currents to the working of the inner ear; from geography to biology; from Charles Darwin to Victor Hugo. The books are illustrated throughout with thousands of the watercolor paintings. It has been dated from the early 20th century, although the truth is there is no date yet found in any of the volumes. We can only hope it will catch the interest of a future researcher, patient enough to read the small print and find out the truth about the books and their anonymous author.

Étude sur la transformisme holds approximately 150 leaves, many folded, all heavily illustrated in full color. The three volume Dictionnaire botanique offers more than 1200 with several thousand color diagrams, charts, and paintings.

Although the sheer weight of the volume is pulling the paging from the binding, its impressive cover still holds the book together, offering four quotes to the reader:

La vie sans science est presque l’image de la morte, C. Volpi = Life without science is almost the image of the dead

Chercher. Comprendre. Vouloir. Pouvoir. Oser. Sentir. Méditer = Search. Understand. Want to. Power. Dare. Feel. Meditate

Naître, mourir et renaître sans cesse, telle est la loi, telle est lavie. V. Hugo = To be born, to die and to be reborn without ceasing, such is the law, such is the life.

Travailler pour être estimé. Etre estimé pour être aimé. Etre aimé pour être heureux = Work to be esteemed. To be esteemed in order to be loved. To be loved to be happy

 

 


There is the name Dumoulin, but we known absolutely nothing about him or her or them. It is unlikely this refers to the French artist Louis-Jules Dumoulin (1860–1924), who founded the Société Coloniale des Artistes Français in 1908. “Dumoulin is an Orientalist painter linked to the official artistic circles and a great traveler from the various missions that will be entrusted to him. He made his first major trip outside Europe in 1888 on the occasion of an official mission to Japan ordered by the Ministry of Education.”

 

 

 

Here is the description that comes with the set:

The large folio volume is really a huge collection of charts devoted to human anatomy, animal and plant biology, the fossil record and evolution (or transformisme). Botany makes up the largest proportion, but there are sections on insects, reptiles, birds, flying lizards, marsupials and mammals. Dumoulin also had an interest in Africa and there are sections on the Sahara and on the Belgian Congo. The focus is worldwide and is drawn from reference works rather than original research, but the arrangements are highly idiosyncratic. Several evolutionary charts are attempted, mentioning Linnaeus, Darwin, Lamarck and Jussieu.

The Dictionnaire botanique is a large 3 volume compilation mainly devoted to botanical classification, from the smallest mosses and seaweeds, to exotic flowering plants and forest trees. Like the larger folio volume, these volumes are illustrated throughout, with accompanying text in coloured inks and often containing emblematic figures of human figures appropriate to the origins of the plant: including Africans and Americans. They have apparently been bound from a large number of separate files (whose stiff paper cover with labels are preserved) each devoted to a different botanical family. The third volume contains additional materials at the end, including a study on Pasteur and germs, another on insects and another on bird classification. Like the preceding parts, these are also copiously illustrated in colour.

There is a note inserted that the author hoped his/her/their work would find its way into a university. Happily, the unusual set found a home in the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton University. Please share the few facts presented here with colleagues and let us know if you have a theory about this massive undertaking.

Guillermo Deisler and the Peacedream Project


 

The Chilean-born visual poet Guillermo Deisler (1940-1995) was imprisoned in 1973 under the Pinochet government before being exiled to France, Bulgaria, and finally Germany. It was in Halle (Saale) that he began publishing the international mailart portfolio known as the Peacedream project UNI/vers(;) together with Hans Braumüller, Theo Breuer, David Chikladze (Georgia), Pedro-Juan Gutierrez (Cuba), Joseph Huber (Germany), César Figueiredo (Portugal), K. Takeishi-Tateno (Japan), Spencer Selby (USA) and many others.

“For the Latin Americans,” wrote Deisler, “including some of us right now, that voluntarily or driven by political circumstances are obligated to exile, those that work in ‘art by mail’ transform into a palliative that neutralizes this situation of ‘deceased citizens,’ the name coined by Paraguayan writer Augusto Roa Bastos for this massive emigration of cultural workers from the South American continent”

Published between 1987 and 1995 in 35 numbers, Deisler edited each issue focused on visual and experimental poetry. “The project encouraged visual and experimental artists to submit 100 works. 40 artists were put together in one issue, each artist receiving a copy of the magazine. Uni/vers (;) transmitted messages and poetry with simple matters. It was poetic communication bearing in mind the mass being available. In its best case an issue was simultaneous poetry in a collective form without censorship or borders.”–From http://centrodedocumentaciondelasartes.cl.;

The Graphic Arts Collection is fortunate to acquire a partial run of UNI/vers(;) as well as a small group of his artists’ books and concrete poetry.

Guillermo Deisler (1940-1995), Exclusivo hecho para usted (Juego) (Antofagasta, 1971). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020- in process

Gregorio Berchenko, Knock-out: poemas visuales / Gregorio Berchenko; cubierto, Guillermo Deisler (Antofagasta, Chile: ediciones Mimbre, [1971?]). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020 in process

Guillermo Deisler (1940-1995), Poemas visivos y proposiciones a realizer (Antofagasta: Ediciones Mimbre, 1972). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020 in process

Guillermo Deisler (1940-1995), Poesia visiva en el mundo / selección y notas de Guillermo Deisler (Antofagasta, Chile: Ediciones Mimbre, [1972?]). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020 in process

Guillermo Deisler (1940-1995), Le cerveau (Marseille: Nouv. Eds. Polaires, 1975). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020 in process

Guillermo Deisler (1940-1995), Stamp, 1990. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020 in process

Guillermo Deisler (1940-1995), UNI/vers(;): visuelle und experimentelle Poesie international: Magazin 1 / 5 jahre 5 years peacedream project uni/vers(;) 1984 – 1992 / peacedream project uni/vers(;) visuelle und experimentelle … (Berlin, 1992-1994). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020 in process
See all issues online: https://www.fondazionebonotto.org/en/collection/fluxus/deislerguillermo/8403.html

Guillermo Deisler (1940-1995), Everything I do is poetry (Cleveland, OH: Generator Press, 1996). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020 in process

Anaïs Nin and Surrealist Films


Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) is famous for her diaries but she also wrote a book of surrealist prose poetry titled The House of Incest that was first self-published in Paris under Siana Editions (her name spelled backwards) and in New York with two second editions under her Gemor Press (limited edition shown above). An early inspiration for this book was the 1928 German film Alraune or the 1930 adaptation by Richard Oswald.

 


 

One year after her first edition appeared, her lover Henry Miller wrote his own interpretation of The House of Incest, titled Scenario, self-published under the Obelisk Press imprint in July 1937 in an edition of 200 copies with a frontispiece illustration by Abraham Rattner (an American artist living in Paris).

“I hate Scenario,” wrote Nin, “and I never had the courage to tell Henry. It is the worst and basest product of our association and collaboration. In his hands all my material was changed, the very texture of House of Incest was changed. He wrote Scenario but the ideas were mine, all of them. He only added Henry-like touches; doves coming out of asses, skeletons, noise, and things I don’t like, loud and filmlike, the opposite of House of Incest. He concretized it, it smells of L’Age d’or, Dali paintings, it is absolutely lacking in originality. A monstrous deformed bastard child born of our two styles and a caricature of mine. And worst of all, to me (and I never forgot the day I received it in New York), it revealed how Henry had not penetrated the meaning of House of Incest, could not.”–Nearer the Moon (1996), p. 107.

 


All of Nin’s projects were funded by her husband Hugh Parker Guiler (pen name Ian Hugo, 1898-1985). A banker by trade, Guiler also studied engraving with Stanley William Hayter and printed the images for many of his wife’s books, later branching out into experimental filmmaking. Bells of Atlantis (1952) featured Nin reading from House of Incest, with a soundtrack of electronic music by their friends Louis and Bebe Barron.


Ian Hugo, Bells of Atlantis (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1952). “Evokes the atmosphere of another life, time and another world which the author identifies with Atlantis. The accompanying images of this “cinematic poem” suggest the mythical drowned kingdom and the aqueous beauty of the lost continent.” Based in part on Anais Nin’s The House of Incest. Director, Ian Hugo, assisted by Len Lye; narrator, Anais Nin; music, Louis and Bebe Barron.

A costume party the following year, “Come as your madness,” inspired Kenneth Anger’s film The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, in which Nin appeared as Astarte, the goddess of fertility.

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977), The House of Incest (Paris: Siana éditions, 1936). “The first edition consist of two hundred forty nine copies, printed on excelsior cartridge paper, signed by the author, and numbered 1 to 249: printed in 1936.” Special Collections, Sylvia Beach Collection, 3875.4.347

Henry Miller (1891-1980), Scenario: (a film with sound); with a frontispiece by Abraham Rattner (Paris: Obelisk Press, 1937). “This the original edition, published in 1937, is limited to two hundred copies assigned by the author and numbered 1 to 200.” “This scenario is directly inspired by a phantasy called “The House of incest,” written by Anaïs Nin”–3rd prelim. leaf.

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977), House of Incest (New York: Gemor Press, 1947). Limited to 50 copies. Graphic Arts Collection GAX in process

Borderbus by Juan Felipe Herrera


Borderbus. Poem by Juan Felipe Herrera. Prints by Felicia Rice. Introduction by Carmen Giménez Smith (Santa Cruz, CA: Moving Parts Press, 2019). Letterpress printed using Garamond, Meridien, and Ultra types from photopolymer plates on Rives BFK paper. Binding by Craig Jensen of BookLab II. 8 x 13 inches (extends to 17 feet). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020- in process

 

Thanks to the assistance of our colleagues in Latin American Studies, the Graphic Arts Collection is proud to acquire a limited edition artists’ book by Juan Felipe Herrera and Felicia Rice.

Borderbus is a rendering of one long poem by Juan Felipe Herrera. The poem takes place on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus. Two women have been detained while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, and are being transported to a detention center. They speak in English and Spanish, whispering to avoid the attention of the guard. The text is embedded in prints by the artist/publisher and interpreted in audio recordings of the poem.

One interesting element with the volume is a usb drive included with Borderbus contains two audio versions of the poem, Borderbus. The first is a moving reading of the poem in two voices, by Marisol Baca and Gabriela D. Encinas, directed by Juan Felipe Herrera and recorded by Curtis Messer. The second is a recording of Herrera reading the poem.


Felicia Rice is a book and performance artist, typographer and letterpress printer, printmaker, publisher, and educator. A student of the history of the book and printing, she also utilizes digital technology to produce limited edition artists books. Rice has collaborated with visual artists, performance artists, and writers under the Moving Parts Press imprint since 1977. Work from the Press has been included in exhibitions from New York to Mexico DF to Japan. Her books are held in library and museum collections worldwide and she has been the recipient of many awards and grants, from the NEA to the French Ministry of Culture.

 

Critic Stephen Burt praised Herrera in the New York Times as one of the first poets to successfully create “a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too.”

In 2012, Herrera was named California’s poet laureate, and the U.S. poet laureate in 2015. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN West Poetry Award. His honors include the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows. He has also received several grants from the California Arts Council.

“In a 2004 interview at CSU-Fresno, Herrera noted the influences of three distinct Californias—the small agricultural towns of the San Joaquin Valley he knew as a child, San Diego’s Logan Heights, and San Francisco’s Mission District—on his work: “all these landscapes became stories, and all those languages became voices in my writing, all those visuals became colors and shapes, which made me more human and gave me a wide panorama to work from.” Influenced by Allen Ginsberg, Herrera’s poetry brims with simultaneity and exuberance, and often takes shape in mural-like, rather than narrative, frames.”

 


Borderbus [selection] by Juan Felipe Herrera
A dónde vamos where are we going
Speak in English or the guard is going to come
A dónde vamos where are we going
Speak in English or the guard is gonna get us hermana
Pero qué hicimos but what did we do
Speak in English come on
Nomás sé unas pocas palabras I just know a few words

You better figure it out hermana the guard is right there
See the bus driver

Tantos días y ni sabíamos para donde íbamos
So many days and we didn’t even know where we were headed

I know where we’re going
Where we always go
To some detention center to some fingerprinting hall or cube
Some warehouse warehouse after warehouse

Pero ya nos investigaron ya cruzamos ya nos cacharon
Los federales del bordo qué más quieren
But they already questioned us we already crossed over they
already grabbed us the Border Patrol what more do they want

We are on the bus now
that is all
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/91751/borderbus

Need a Project no. 10? Music of the Spheres

Linda Connor and Charles Simic, On the Music of the Spheres. Artists and writers series 16. Limited ed. of 250 copies ([New York]: Library Fellows of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1996). ReCAP Marquand Oversize TR654 .C65472 1996q

On the Music of the Spheres presents 15 tipped in tritone reproductions of Linda Connor’s gold toned printing out prints along with the poetry of Charles Simic. The results are astoundingly beautiful. One hundred copies were specially bound and signed by the poet and photographer with an additional platinum palladium print, signed by Connor, loosely inserted. The publication was named the 1998 Best Book of the Year from 21st- A Contemporary Photography Journal.

 

 


Writing for the New York Times, Phyllis Braff keenly observed

“Linda Connor stakes out ambitious visual and conceptual themes for her photographic projects, and her art has been earning wide respect for several decades. Her base is California, but she travels the world to gather content.” In reviewing On the Music of the Spheres, Braff continues “The territory Ms. Connor chooses to explore is nothing less than the heavens. Turning the idea into a multifaceted essay that stimulates the mind as well as the eye, she interweaves her prints made from the glass plates of 19th-century astrological photographers with her images of indoor and outdoor settings that portray heavenly light. Photographs of illumination entering ancient holy places in India, Turkey, Egypt and Tibet seem to subtly depict the sun’s rays as carriers of spiritual messages and these images are rather magical. Quite stunning, too, is the attention to architecture and to its use in building dramatic pictorial structure.”– Phyllis Braff, “Capturing the Elusive: Music of the Spheres,” New York Times December 15, 1996.


As noted by the Poetry Foundation, “Charles Simic is widely recognized as one of the most visceral and unique poets writing today. His work has won numerous awards, among them the 1990 Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” the Griffin International Poetry Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, and the appointment as US poet laureate. He taught English and creative writing for over 30 years at the University of New Hampshire. Although he emigrated to the US from Yugoslavia as a teenager, Simic writes in English, drawing upon his own experiences of war-torn Belgrade to compose poems about the physical and spiritual poverty of modern life. Liam Rector, writing for the Hudson Review, has noted that the author’s work “has about it a purity, an originality unmatched by many of his contemporaries.”

The project for the week is: Look up.

See also Simic’s The White Room: https://poets.org/poem/white-room
 
It begins:
The obvious is difficult
To prove. Many prefer
The hidden. I did, too.
I listened to the trees. . .

 

 

Ricky Jay’s Magic Magic Book

Ricky Jay (1946-2018), The Magic Magic Book: an inquiry into the venerable history & operation of the oldest trick conjuring volumes, designated ‘blow books’… / adorned with original renderings from the ateliers of these esteemed delineators of artistic impression, Vija Celmins, Jane Hammond, Glenn Ligon, Justen Ladda, Philip Taaffe, William Wegman ; embellished with ancient iconography from the collection of the author of this curious compendium, Ricky Jay (New York: Library Fellows of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1994). Copy 247 of 300. 2 volumes. Special Collections GAX GV1559 .J39


“The edition is three hundred copies, numbered one to three hundred. Ninety copies are reserved for the collaborators and sixty are reserved for the members of the Library Fellows. The first eighty copies are accompanied by an additional suite of prints.”–colophon

“The text volume was designed by Patrick Reagh and Ricky Jay and edited by Susan Green; the blow book was designed by Patrick Reagh, Ricky Jay, and Leslie Miller, with May Castleberry.”–colophon

 

 

Beginning in 1990, Jay spent four years working with May Castleberry, then at the Whitney Museum of American Art, on a two-volume set called The Magic Magic Book. One volume presents Jay’s historical essay on the magician’s conjuring book known as a “blow book,” and the second volume is a blow book using images from contemporary American artists including Vija Celmins, Jane Hammond, Glenn Ligon, Philip Taaffe, and William Wegman.


Blow books have special manipulatable tabs that make the content of the book appear to change. Each time the magician flips through the book the contents appear different. “With a flick of the finger, the performer can make a range of images appear and then disappear.” Here is a twitter video of Brandon Sheffield flipping through the Magic Magic Book: https://twitter.com/i/status/1080186210625249281

 

Some sources list the earliest known mention of the blow book as by Gerolamo Cardano in 1550, who described the trick by mentioning “conjurors show different and always unlike pictures in one and the same book.” Another early mention is by Reginald Scot in his book The Discoverie of Witchcraft, published in 1584.


In 2014, Ricky Jay appear at the New York Public Library’s “Live at the NYPL” series to talk about The Magic Magic Book. Although a video of the 1 ½ hour conversation is not available, there is an audio recording and a complete transcription: https://www.nypl.org/audiovideo/ricky-jay. Jay comments,

“I had been researching for some years the history of something called the blow book, which was the oldest trick book in the world. It’s more of a prop than an actual book and there had never been a history of it. And if you can see this this is just the title page announcing that this is a history of The Magic Magic Book and it was called the blow book, because whoever blew on the pages was able to make the images on the pages change I think the quote was “many several ways.” And this particular book was a collaboration with a number of well-known modern artists, Vija Celmins, Jane Hammond, Glenn Ligon, Justen Ladda, who made this beautiful case, Philip Taaffe, and William Wegman.

And so I visited the studios of these artists with May Castleberry to talk about images they had that might have to do with magic, but basically this first volume was a history of how these blow books had been made and used going back to the sixteenth century and the two major sixteenth-century books on magic, Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft in England and Jean Prévost’s wonderful working book of magic in French, both published in 1584, both have explanations of the making and presentation of this thing called a blow book, and they’re completely different, which is interesting, and then the blow book that we have from the New York Public Library that I’ll show you in a minute is also slightly different, and so we decided to re-create a blow book, and we literally made this. I daresay this was the greatest miscalculation of time in my life because this took an enormous amount of time to do as a pro bono job, but I’m incredibly proud of it.

…And it was performed—in this history of the blow book, I talk about it being performed by magicians for years. At times it was an incredibly cherished, very expensive item in their repertoire. Certainly that was true in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. By the early nineteenth century, magicians often sold them after their shows, as a prop and also as a trick to garner money for the magicians and a little bit of publicity. But when I wrote the book, the earliest blow book extant was a seventeenth-century book probably printed in Belgium, completely manuscript. And, if you recall, the last thing I flipped through were a series of devils. They came from that book….”

See also: Reginald Scot (1538?-1599), The Discouerie of Witchcraft, Wherein the Lewde Dealing of Witches and Witchmongers is Notablie Detected…Heerevnto is Added a Treatise Vpon the Nature and Substance of Spirits and Diuels, etc.: all latelie written by Reginald Scot ([London, William Brome] 1584). Rare Books GR535.S41

See also: https://graphicarts.princeton.edu/2017/10/31/bilder-zauberei/

See also: https://rickyjay.com/

 

 

How to improve the world (you will only make matters worse)


Five hours of John Cage reading from his Diary: How to Improve the World (You will Only Make Matters Worse) are posted at UbuWeb, Sound: http://www.ubu.com/sound/cage_diary.html. “Recorded June 22-24, 1991 at Powerplay Recording Studios, Maur, Switzerland. During the recording in the studio each change of typography in the printed text of the “Diary” corresponded to a change in the stereophonic position and a simultaneous change in the volume of John Cage’s voice.”

In 1990, John Cage (1912-1992) wrote an autobiographical statement that ran several pages in length. Here is a section that concerns his Diary:

“In the sixties the publication of both my music and my writings began. Whatever I do in the society is made available for use. An experience I had in Hawaii turned my attention to the work of Buckminster Fuller and the work of Marshall McLuhan. Above the tunnel that connects the southern part of Oahu with the northern there are crenellations at the top of the mountain range as on a medieval castle. When I asked about them, I was told they had been used for self protection while shooting poisoned arrows on the enemy below. Now both sides share the same utilities. Little more than a hundred years ago the island was a battlefield divided by a mountain range. Fuller’s world map shows that we live on a single island. Global Village (McLuhan), Spaceship Earth (Fuller). Make an equation between human needs and world resources (Fuller). I began my Diary: How to Improve the World: You Will Only Make Matters Worse. Mother said, “How dare you!

I don’t know when it began. But at Edwin Denby’s loft on 21st Street, not at the time but about the place, I wrote my first mesostic. It was a regular paragraph with the letters of his name capitalized. Since then I have written them as poems, the capitals going down the middle, to celebrate whatever, to support whatever, to fulfill requests, to initiate my thinking or my nonthinking (Themes and Variations is the first of a series of mesostic works: to find a way of writing that, though coming from ideas, is not about them but produces them). I have found a variety of ways of writing mesostics: Writings through a source: Rengas (a mix of a plurality of source mesostics), autokus, mesostics limited to the words of the mesostic itself, and “globally,” letting the words come from here and there through chance operations in a source text.”


The first installment of his Diary appeared in Clark Coolidge’s magazine Joglars 1, no. 3 (1966) p. 61-68 (Online and RCPXR-8000253) and reprinted in Aspen magazine the following year. The second installment was published in the Paris Review 11, issue 40 (Winter/Spring 1967): 52-68 (online and recap AP4 .P375). All were printed with black type on white paper using only one font regular, bold, and italic. When the text appear in its own publication in the Great Bear Pamphlet series Cage added additional fonts and colors. These three were republished in A Year from Monday (1967) as installment four and so on, through nine differing installments. Here are pdf files of three versions: cage5, cage2, cage

Paris Review added a preface: “This article presents a piece of writing by John Cage titled “Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)” which consists of seventeen pages filled with seemingly unrelated sentences strung together in a variety of typefaces. Topics mentioned include chess, aquariums, rock and roll radio, conscientious objectors, bodhisattvas, eugenics, clams, marijuana, Abraham Lincoln, “Love’s Body,” cacti, mushrooms, drugs, garbage cans, LSD, the gold standard, Marcel Duchamp, cows and television.”

The most recent installment from Siglio Press in 2019 is an expanded paperback edition reproducing the 2015 hardcover edition of Parts I-VIII along with previously unpublished material from Cage’s incomplete Part IX. Holland Cotter reviewed the new edition for the New York Times stating, “Over sixteen years, beginning in 1965, John Cage compiled anecdotes, observations and koanlike tales, originally typing everything on an IBM Selectric and using chance methods to determine the formatting of texts that twist down each page. The Siglio [hardcover] edition preserves the graphic effects, but, more important, it gives a sense of the company he kept during these years—Marcel Duchamp, R. Buckminster Fuiller, D.T. Suzuki—and of his passionate feeling about a world locked in a state of perpetual warfare. Cage has a reputation for being a Zen-inspired wit. He was also much more, an intensely engaged moral thinker.”

John Cage (1912-1992), Diary: how to improve the world (you will only make matters worse) Continued, part three, 1967 (W. Glover, Vt.: Something Else Press, 1967). Graphic Arts Collection 2006-1991N and recap-92727500. Gift of James Welling, 2019.