Fictional Landscapes

I am a sucker for art that uses tiny plastic people — like Slinkachu’s public art works or Lisa Swerling’s Glass Cathedrals — and Kyle Kirkpatrick’s altered-book landscapes are no exception. These put a smile on my face the second I saw them on Colossal Art & Design; I think they are really lovely. You can see more of Kirkpatrick’s work here.

Colossal Art & Design found these via I want your lungs to stop working without me, which I think is a fantastic and hysterical blog name.

Maria Fischer — Traumgedanken

I am sort of in love with Maria Fischer‘s Traumgedanken (Thoughts on Dreams). It combines so many things that I love: embroidery (or at least thread), artist’s books, using design to add meaning. I feel like I would need to see this book to fully understand all the levels of connectivity, but what I understand based on these photos is that this book is beautiful.

Here is what Maria has to say about her book:

The book “Traumgedanken” (“Thoughts on dreams”) contains a collection of literary, philosophical, psychological and scientifical texts which provide an insight into different dream theories.

To ease the access to the elusive topic, the book is designed as a model of a dream about dreaming. Analogue to a dream, where pieces of reality are assembled to build a story, it brings different text excerpts together. They are connected by threads which tie in with certain key words. The threads visualise the confusion and fragileness of dreams.

On five pages there are illustrations made out of thread. Their shape and colour relies on the key words on the opposite page. This way an abstract image of the dream about dreaming is generated.

In addition there are five pages where a significant excerpt from a text of the opposite page is stitched into the paper. It is not legible because the type’s actual surface is inside the folded page. This expresses the mysteriousness of dreams and the aspect of dream interpretation.

Many thanks to Jason for sending this our way!

Tree of Codes, Part 2: Visual Editions Interview!

Some of our readers may remember our post a few weeks back about the Nov 15 release Jonathan Safran Foer (by way of Bruno Schulz) book Tree of Codes. We got a chance to get the ear of publisher Visual Editions‘ Anna Gerber & Britt Iversen and ask them a few questions.

Owen Troy: Congrats on your edition of Tristam Shandy. You’ve not only reproduced Sterne’s formal experiments but layered on some new ones. Can you tell us a little bit about the making of this edition, and maybe where it sits relative to the history of printings of the book?

Visual Editions: We haven’t so much layered new experiments, more than anything, we’ve enhanced the elements that were already there (the missing chapter is now perforated pages) and introduced entirely new ones (a shut door is now a folded page). The book is so playful, so irreverent and we thought it was a shame that the “classics” editions didn’t do anything to help readers see and feel that playfulness. The current editions seem to be more about printing onto cheap paper, in as few pages as possible, rather than trying to get anything close to getting the book’s spirit across. When we briefed APFEL (the design studio we worked with on the book) that’s just what we said: make this book relevant again because that’s what it and its audiences deserves, and be sure you have fun doing it.

OT: We’re really excited about Tree of Codes. We heard Jonathan Safran Foer’s account of how it came to pass that he’d be doing a book for Visual Editions but we’d love to your side of the initial contact?

VE: We’re really excited about it, too. We wrote Jonathan a sort of “love letter”. We had just started talking about the idea for Visual Editions and thought: Jonathan Safran Foer explores this kind of writing better than any other contemporary writer. So we emailed him, told him what we had in mind for VE and said something like “while we can’t offer you money, there are plenty of other things we can offer you.” We signed a two book deal with him shortly after.

OT: And then when he reached the conclusion that he wanted a book where each page was individually diecut, did you agree to it in advance of finding a printer capable of producing it? Was there ever a worry that it mightn’t be possible?

VE: Yes and yes. We made initial contact with the printers who produced Olafur Elliason’s House book [Your House], who said it was possible. But what they said was possible was very different to how we ended up having the book made. They said making something by hand in a very small quantity was possible. When we first started approaching printers with the view to mass produce the book, we literally got turned down by every single printer. They just kept saying that it wasn’t technically feasible. Die Keure in Belgium were the first printers who were up to the challenge, but there were even moments with them when they said the tests weren’t working. We just kept saying, we’ve got to find a way to make this work. And we did.

OT: You have on your website images of other visual innovations in the book form. Do you include these as a sort of primer into the tradition you will be creating books in? Or are you positioning VE as a sort of nexus of a community larger than just the books it publishes?

VE: That’s an interesting question. The images of other books are other examples of what we’re calling “visual writing”. Visual writing is the starting point for our press: we’re only setting out to publish books that are as visually engaging as the stories they tell. And the idea to include other images was to say, look, this has been done before, but never as the driving force behind a publisher. We also think it’s the right time, in terms of how we read, how books are being made, how books are being thought of, to be publishing visually rich books that also tell wonderful stories (in sometimes unexpected ways).

OT: Do you think there’s a line between books that use visual or formal innovation and “artist’s books?” Or is this largely a distinction of production and marketing, where Tree of Codes might otherwise have been an edition of 100 and sold only at Printed Matter, but you’re able to bring to a wider readership? Marketing is the key component for this success. If you want better marketing strategies then check out Victorious SEO for some new marketing strategies. 

VE: There’s a long and rich history of artists books which is a very separate area to what we’re setting out to do. One of our biggest ambitions is for our books to have a democratic reach. The main reason for this is because we think that more people read in a visual way. One of our visions, from the start, has been for our books to be read on the London Tube or the New York subway. Our books are produced to be durable and robust, not precious or niche. You’ll see that Tree of Codes, despite having holes on every page, feels very familiar as a book. It’s not only easy to handle, but most importantly, it’s easy to read. Which is just what we set out to do – for our books to be read, not just looked at.

[Note: This question sort of inspired an extended blog post from VE that expands upon this answer]

[More than just familiar as a book… in these pics it reminds me of one of Keith A Smith’s books about book form. Happy coincidence or sly book design?]

OT: Are there other books in the public domain or authors with an experimental bent that you have your eye on? Anything you want to share about upcoming releases?

VE: Our next book is a re-issue of the first ever “book in a box”: Composition No.1 by Marc Saporta and was first published in the early 1960s. Universal Everything, who mostly do screen-based interactive work, are designing the book for us, which we’re really really excited about. That’s set to come out next Spring.

Thanks for taking the time, Anna and Britt!

Original French edition of Composition No. 1, taken by Jill Walker

TypograFriday: Tree of Codes Part 1

I heard Jonathan Safran Foer speak with Vendela Vida (yep, co-editor of my favorite magazine ever) the other night as part of the excellent series City Arts and Lectures. After talking lucidly at length about his nonfiction book on the ethical implications of meat, Eating Animals, Vida asked him about a new book he had just finished called Tree of Codes. She showed him a copy (which is one of only ten dummies of the work extant) and he couldn’t contain his curiosity; he hadn’t actually seen it yet.

He was fascinated by his own work for this reason: he didn’t write the words to this book, and its form is rather interesting. London upstart/art publishers Visual Editions reportedly came to him with this offer: “we can’t pay you, but on the other hand we’ll make any sort of book you can imagine.” Their second book, after their ambitious edition of Tristram Shandy, will be his reaction to this challenge (“It’s gonna have to be really interesting to make that worth it”). All the words were written by Bruno Schultz, in his classic collection Street of Crocodiles. What Safran Foer brought to the work was, well, scissors.

Inspired by FBI, wartime or totalitarian redaction of documents, and by Schultz’ own erasure — Safran Foer called the work an “erased text” and told a little bit of the fate of Schultz, who was spared death for a time during the Holocaust by painting murals for a Nazi officer that were subsequently obscured, revealed, and smuggled from Poland by the Mossad — Safran Foer clipped away words revealing a new text: Street of Crocodiles. Visual Editions found a printer willing and able to make it: the published book, incredibly, will be diecut with a different die for every page.

He described the process as something he expected to be fun but was in fact very frustrating. But, one excellent quote from the evening was something like “as time goes on I have less and less faith that I can write something good, but I have more and more faith in accidents.” The juxtapositions and phrases he found in the process are all creative accidents: they surprised him and were not what he would have come to with his own devices.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled about the book. It’s right up my alley. I am fascinated by redaction and erasure. I like diecuts quite a bit. And, not only does it conjure memories of Street of Crocodiles (which is great, distinctly textured, both as a collection and as a somewhat different film by the Brothers Quay — the entirety of which is in two clips after the jump) but of experimental writings I have loved.

Burroughs used cut-ups. Oulipo writers have some games that start with found texts or otherwise artificially limiting word selection to force the creative accident. I dig artists books. And my favorite artist book ever, A Humument, is a  similar project to this one. I first encountered A Humument when its pages were exhibited at the museum when I was a kid. I found an edition years later as if from a remembered dream, and have bought three or four copies since. Artist Tom Phillips painted and drew directly over pages of the Victorian novel A Human Document, leaving words joined by proximity or rivers of white space to make new prose-poems (and a sort-of narrative starring a hero named “toge” who can only appear by name when the original text speaks of togetherness) with the remaining words; for each subsequent edition he’s repainted some pages differently so that the overall text changes over time, eventually becoming a wholly different piece than the original.

More pics after the jump and the whole thing here.

Continue reading TypograFriday: Tree of Codes Part 1

nicholas jones

I’ve been admiring Australian artist, Nicholas Jones’ work from afar for years. It’s amazing what shapes and textures he creates with each book.