“The role of the text is to put the image in a state of crisis.” ~ Alain Robbe-Grillet
“What is the Shape of this Problem?” ~ Louise Bourgeois
“How To Mail A Book” arises from a lineage of artists’ books distributed as mail art, tied to artists like Ray Johnson and movements like Fluxus, among other influences. Each postcard in this mailable “catalogue” represents part of an exhibition at Kenyon College in Spring 2012, exhibited in the College’s Greenslade Special Collections & Archives. The artists were students in Ellen Sheffield’s course in Book Arts. Each transformed a copy of the published book, Galerie de Difformité, to alter and extend the definition of “deformity” beyond its historical connotation. (By way of assignment, along with their represented object, they were asked to submit a written artist statement with their materials and a re-definition of “deformity” using metaphor(s) tied to their alteration, like: “Deformity is a bird hatching from a painted egg. Deformity is the act of peeling away old wallpaper to reveal what lies underneath.” Our in-class discussions revolved around concept and materials, form and content, and how artists implicate themselves and their viewers in the making of meanings. Deformations ranged from a bird’s nest to a garden, palm-reading to a castle, eye glasses and more. “How To” instructions move beyond mailing to “How to Hatch a Book” to “How to Grow a Book” to “How to Listen to a Book,” and more. Beyond what is represented here, some students also explored new technologies, including temporary extensions/installations in SoundCloud, YouTube, and other online supplements. The exhibition in the Special Collections included an opening reception to celebrate the students’ works, each of which were displayed and captioned by title, artist, and redefinition of “deformity.”
Each postcard includes the students’ “deformation” of the book (front) and their redefinition of “deformity” (back). The back is formatted as a postcard, with white space for a sender’s message, mailing address, and stamp. To re-assemble this chapbook and/or mail individual postcards, click on the images, save them to your computer, and print front-to-back (or cut and paste), and mail away! To make the enclosure, download this marbled paper, then print, cut, and fold (coming soon).
- How To Review a Book (Four Eyes, after Exhibit K, by Madeline Gobbo)
- How To Hatch a Book (Nest, after Exhibit R, by Kat O’Hara)
- How To Surf a Book (Tidal, after Exhibit O, by Leslie Lasiter)
- How To Listen to a Book (White Noise, after Exhibit U, by Claire Buss)
- How To Contain a Book (Pandora’s, after Exhibit M, by Irene McIntosh)
- How To Protect a Book (What To Do When Being Chased by The Monster, after Exhibit C, by Zachary Katz-Stein)
- How To Dive Into A Book (The Wrecked Names, after Exhibit A, by Caitlin Fitzpatrick)
- How To Grow A Book (Jardin de Difformité, after Exhibit G, by Sara Baicker-McKee)
- How To Smoke a Book (Constriction, after Exhibit J, by Susannah Rosenfield)
- How To Survive a Book (Fleeing the Storm, after Exhibit J, by Abby Cheney)
- How To Tame A Book (The Book Monster and How To Take It, after Exhibit G, by Helen Liutongco)
- How To Resurrect a Book (Nice Day for a Resurrection, after Exhibit V, by Kelly Wahl)
- How To Palmread a Book (Once Wings, after Exhibit H, by Chelsea Borgman)
Special thanks to Kenyon College’s Mesaros Art Fund for supporting my visit to Kenyon College, to professor Ellen Sheffield and her students, and to Ethan Henderson, Special Collections Librarian.
To view other chapbooks that are growing in & out of the Galerie de Difformité, please see the Directory.