Monday, April 13, 2009

a humument, meet grayand grey. grayandgrey, meet a humument.

My freshman year in college I was accepted into a poetry workshop taught by a really wonderful professor named Elizabeth Willis with the most incredible green eyes, strawberry hair and way with words. She showed me a copy of this book, A Humument, and I remember feeling smitten in that wonderful 18 year old way. This project, by Tom Phillips, began with a mundane Victorian novel which the artist treated by blocking out parts of the text with illustration, illuminating new hidden narratives within the prexisting page. The book has been printed four times and each time Phillips has re-treated 100 pages, so that the book is slowly evolving. The project will be over when all of the pages have been changed from the first version, revealing an entirely different text. The project is genius, although it's execution is at times didactic and visually insulting/assaulting. I've been thinking about how the project is an analogy for how I've been thinking about memory-- that when we tell stories we are using a pre-existing text/vocabulary through which endless variations and ommissions are possible. It's interesting to look at how Phillips treats the same page in such different ways over the course of the past 30 years. It reminds me of Sophie Calle's project, Exquisite Pain, for which she wrote the story of her lover leaving her by telephone over and over again for 100 days to understand how her words change with time and emotional evolution.

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