The Thing The Book: A Monument to the Book as Object

When artists create every facet of a book, from cover to page numbers to index, it becomes a work of art.

Artists Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan have made a habit and a business out of playing with form. THE THING Quarterly, their collaboration with designers and artists, is in function a publication available by subscription. In form, it’s highly experimental.

THE THING Quarterly may resemble a book or magazine. Or it may be a wall clock, like artist Tauba Auerbach’s Issue 20, which displays 24-hour military time. Because it doesn’t read as we’re accustomed to, Auerbach’s clock demands that we take a deeper look and engage more fully with the concept of time.

Or it may be a bottle of Vermont maple syrup with an accompanying poster (artist Shannon Ebner’s edition) or a birch boomerang (Gabriel Orozco) or Michelle Grabner’s all-weather, gingham-print soccer ball.

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When Rogan and Herschend produced a longer-form edition, they tinkered with the elements that make a book a book as we know it. Their introduction to The Thing The Book: A Monument to the Book as Object frames it as a museum experience: “When we decided to make a book, our first instinct was to turn the book into an exhibit space.”

They handed every element over to more than 30 artists, designers and writers. Auerbach created the page numbers, which grow in size throughout the book. Miranda July added a racy message to an errata sheet slipped between two pages. It’s a sort of meta-book: the book as commentary on the nature of books.

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In her essay “The Artist as Bookmaker,” Gwen Allen writes of an imaginary book conceived by poet Stéphane Mallarmé: “Instead of being read privately by individuals, the book would be performed aloud and collectively.” Mallarmé never actually created Le Livre, but his concept of book-as-object/experience influences Herschend and Rogan: “We believe that objects, with all the magic and stories that they carry, speak to the importance of art in our daily lives.”

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This article was written by Bryn Mooth and originally published in Issue 08 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly. The Mohawk Maker Quarterly is a vehicle to support a community of like-minded makers. Content focuses on stories of small manufacturers, artisans, printers, designers, and artists who are making their way in the midst of the digital revolution. Learn more about the quarterly here and sign up to receive future printed issues.

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