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Outside of a Book

The Thing Quarterly is a very unusual periodical. Editors Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan invite artists, musicians, and more to create a useful object with the stipulation that it must incorporate text. The Thing The Book extends this boundary-pushing approach to the written word by cleverly questioning its own format. Each traditional element of a book—from endpapers to footnotes—is assigned to a different artist or writer including John Baldessari, Miranda July, and Jonathan Lethem. Playing with the particular qualities of print, the authors and The Thing The Book contributors offer some creative uses of a familiar object.

The Thing The Book

The Thing The Book

thethingthebook-chrisjohanson
Featured pages (top-bottom): Untitled by Lawrence Weiner with Bookmarks by David Shrigley and Folios by Tauba Auerbach, Flip Book: “Dancers” by Dave Muller with Thumb Tab by Lawrence Weiner, Paintings: “Poem Paintings” by Chris Johanson.

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. –Groucho Marx

You can do things with physical books that you just can’t with e-readers…Like use them as a coaster, or wedge open a door, or cover your face from the sun during your afternoon on the sofa. Yes, you can try these things with an e-reader. Go ahead. But it won’t have the same results. But just for fun, go ahead and put your e-reader on your face while you sleep. See what happens.

One of the inspirations for The Thing The Book came from seeing the way in which books are often misused. The fact that a book can carry information from the early 1600’s (like Don Quixote) and can…at the same time be used to make something flat, or prop something up has always interested us. When a book stops being used for its intended purpose and instead is put to use holding open a door or blocking light in a window that a book really asserts its physicality in the world.

Of course we also like the fact that books are a really great (perhaps the best) delivery vehicle for information. Let’s not forget that. We both come from a background of working with books in this capacity (Will was a librarian at the San Francisco Art Institute for 5 years and Jonn was a high school English Lit teacher in South SF for 5 years). We also both work with text and object in our art. So we have an invested interest in the physicality of books and the information they carry.

Book shelves (for us) are a cross section of someone’s life. There’s nothing more pleasurable than examining someone’s bookshelves for the first time. Which embarrassing novels from their youth did they keep? Do the books feel worn and loved, or are they trophy books that might not have been read? Are they paperback or hardbound…and which ones are hardbound?

And then when books are not on the shelf in someone’s house, where are they? I once used a book to kill a mouse. When I looked at the title it was a paperback version of Jitterbug Perfume. I couldn’t believe I still had that book in my shelf. I wasn’t sure what to do with it after. We’ve heard stories of books being used to cover a broken window, or to seduce a lover. There have even been books that have been thrown through windows to break up with lovers (and then later books were placed in the broken window). Someone even told us about a book that was used to fix a car—ironically it was the owner’s manual for the car. But what really gets us is the one about the books that were housed in a birthday cake as a way to smuggle them into a prison. The books were all self-help manuals for how to escape a prison. But that’s another story.

The Thing The Book

Other uses of a book (top-bottom): 1/ Rick Moody, Book as Face Cover  2 + 3/ Tucker Nichols, Books Holding Up Sheep + Books Holding up Disc Drive  4/ Ryan Gander, Book as Cave  5/ Anthony Discenza, Book as Censor  6/ Jonathan Lethem, Book as Gun with Occasional Music  7/ Laurel Nakadate, Bartlett’s Quotations as Animal Sanctuary

Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan
Images of books in use by contributors to The Thing The Book

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