New work: Chancebooks (Paul Soulellis, 2013) is a publishing-on-demand experiment using Wikipedia and chance operations. Each Chancebook is a one-of-a-kind collection of up to 500 randomly pulled articles from Wikipedia. The selection and sequence of content is generated in real-time as the artist repeatedly clicks the “random article” button that appears on all Wikipedia pages and individually adds each page to the book. The total number of articles is determined by first pulling a random number (1–500) at random.org.
The title is determined by the artist from the list of article titles.
Only one copy of each Chancebook exists, printed on-demand and delivered to the artist. The book’s design is automated and determined by the print-on-demand service. Included within each book are the date of creation, the location of the artist and the exact time and duration of the content generation.
Chancebook #1 (Why Does It Hurt So Bad) was created at 2:29pm on 26 March 2013 and delivered to me 29 March 2013.
Chancebook #1, part of ongoing series
26 March 2013 (Why Does It Hurt So Bad)
Edition of 1
5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
The Ice Break
Santa María Coyotepec
Amos K. Hadley
Liberty Hill Schoolhouse (Gainesville, Florida)
Pratap Singh Kairon
USNS Gordon (T-AKR-296)
Shooting at the 1908 Summer Olympics – Men’s double-shot running deer
Fuzzy Duck (band)
The Legion of Doom (mash up group)
Nottingham Concert Band
Sun WorkShop TeamWare
Judo at the 2011 Pan American Games – Men’s 81 kg
Why Does It Hurt So Bad
Francisco de Figueroa
William Pelham (bookseller)
Antonio Enrique Lussón Batlle
Frederick Bligh Bond
2013 Women’s EuroHockey Nations Championship
Central African Republic parliamentary election, 1964
Lake Chelan AVA
2000 Purdue Boilermakers football team
Ucchan Nanchan no Honō no Challenge: Denryū Ira Ira Bō
Artist’s talk / 8 August 2012
Later today I fly east, landing at Heathrow and making my way to south west England. By tomorrow afternoon I’ll be in Weymouth, Dorset—site of the London2012 Olympic sailing games, just in time for the live broadcast of the opening ceremony on the beach.
And on Monday I start the performance (installation, publishing?) of Weymouths, my b-side Arts Festival commission. I’ve been exploring and producing Weymouths for more than eight months, so needless to say I’m excited to see what happens with these public book encounters. This is a kind of culmination for the project, but it also starts something new and unknown for me.
I’ll be giving away Weymouths in 12 installments, beginning Monday 30 July, with “Volume 1: River / The Interviews.” The last day will be Friday 10 August, with “Volume 12: Light / 1,485 colors.” If you happen to be in Weymouth look for me on the esplanade each morning, and at Phoenix Bakery in the afternoons, where I’m setting up a reading room installation upstairs.
I’ll try to post daily updates here, so follow along. If I can find wifi I’ll tweet my location each morning.
The final bits and pieces—preparing postcards, posters, bicycle blankets, reading room signage. This is where it feels like choreography, because the parts have been fully formed. Now, to set it in motion.
I’ve been saying all along that the Weymouths project is really a site-specific performance (30 July – 10 August, Weymouth, England). I don’t feel that my photographs, or the Stetson font or the twelve books are particular instances of the work; rather, these are the players (the parts) and I’m preparing to engage them with the public. The work is the performance.
Public book encounters
Last fall, when working on 273 Relics for John Cage, I asked myself the question—how does one perform a book? In the end, that project was an installation. A performance of sorts, but a static one, when compared with, say, dance.
Weymouths will be more like a dance. Each morning, I’ll be out on a bicycle for an hour or two. I’ll ride alongside the beach up and down the Weymouth esplanade, and stop to set up the bike wherever it feels right. I’ll park it on one of the bicycle blankets I’m producing (see fabric shots below) and lay out the day’s edition, flea-market style. I’ll engage anyone with an interest and give away single copies of the book. Each book will be wrapped with a belly-band and two postcards.
30 July—Volume 1: River / The Interviews
31 July—Volume 2: Sense / Weymouth can refer to
1 August—Volume 3: Image / Weymouth is
2 August—Volume 4: Migration / Bound for New England.
3 August—Volume 5: Observation / The New English Canaan of Thomas Morton. The first book.
4 August—Volume 6: Burial / Extinguished by Purchase.
5 August—Volume 7: Preservation / The Canoe Room
6 August—Volume 8: Remains / The birds were the raven, crow, buzzard, and starling.
7 August—Volume 9: Errare / Forty Views of House Rock
8 August—Volume 10: Formation / Whence is this mass of shingle derived?
9 August—Volume 11: Memory / Who enjoyed this view
10 August—Volume 12: Light / 1,485 Colors
After I release each day’s edition of books to the public (20 x each volume; 240 total) I’ll head over to the Phoenix Bakery, where I’m setting up a reading room on the second floor. All twelve volumes will be there for the entire duration of the project, free and open to the public. I’m working on a very basic installation for the room now, and some way for visitors to respond (a blank book, perhaps).
I’ll be giving a couple of artist talks in the reading room, as well.
So for the next few weeks, until I leave for England, I’ll be choreographing the work, arranging the parts into a schema. Of course, I don’t know what will really happen once I’m there. I’ve scored the piece but this is a project about serendipity and chance, and I’m about to give up (some) control and set it in motion.
How can this work be represented on a postcard or poster? Weymouths contains a massive amount of imagery, and it’s been difficult to single-out any one or two summary images. Instead, I decided to create a landscape of symbols from various parts of the work. Inspired by dance notation, the symbols are loosely collected with volume numbers and some idea about chance movement, relationship and flow. It’s a diagram of forces, both highly specific and not. As an image, it describes my methodology for the project better than any verbal explanation I can think of.
- Ship (symbol of Weymouth, Dorset), modified from a souvenir sticker
- House Rock (Weymouth, Massachusetts)
- Man pointing, from a late-19th century postcard of House Rock
- English Heritage symbol for “ancient structure”
- River Wey (from Open Street Maps)
- The marks of Wampetuc, Webcowett, Nateaunte and Nahauton, the four Native Americans who signed over the land that was to become Weymouth, Massachusetts, to the English settlers
- Native American canoe, c. 1450 (at the Weymouth Public Library)
- Chesil Beach stone
- King George III on his white horse (carved into the hill at Osmington)
- Sea-side bench
- A pixel
PS Check out Spoonflower. They create custom print-on-demand fabrics and I’m using them for the bicycle blankets. Excellent service.
At the printer now.
The remainder of the Weymouths proofs arrived today, so I spent most of the day photographing the complete set of 12 volumes for my talk next week. I’ll be speaking on Saturday at the Book Live symposium (full program PDF) at London South Bank University. I’ll post the entire talk here, including all of the slides, in the next few days.
I finished the last book in the series of 12 today, so the design of Weymouths is complete. Or rather, the design of the books is complete—I still need to create the reading room experience for the installation in Weymouth, England 27 July – 12 August. The total work is starting to come into focus. After the next six proofs arrive I’ll photograph the entire set.
Weymouths Volume 8 is an attempt to repair. Stitching up the story while opening it to new depths. Preservation of the found ruins.
- An entire Native American dugout canoe was discovered in 1965, buried in the mud of Great Pond in Weymouth, Massachusetts. The canoe was treated with polyethylene glycol and permanently housed in an exhibit room in the basement of Tufts Library (main branch of the Weymouth Public Libraries). Chester Kevitt details the preservation process for the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, published in their Bulletin, October 1968.
- Murals painted by high school students surround the glass case.
- During my visit to the Canoe Room at Tufts Library I was given access to a file containing all of the news clippings and articles that had been collected about the “Indian Canoe” during the last 45 years.
- 350 years earlier, Samuel de Champlain describes his encounters with the Native American population on his exploratory voyages in and around present-day New York, Vermont and Canada. The word “canoe” occurs 26 times in his memoir of 1603, “The Savages.” Each of the occurrences within Champlain’s text is extracted onto individual spreads that slowly zooms into the canoe, Carbon-14 dated to A.D. 1450.
Weymouths Volume 7 is a journey, a zoom, a reaching back. A dig, a reveal.
This is where I encounter the visible remains of another society. Below the surface, here’s the evidence of worship, ritual, architecture — structures that pre-date our sense of real (embedded within the identity of the place, but “beyond the map”). Volume 7 is about the “Roman works and fortifications with which the neighbourhood abounds,” upon Jordan Hill, just outside Weymouth, England. In 1844 the Ashmolean Society detailed the discovery of the remains, and published the notes at Oxford in 1854.
“The most remarkable discoveries made by Mr. Medhurst in 1843, and visited in October last by Dr. Buckland and Mr. Conybeare, were the foundations of a temple on the summit of Jordan Hill, and of a villa, a quarter of a mile distant, between this hill and the village of Preston.
“Dr. Buckland conjectures that this building may have been a temple of Esculapius, which received the votive offerings of the Roman families and invalids who visited Weymouth for sea-bathing and for health.”
As the 19th-century text travels into the foundations (details of bird skeletons, human bones, seeds, coins and ashes), I zoom into my photograph of the temple foundation taken at Jordan Hill on 6 March 2012. I go deeper into the surface and the photograph reveals a single color, like a flatlining of historical narrative. Perhaps this is a way to escape the figurative. By the end of the 112-page book, my documentation of Roman remains floats around a single pixel of color, like some suggestion of another reality. I can’t think of a more authentic way to look.
In Volume 10 I discovered that I can slow down the read by devoting an entire page to a single word. A single paragraph spread over 59 pages. Reading at a different scale, to expose other structures over time, like erosion.
Here is slow reading, again — this time, a single sentence on each spread. This is how reading can be like zooming. This is how reading can be more like digging. Slow reading leads to open reading.