If I were an art collector — if I could afford to be an art collector — my art collection might look like a supermarket. I’m so attracted to artworks consisting of packaging on shelves that I would probably purchase nothing else. (See: On the Shelf)
The ad hoc assortment of jars and bottles in this 2012 artwork by Kirsten Pieroth (sometimes spelled “Kiersten” Pieroth) is more reminiscent of pantry than retail shelving, since the jars are hand-labeled.
But they contain something else that we are accustomed to seeing on shelves: books.
Well, not “books,” exactly—more like the liquid extract derived from boiling a book in water. A process which naturally renders a book unreadable.
An earlier precedent for this type of destructive distillation of literature might be John Latham…
In August 1966, Latham had assembled a group of students at his home where together they dismembered a library copy of Clement Greenberg’s book [Art and Culture]. After removing the pages, they each tore the leaves into smaller fragments. They then “ate” the American’s prose – or, rather, chewed it over, the paper being masticated, pulverised with saliva into a pulp and spat out. The resulting mess was carefully collected and then, using various chemicals and yeast, left to ferment. When Latham received his overdue notice from the library at St Martin’s School of Art he responded by returning a phial containing the distilled “essence” of Greenberg. For this gesture, Latham was dismissed from his teaching post at St Martin’s. But in this instance, he had the last word. He went on to transform his record of the action, comprising letters, the overdue notice and the phial itself, into a work of art titled Still and Chew: Art and Culture 1966–1967 (now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York).
Paul Moorhouse, And the word was made art, 2005, Tate
Where Latham’s process — chewing and spitting out the pages of a book — can be read as a rejection of its contents, Pieroth’s process — boiling books down to their essential nutrients — seems more like pragmatic magical thinking.
Where Latham’s book selection is quite pointed, Pieroth’s choices seem more neutral. One doesn’t get the sense that her book choices constitute a repudiation.
(More of Pieroth’s liquefied literature, after the fold…) [Read more…]