A Response to Reflection

The beauty of artists books’ arises from the ability of the author to connect with their audience. Therefore, when we examine artists’ books, we can better understand how contemporary digital books relate to their original historical forms. In Amaranth Borsuk’s book, The Book, I believe Borsuk intends to point to the purpose of artists books’ as being a kind of medium for artistic expression and inspiration. Borsuk says that these books remind us that books are truly interactive reading devices whose meanings arise at the moment of access and are far from fixed (Borsuk 147). After reading through Borsuk’s book, I applied the observations she made about artists books’ to the pieces of art I came across on the Women’s Studio Workshop site and found a mesmerizing piece titled Transparency Reflection Light Space: A Response.  

[ Image Description: A contemporary twentieth century pamphlet book that features saddle stitching with hard covers and is printed on letterpress in addition to photocopying and laser printing. Credit: Leah Mackin and Adreena Cook.]

This piece was simply captivating and beautifully constructed. While this piece is intriguing for many reasons, the most fascinating thing about it is was the way it was constructed based on the absence of vowels in the artists’ answers in the catalog publication. This piece was created as a response to a 1971 exhibition catalog interview with the artist, Larry Bell. However, before the catalog was published, Larry Bell removed all the vowels from his answers. I remember reading about consonant-vowel combinations in chapter two of Borsuk’s book, and I found it quite fascinating how she discussed them as linear A and linear B. Moreover, I find it interesting how the Egyptians and Greeks relied on consonant-vowel combinations, which meant alphabets then required larger character sets to express that vocabulary. Specifically, scholars established upward of ninety sets in the Minoan script, which they called Linear A (Borsuk 23). In another set, scholars established seventy-five in its fourteenth-century Cretan successor, which was called Linear B (Borsuk 23). 

I find it interesting how Borsuk points to how consonant vowels signified a movement from orality to literacy, which played a central role in the development of writing to produce literature to readers; however, this piece of art adopts a kind of pre-literature tendency that ends up creating an amazingly complex response. 

The artist Leah Mackin produced a unique codex pamphlet that is saddle stitched with had covers and printed using letterpress and laser printing. Leah Mackin read Bell’s obscure responses as inherently gendered in the context of the masculine art historical legacy of Minimalism (Mackin 2017). This artist describes Bell’s words as unpronounceable noises, which I found very interesting as I could almost hear what she is describing in my head. However, the most inspiring thing I learned when reading about this piece was how her response to the work represents the remaining vowels, which served as a kind of harmonic vocalization since vowels give shape and rounded-out sound to the English language (Mackin 2017).

Works Cited 

Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2018. 

Mackin, Leah. (2017). Transparency Reflection Light Space: A Response. Women’s Studio Workshop. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://wsworkshop.org/collection/transparency-reflection-light-space-response/.

1 thought on “A Response to Reflection”

  1. This reminds of of the papers we receive in which the letters of words are rearranged yet we are generally able to recognize the words. Of course, in this context, we are missing consonants. I’m not sure what to take from this book, but it is interesting.


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