[from koob stra: The Occasional Update from Center for Book Arts, No. 2, April 1993: 1]
Center for Book Arts’ spring exhibition, Agrippa (A Book of the Dead), opens on April 23rd in the Book Arts Gallery and runs through June 19th. The exhibition will feature the collaborative work of award-winning author William Gibson and artist Dennis Ashbaugh, who, along with publisher Kevin Begos, Jr., have created an artist’s book that defies conventional notions of how a book is supposed to function: the book is designed to be read only once—and then self-destruct! As a well-known writer.of science fiction, Gibson first coined the term “cyberspace” in his trilogy: Necromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Ashbaugh, known for his large computer virus and DNA portrait paintings, has been a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and his work has been exhibited in solo and group shows at The Whitney Museum, P.S.1, and the Seattle Art Museum, among others. Though Agrippa has been written about in Esquire, Art & Auction, Vanity Fair, and USA Today, the Center for Book Arts’ exhibition marks the first occasion the book has been on view to the public.
Begos, a publisher of museum quality books, brought together Ashbaugh and Gibson for this unique project last year. The physical object is a metallic-looking box which encases a bound volume with a distressed cover. Within the covers, Ashbaugh’s original copperplate engravings of DNA accompany an autobiographical story by Gibson about his dead father. Gibson’s text, however, is located on a floppy disk found in a special niche made into the book. This disk not only contains the narrative of the book, but is also encrypted with a computer virus that destroys the text as it scrolls across your computer screen. The reader is therefore confronted with an irreversible decision: to know the story of Agrippa which holds clues that link it to the artwork, or to save it, for the text cannot he stopped, copied or printed once it is set in motion. As well, some of the images are devised to disappear as you touch the pages of the book.
Obviously, Agrippa challenges our conceptions of what constitutes a book. It utilizes the traditional format of the book as it embraces the technological advancements that threaten to make that format obsolete, yet seems to undermine those offerings of technology in the process. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of lectures which deal with issues related to the book and technology.
Book Arts is open to the public free of charge
Monday through Friday, 10 AM until 6 PM,
and Saturday, noon until 4 PM.