Hello Everyone. I will be on the road next week (9/28-10/4), so I doubt there will be any new posts during that time. If you're someone that I know in Philadelphia or Baltimore, hopefully I will see you soon. If you're in Philly, this should be fun:

The show is at
The Kelly Writers House at UPenn. There will be a small press fair in conjunction with the opening at 6 PM on Tuesday, 9/29. I will be there, and so will some other really great presses, booked. The rest of the info:

In conjunction with the broadside exhibition
Poem Posters, comprising letterpress work from small printshops around the country, KWH Art will present a small press fair to showcase a number of press projects from San Francisco to Brooklyn. There will be a selection of complimentary printed matter and a limited edition of take-away posters for the show. A reception will follow.

Poem Posters presses include:

Ugly Duckling Presse of Brooklyn, NY

The Common Press of Philadelphia, PA

Littoral Press of Oakland, CA

Dead Skin Press of Portland, ME

Hermetic Press of Minneapolis, MN

New Lights Press of Oakland, CA

Phylum Press of New Haven, CT

Propolis Press of Northamton, MA

Axel & Otto of San Francisco, CA

Intima Press of New York, NY

Auto Types Press of New York, NY

C&C Press of Pajaro, CA

Punch Press of Buffalo, NY

Poltroon Press of Berkeley, CA

Small Fires Press of Memphis, TN

*The exhibition's title is borrowed from Charles Henri Ford's short experimental film featuring (and named after) his 1965 "Poem Posters" exhibition at New York's Cordier & Ekstrom gallery.



Two nights ago I saw Jonathan Richman play a show at the Make-Out Room, a small bar/cub in San Francisco. Mr. Richman lives in the Bay Area, and he was playing four nights in a row. The show cost $15. It was really fun.

But the whole situation got me thinking about the question(s) of scale and sustainability and economics and community in the arts, about the light bleeding into the heavy, about the malleable becoming the monolithic, about the nomadic settling down, digging in, and becoming the gated community.

These are debates (one big debacle perhaps) that have been going on for a long time. No need to go over all that fall again, here. But still:

The publishing industry is in crisis. Physical books vs. electronic books? Will it be Saturn or Oedipus? Regardless, this is the most exciting time to be a maker of books, to be a publisher or writer of books, to be involved in the radical changes of one of the most important parts of civilization and culture. And we face many difficult and complex questions as we refine what we do, as we blow up what we do, as we draw breath through what we do.

In this gorgeous morning a series of lines are drawn. Not only to consider how each book looks, reads, or moves, but to consider the shape that it makes out in the world—socially, economically. Each object moves. The shape of our endeavors is determined by, kept open by, the endeavors that we connect to.



Last night I gave a brief, informal presentation about my work to a small group of people, and I wrote the paragraph below (imagining myself saying it) in order to get started. I didn’t use it as part of the “presentation,” but here it is:

The question that I ask myself, as a maker of books, is, what does it mean, today, to be a maker of books? What can it mean to a make books? From this flows a multitude of related questions that are provisionally answered in each piece: What is a book? Why are books important? Why should this text be a book? How is this book like other books? How is it different? How is it made? Why is it made that way? How is it read? Why is it read that way? Does it expand the tradition/history/genre? Or does it ossify? Does it make connections outside of itself? Outside of the tradition/history/genre? What is it doing, how does it function, really? How many more questions can I get this book to ask?



If you’re in the Bay Area this weekend, you should come out to the Roadworks Festival at the San Francisco Center for the Book. I will be there pushing my books (along with many other vendors and interesting things to see, do, and eat), as usual.

The info (from the SFCB website):

Join us for the Center's sixth annual
Roadworks: Steamroller Printing street fair. The event includes dozens of vendors (with books, prints and other handmade items), community artists, music, and amidst it all we'll be making prints from large-scale linoleum blocks - carved especially for the occasion--with a steamroller.

"The massive, crushing force of a two-ton-steamroller and the beautiful, intricate markings of an artist's linoleum-cut print might seem to exist in completely separate worlds, but in a unique and fun event called the
Roadworks: Steamroller Printing Street Fair, these worlds will collide. Six featured artists: Megan Adie, John Hersey, Rik Olson, Jenny Robinson, Michael Wertz, and Rigo 23, and many additional artists and community members will have their work printed as the steamroller rumbles up the road, while handmade arts and craft vendors, music, food, and kids' activities attract many additional onlookers. Join us for this amazing experience, and perhaps leave with a one-of-a-kind souvenir!"

For more info:



Text by Justin Sirois, from the book MLKNG SCKLS
Letterpress with hand-mechanical printing and delamination
Variable edition of 25

12” x 18”




Text by Brian Evenson
Letterpress with hand-mechanical printing and delamination

Variable edition of 25

12” x 18”



Text by John Yau
Letterpress with hand-mechanical printing and delamination
Variable edition of 25

12” x 18”




The complete set of the Series 1 Delaminated Broadsides (2009 - 2011) are available for $900. "91% Battery Power Remaining" by Justin Sirois, "South of the Beast" by Brian Evenson, "Meat Cove, Cape Breton" by KC Trommer, "The Tragedy of Cymbeline" by Brenda Iijima, and "Hotel Rules" by John Yau.


Acting on a very good suggestion from Mr. Sirois, I have attempted to thoroughly document the production of these first three broadsides, and it seems appropriate to post those photographs here on the IDE(A/O)(B)LOG(Y/UE) along with a written description of how they were made—or of what went wrong—however you want to look at it.

Whenever I start a new project, I try to think through the common assumptions that we all (or myself mostly) make about certain objects and/or the way that those objects function. When I first thought of doing broadsides, my mind first went to the ones that I have done in the past (for the Dolphin Press at MICA), and to other really nice ones that I have seen. I realized that there were basically two types of broadsides: 1) all text, elegantly composed and typeset, or 2) that same well-composed text plus some sort of “appropriate” image. Sometimes the text and image will be integrated in some way, but usually they are not. There is a long, fine tradition of work of these two types and new, wonderful examples are produced by presses around the world on a regular basis. So no need for me to do that as well.

How then to approach the broadside in a way different than the “text + image” formula? In order to figure out a (provisional, as always) answer I looked at the assumption that the formula rested upon; that is, that the broadside is a two-dimensional, single page expression of a text. Within that basic definition of the broadside there are three separate claims to consider:

1) The text as a thing that exists separately from the broadside itself. That a broadside must have some sort of text—if not, then it’s a print, right? Okay, so we’ll keep the text. Not that I would ever really want to give it up.

2) The broadside is a single page. It could be some sort of diptych or triptych or multi-panel piece, but that seems awkward and is edging towards a book on the wall, and if I am going to make a book, even a two-page one, I do not want to put it on the wall. (But could one go in some sort of Warholian direction with that?) So the single page remains.

3) The broadside is two-dimensional. The strange philosophical/phenomenological distinction between 2D and 3D (both of which do and do not exist in the world, it’s all 4D) is one that I find to be infinitely fruitful. One of the reasons that I find books so fascinating is that they are objects that move continuously between 2D (pages), 3D (the object in total), and 4D (the text-object as experienced in time). So that same idea can be carried into the broadside through a method extrapolated from some of the NewLights altered books—the articulation of a sheet of paper as a three-dimensional object (which it is, and is not) through delamination (cutting into and peeling away the layers of a sheet of paper).

After arriving at that general idea for an approach to the form, the next step was finding the content. I contacted a few different writers whose work I admire, that I have worked with before, and/or who knew and felt connected to my work. Justin, Brian, and John were the first three to answer. I proposed generally what I wanted to do and they sent back pieces that they felt could mesh with the process. When I approach a text with the purpose of deconstructing-actualizing (just thought that combo up) it, I try to locate some point in the text, some nexus or cluster of potential that can be opened up to maximize the meaning-potential of the (never) total object that I intend to make. The key is to access those potential readings in a way that transfers that access and its generative possibilities to the potential readers.

So I constructed a process (which will be explained in full) that simultaneously generates and is generated by the potential objects, that integrates with and runs in contrast to the texts being utilized, that imagines the text-object-process as a chaotically contingent bloom of the action of meaning.

I knew what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it. I did not know how it would end. It started with these first three digital layouts, all developed in concert with one another and with the authors’ input:


(First a quick note: please excuse the blurriness and/or changes in lighting on these process photos. I took them on the fly, throughout the course of many long days, under many different weather/lighting conditions.)

The next step was to make those digital files into photopolymer plates, so that I could print the basic layout (the letters in white, the negative space around them in black) quickly and accurately on a Vandercook. From the pictures below you can see the press and some of the plates. I tried to make these broadsides as big as I could on that press.


After all of the letters were on the pages, I moved the operation to a different theater, my home studio. The next step is the one that contained most of the action—the simultaneous cutting and printing of the letters. Using a xacto knife, I cut around each letter, about 2/3 of the way into the sheet of paper. My other hand was inked up as I cut, leaving prints over the formerly empty shapes of the letters. They were two rounds of printing/cutting, one for the titles in red and one for the main texts in black.


It was after the printing of the black that I ran into my first (and only real) problem—some of the letters were being completely covered by the finger/hand prints, so I could not see the outlines in order to cut them. There was no way to reprint the letters, so I decided to make a stencil so that I could redraw the letters over top of the ink. It made sense to use the films that I made the plates from, seeing as how they were a) plastic, and b) a perfect match.

After the stencils were complete (for now) I redrew the letters where they were needed and finished cutting (sans inked hand, so as not to repeat the covering problem ad infinitum).


* A phrase coined by my friend Peter Bugg.

And the last step is the most fun, the peeling away, subtractive shaping of the text. This seems like it would be a dangerous, nerve-wracking thing to do, but the paper is incredibly resilient (it’s Somerset Book Heavyweight) and the work is slow enough where it is actually hard to make mistakes (and mistakes are easy enough to fix on a partially destroyed object anyway, and part of this is about all of the “mistakes” made).

I want to figure out way to take advantage of the way that the partially peeled pieces look. It’s a question of legibility (is the partially covered text legible?) and how to structure the action (hand-mechanical, anti-compositional). Perhaps for next year’s broadsides.

Doing things like this always leaves behind interesting detritus:

Yes, I keep them. No, I don’t know what to do with them yet. But one thing leads to another….



Fig. 09.09.03
The substance of the life these days.

The image above shows the detritus from the main activity of this past weekend: a pile of letters removed from the stencils for the new broadsides. Hey, Aaron, I thought those broadsides were supposed to come out today. Well, you’re obviously mistaken, because my last post clearly says that they will come out on Wednesday.

But seriously, I want to do this right, and I am already late for work, and I refuse to hurry and do a half-assed job. So tomorrow. Really.



The first












ART, ECONOMICS, ACADEMIA (a digression’s digression)

Fig. 09.09.01
Unknown Photographer,
The UNOVIS Delegation to the First All-Russian Conference of Teachers and Students of Art, 1920.

The text and photographs in this post were taken from the highly-recommended book: T.J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism, (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1999). 264-5, 247.
[…] The most evocative of all UNOVIS documents [fig. 09.09.01] shows them setting off by train in June 1920 to a Conference of Teachers and Art Students in the capital. Malevich holds center stage. He grasps a Suprematist plate under his left arm and makes a clenched-fist salute with the other. One of his followers (or is it his wife?) puts a restraining hand on his sleeve. Black Squares are much in evidence: pinned up on the carriage door, worn in his lapel by a man in the foreground, stuck in the impish Iudin’s hair (?) top left, and, by the looks of it, sewn onto El Lissitzky’s sleeve—El Lissitzky is the character in the soft felt hat and light-colored jacket, directly under Malevich’s fist. They are a wild-looking bunch. […]

Fig. 09.09.02
El Lissitzky, cover for
Booklet of Vitebsk Committee for the Struggle against Unemployment, lithograph on paper, 1919.



After some discussions on Monday night I’ve been thinking more about the theoretical academic job that I will someday get, that I do not currently have. I do not believe that an academic job is a kiss of death for the artist. I have known some great professors that also make really great studio work, and who keep their studio careers moving forward even though they have or had solid academic positions. Not coincidentally, these professors have influenced me a great deal (they have also been unfailingly kind, supportive, and generous with their time—I hope one day to return the favor to my students) and have helped me to see what I love about teaching and what I want from a job that would allow me to do so.

But I am very specialized as far as my academic qualifications go. So it would have to be the right job, in the right place. And there is not what exactly a deluge of book arts-critical theory-art history-independent publishing jobs out there. So for now I am content to labor in the “real world.”

Many of my friends from graduate school that finished at around the same time I did are spreading across the country and moving into teaching positions. I am jealous. Summer vacation would be amazing. A clearer picture of where all this (the press, not this post) is heading would also be helpful. It all sounds nice, but the most important thing is to continue to move, to make, critically, crucially. Make, making it count.

Sometimes when I am working on something for NewLights, doing something ridiculous like cutting 12 pt letters or peeling paper or fingerprinting, I get this strange feeling where I feel a little bit detached from myself, like I can see myself doing whatever it is I am doing clearly, and something about the absurdity and the intensity of the activity strikes me and I think I’m doing it. I’m doing what I said I was going to do. I’m doing what it takes. All of those dreams and plans are here, right here, in this activity. This is where it is at.