[ Schäpers, Veronika ] Reich, Stephan. Aokigahara. Karlsruhe: Veronika Schäpers. 2016.
Aokigahara is the name of a forest at the base of Mt. Fuji. The forest is so densely wooded that people who wander from the trails can easily become lost. After the Golden Gate Bridge, it is the world’s second most popular place to commit suicide.
This eponymous book was created by artist Veronika Schäpers with a very faintly reproduced text of a poem by Stephan Reich whose work, in both German and English, picks up on the signs posted in the forest by Japanese police which are designed to discourage suicide: “Your life is a precious gift from your parents” and “We still need to see each other’s faces.”
The translucent sections of this volume are folded and cut at different widths so that each spread opens to a different size. In lieu of traditional printing methods, the text is created through an inventive stencil process that exposes the paper to extremely intense ultraviolet light and subtly discolors it. As the reader turns the pages, Reich’s brief sentences fade in and out of view. The haunting, overlapping text and the staggered pages create the impression of a person fading into the forest.
Adding to the ghostly quality of the book are the covers, which are made up of layers of translucent paper, clear foil, and paper that has been laser cut with overlapping text. This volume features a Coptic binding and is housed in a two-piece box of transparent acrylic. The box is silkscreened in white with the title and the colophon. The traditional color for sorrow in Buddhism is white, and a white felt blanket wraps around the box for protection.
Aokigahara was published in an edition of 15 Arabic and 3 Roman numbered copies. This is copy number 9, and it is signed by the artist at the colophon.
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