Chen, Julie. Cat’s Cradle. Berkeley: Flying Fish Press. 2013.
“The fairy tale of artistic creativity…has remained the last delusion of Western culture.…[T]he notion of ‘active control’ through reason, morality or aesthetic deliberation [is] inimical to inspiration.”
Max Ernst, 1934
Automatism, or the idea that an artist can produce art without conscious control, and the related concept of randomness have been part of aesthetic theory since André Breton’s The First Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924. From Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp (Three Standard Stoppages, Museum of Modern Art, 1913-1914) to John Baldessari (Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line, 1973) and Gerhard Richter (4900 Colours: Version II, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2008), chance and randomness have become important tools available to contemporary artists.
This work was created with the artist’s Ideation Cards, an earlier work produced in collaboration with Barbara Tetenbaum. These cards, roughly 110 in all and comprising both specifications for seven attributes of a book’s material construction (text, imagery, paper, color, technique, layout, and structure) and fifty-four descriptive adjectives (including three wild cards), are selected randomly in sets of twelve, and the artist then follows the resulting instructions.
With Cat’s Cradle Julie Chen used her own random drawing from the Ideation Cards to provide the specifications for an artist’s book. This remarkably beautiful sculptural book, displayable both linearly and circularly, is the surprising result.
This book is digitally printed and cut by laser. It is an edition of fifty.
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