“Since I was making many ones-of-a-kind imaged with no text or pictures, [Phil Zimmermann] and I decided upon a sequence created by thread piercing the pages of an otherwise blank book. Turning the pages creates a sound, and several threads piercing pages varies the tension of turning pages. Viewed with a single light source there are cast shadows that vary in focus. I consider Book 91, Sting Book a photographic book.”
The exact specification for viewing this book, as envisioned by its creator Keith Smith, is a single light source placed three-feet away and at a 45° angle so that “[a]s each page is lifted…dark holes throw circular spots of light across the facing page [and] the focus of these spots varies according to the distance from the page to the surface upon which they are cast.” As these shadows move across the page the book becomes almost animated even though the pages are quite blank — devoid of both words and images. The thread moving through the holes as the pages are turned adds an audible and quite distinct schussing to the whole experience. The book automatically and mysteriously rewinds itself so that upon reaching the last page the reader can immediately turn the book over and repeat the same experience again.
This is truly a remarkable achievement of art making and has attracted much critical attention. In The Library of Congress Rare Books and Special Collections: An Illustrated Guide (1992), the book was cited as an example of the boundless creativity contemporary artists’ books have embraced and was compared to the classic livres d’artistes Parallèlement, by Paul Verlaine and illustrated by Pierre Bonnard, and Le Chef d’œuvre Inconnu, by Balzac and illustrated by Pablo Picasso. Johanna Drucker, writing in her landmark The Century of Artists’ Books, said:
The work…is perfectly engineered. The simplicity of the materials, linen thread and thick, off-white paper, make the book a field for an ongoing experience of space and light…The whole is physical, sculptural, and textual — an interplay of material (string/paper/knots) and immaterial (shadow/light/sound) elements.
The following institutions have copies of this book in their collections: Library of Congress, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, the Boston Athenæum, the Getty Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Fogg Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art (among others).
The edition is limited to fifty copies signed and numbered by the artist, plus twenty-six lettered copies hors commerce. The inside pages are Fabiano Rosaspino Avorio and the cover is Rives BFK paper and Centennial cloth. The book has been bound by the artist.
This copy is the last copy available from the artist.
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