May 23rd, 2012
We received a number of new books artists’ books in Special Collections this spring. Several of these deal with events in the Middle East. Among them are 5 books by 4 artists whose books were made in response to a project by the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition. The project asked artists create books that would commemorate the loss of life and culture on March 5, 2007 on Al-Mutanabbi Street. On that day in Baghdad, a car bomb exploded on the street heavily populated by booksellers, killing 30 people, injuring 100, and propelling the contents of the book stalls, stationers, cafes, and tobacco shops into a chaotic whirl. The winding street, named after the famed 10th Century classical Arab poet, Al- Mutanabbi, has been heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community. The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition issued a call to book artists to work on a project to “re-assemble” some of the “inventory” of the reading material that was lost. Each Book Artist entering the project was asked to complete and donate three books (or other paper material) in the course of a year, ending in 2012. The books were to contain of both memory and future of what was lost. They were to reflect the strength and fragility of books, and also speak to the endurance of the ideas within them.
This call to book artists commenced on September 1st, 2010 and ran until September 1st, 2011. Book artists have one year from the date they respond to the call to complete their work of three books. Some of the books will not be finished until September of 2012. One complete set of the books will be donated to the Iraq National Library. The other two sets will be used in conjunction with shows of the broadsides as well as in shows of their own to raise funds for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
The books at the Jen Library’s Special Collections include:
Not a Straight Line By Emily Martin, Iowa City, Iowa: Naughty Dog Press, 2011. Edition of 20.
“To read Not a Straight Line viewers must find their way along the linked books that turn this way and that, much as a meandering street would.”
Al Mutanabbi Street, March 5, 2007 By Art Hazelwood, San Francisco: Eastside Editions, 2011. Edition of 16.
“My book, starts with an image of the booksellers street. The next page begins a foldout which begins with the explosion in a death head cloud. Books flying are labeled with different bookseller areas of the world.”
Project Al-Mutanabbi Street, By Christine Kermaire, Charleroi, Belgium, 2011-2012
Series of three books:
Phase 1, Resilience of Al-Mutanabbi Street , edition of 300.
Artists statement “ …Any sound philosophy is mortally-stricken…” ( Immanuel Kant, Philosopher 1724-1804) With this sentence, Kant attempts to demonstrate that a sound philosophy must evolve, and not to persist into assertions. My goal was to (make) translate a philosopher “ banned “ in certain countries.
Phase 2, Memory of Al-Mutanabbi Street , edition of 300.
Names of people who were killed in the car bombing, inscribed around a endless screw and pulled by a red thread, vital lead. The graphics were inspired by the lintels of wood carving (“ham yo“) placed at the front of the houses to protect against “the wrong spirits” (Asia).
Phase 3, Future of Al-Mutanabbi Street, not yet published
Fractured Landscapes By Karen Kunc, Avoca, Nebraska: Blue Heron Press , 2011. Edition of 25.
Artists statement: “Various worn handset types are paired with excerpts from admired authors….The seeds of this book began four years ago in residency in NYC and continued slowly in Avoca, Nebraska.”
From the colophon: “In Memoriam, to those lost in disasters and tragedies everyday, everywhere. And to those left behind. Ever changed.”