July 23rd, 2012
Often, when we think of Artists’ books, we think of a book that is beautifully made and a pleasure to touch. But, Artists’ books can also be a venue that allows artists take on challenging issues and present them in a way that that is eye-catching and provocative. The book’s format draws the reader in and then the images or text allow the story or stories to unfold. Sometimes the stories alert the reader to an issue that he or she was only peripherally aware of. Sometimes the stories are so compelling that they have to be read, but afterward, the reader may wish she didn’t know those stories. She may wish she didn’t have to know how war does horrible things to good people. The library recently purchased such a book: Crossing the Tigris. It is an artists’ book that is a collaboration by three artists: Caren Heft, Jeffrey Morin & Brian Borchardt and three presses in Stevens Point, Wisconsin: Arcadian Press, sailorBOYpress, and Seven Hills Press.
One of the artists, Jeff Morin, describes it this way: “A narrative in three books recounting soldier’s stories from the Iraq War. This is a collaborative project between Jeffrey Morin, Caren Heft, and Brian Borchardt. The collaborators each found stories in the media that recount horrific situations that are inconceivable to those who work regularly with current or former soldiers who happen to be students or artists.”
A statement by the presses about the book: “The container for this collaboration is meant to embody the conundrum of this person who transforms into a beast capable of horrendous acts against innocents. The outside of the container is collaged in the same way that a boy might decorate his hiding place for treasures found. The elements, like currency, targets, or stamps, are in the realm of childhood values. The inside of the container sets the stage for juvenile battle. These are the props for pretend war. When confronted with the grittiness of war, do these ill-prepared young men simply break with realty? Are they taught that they are above the law? Or do they learn to devalue what is not obviously American? Neither the container nor the three books answer the questions posed above. We all know young soldiers who have served or those who could serve. This collaboration is intended to catalyze a conversation about the nature of change that allows potentially decent people to commit indecent acts.”
If you want to see more, or want to study the text, the artists have provided images of every page of all 3 volumes on the sailorBOYpress site. The 3 volume book was published in 2011 in an edition of 60. Jen Library’s Special Collections copy is number 27. Each 36 page book is letterpress printed with collage elements and inclusions. The books utilize handmade paper and hand sewn bindings and are presented in a four sided drop letter fold box, tied with twine.