06 Oct Inge Bruggeman and The Quickest Forever
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Inge Bruggeman is Assistant Professor and Director of Graphic Arts at the Black Rock Press at the University of Nevada Reno. She also serves as editor-in-chief for Openings: Studies in Book Art, the academic journal for the College Book Art Association. Inge has an active exhibition record both nationally and internationally and her work is collected widely. Her work revolves around the idea of the book — the book as object, artifact and cultural icon. She makes artist books, fine press publications, prints and other text-based art that investigates our personal and collective relationship to the shifting role of the book, print media, and text in our world today. To see more please visit www.ingebruggeman.com
On Process and In Production
Tell us about a recent book project that is currently in production.
Inge: The book project that I am currently working on is called The Quickest Forever. Similar to how some poets build their poems on references to others’ writing, I enjoy having a conversation with other moments or people in history with my artist book projects. It is somewhat similar in approach and technique to one of my last book projects called the infinite between us. Both books began with a bit of research on, and inspiration by, an individual from history that I was attracted to.
the infinite between us was inspired by the French sea explorer from the 18th century Jean François de Galaup comte de Lapérouse, and The Quickest Forever was inspired by Orra White Hitchcock’s incredible illustrations on linen for use in her husband’s (Professor Edward Hitchcock’s) classes on geology and natural history. These illustrations were made in the early-mid 1800’s, and she was one of America’s earliest woman artist to produce botanical and scientific illustrations.
At first I was simply struck by the illustrations of geological strata, their design and use of color and how that translated onto linen. They were meant to be purely utilitarian, however they emanate much more. I started to think about their metaphorical qualities and about the relationship between her and her husband, between her era and my era, about time, about communication (both graphic and textual) and her inspiration has taken me on a journey of my own. This book project is about the book as a time based, physical media–the book encapsulates and tells our histories and narratives. Like the land itself, the book is evidence of time passing. This project hopefully makes the reader/viewer aware of the book as a kind of strata and accumulation of its own, of pages, of language, of ideas; it can make a person very aware of time as each page is turned and particularly when we get to the end, the final closure.
Have there been any random occurrences (“happy accidents”) during the making process which have caused you to pursue new, unforeseen directions?
Inge: I can’t say that there were any happy accidents with this project. Usually when there are happy accidents, I end up saving them for another time and place. This project has involved some tests that didn’t exactly work out, and that perhaps gently nudged me in one direction or the other, but nothing too dramatic. I initially made drawings and tested out making some etchings with them, but I ended up going back to photopolymer because it seemed to capture an awkward era of printing history that I was trying to capture. I put a halftone on the drawings and I’m in the process of hand-coloring them now.
How faithful are you remaining to your original design/intent? Does this project demand loose, improvisational commitments, or a strict adherence to a blueprint?
Inge: I generally have the main features of the book worked out before I begin, but I also try to remain fluid and leave room for reacting to how the concept, composition, colors, and materials are working together. After each new element is printed in the book, I put together a new model and pause to see if things should keep going on the same trajectory or adjust in some way. It’s usually a loose blueprint.
How do you know when something is “working”?
Inge: I know something is working when the images, text, structure, and materials come together to give the reader/viewer some kind of poetic experience. At least, I get a sense that it is working for me and hope it will for others. As I’m making it I think about the book leading the reader/viewer through the time and space of the pages, trying to slow down their experience within that space, and trying to leave some ambiguity for the reader/viewer to resolve. There are formal considerations that help with this too, use of color, pacing and repetition, texture, etc.
Describe your building process/practice for this particular object.
Inge: I started this artist book project by drawing small, rectangular images that are abstractions of geological strata. They are drawn with frames in an attempt to reference an older book illustration type of look. I then knew I wanted to put a sentence or two of text with these images, and I wanted the text to look like a caption to the image, but not act like one, so as you turn the pages you only get to read a small snippet of this text at a time. This text is set in a handset gothic sans-serif typeface and it represents an understanding or a communication between two people. This book actually sat around as a rough model for a couple of years before I picked it back up again after reading a Robert Smithson quote that seemed to pull everything together, it read “The axis splits into a chasm in your hands, thus you begin your travels by being immediately lost…writing drifts into stratas, [sic] and becomes a buried language.” I wanted to try to convey the idea that language (as beautiful and powerful as it can be, as huge of an invention and tool as it is) can pale when confronted with the simple beauty of the evidence of time passing in the land, or a simple wordless understanding by two people who are closely connected. I knew also that I wanted to include this idea of counting time or marking time so I am including knotted thread imagery in the book, loosely referencing the quipu, a knotted recording device used in ancient Andean South America.
The next steps involved making more imagery of stenciled, layered text and thinking about a strong contrast in materials with very smooth modern paper and rough handmade paper. There are spreads of ambiguous open landscapes interspersed throughout as well. Through these choices I’m trying to reinforce the connection between the book and the landscape. I am hand coloring now and finishing up some final printing of the title page and colophon while finalizing some details of the binding. I’m trying to make the pages evident of being their own strata of layered paper materials and carrying those concepts out to the cover and ‘objectness’ of the book.