Books On Books Collection – Cerith Wyn Evans

“…” (2009)

“…” (2009)
Cerith Wyn Evans, Moritz Küng and Armand Mevis
Perfect bound, with laser-cut dust cover. Paper: Munken Lynx 80 (Küng essay and colophon), 170 gms (laser-cut pages), 300 gms (cover). H325 x W250 mm, 32 pages.
Acquired from Taschenbuch, 16 March 2020.

ellipsis: marks or a mark (such as … ) indicating an omission (as of words) or a pause

Merriam-Webster.com

As many bookworks do, Wyn Evans’ “…” offers a puzzle. In this case: What has been omitted? What is coming after the pause or delay?

In his brief essay at the end of the book, Moritz Küng describes this work as a catalogue for Wyn Evans’ exhibition (15 October 2009 – 10 January 2010, deSingel, International arts campus, Antwerp) and characterizes it as “a reciprocate hypertext”, recalling the “trilogy of Un coup de dés by Mallarmé [1914], Broodthaers [1969] and Wyn Evans [2008]”.

The work “…” (2009) alludes to those other three works by form and materiality, not actual text. It uses the same trim size of the 1914, 1969 and 2008 works. The 2009’s laser cut text is positioned in a way to imply the placement of text in the 1914 work, the placement of black strips in the 1969 work and the positioning of excised blocks in the 2008 work. The 2009 work’s subtitle — DELAY — is even positioned exactly where the subtitle is displayed in the three earlier works. Of course, the title page and subtitle in Wyn Evans’ 2008 version of Un Coup de Dés went along with the rest of his variation on Broodthaers’ 1969 work: the pages are framed and hung, allowing the pebbled wall behind the excisions to show through.

From “Cerith Wyn Evans, 15 October 2008 – 10 January 2009, deSingel, International arts campus, Antwerp
Photos: © Jan Kempenaers

But where the 2008 work excises text, “…” excises paper to create text. The actual text in “…” comes from Stephan Pfohl’s review of Guy Debord’s filmscript In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni: A Film (1991). (The Latin is a palindrome — reads the same backwards as forwards — written by Terenziano Màuro, a grammarian and poet of the late second century CE.)

Permit yourself to drift from what you are reading at this very moment into another situation … Imagine a situation that, in all likelihood, you’ve never been in.

Photos: Books On Books Collection

Without knowing the text in question, deciphering the laser cut is a bit difficult, especially also until it becomes apparent that the letter “e” systematically falls below the line. Notice how this happens with “permit” and “yourself” above. Is it a reference to George Perec’s novel La Disparution (1969), written entirely without the letter “e”? Is it an interruption to delay the reader in following an instruction not yet deciphered and read? There is something more going on here than meets the eye — which is, of course, what an omission or pause implies.

If another display in Wyn Evans’ 2009 deSingel exhibition is taken into account, and if Pfohl’s review is explored further, the laser cutting of the letters offers something else not immediately obvious to the eye. Wyn Evans could have chosen die cutting for the letters but chose (or at least approved) laser cutting instead. The signature singeing from the laser comes with the choice. To what is the choice alluding?

Details of “…”
Photos: Books On Books Collection

Is it alluding to the firework display that spelled out Debord’s 1978 film title, which translates “We go round and round at night and are consumed by fire”? As Pfohl explicates the filmscript and highlights Debord’s anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist and near-nihilist point of view informing it, he quips, “Look out for the flames”. Is the singeing alluding to that?

Still from fireworks display of In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni
© CC BY-SA 4.0 deSingel 2009
Click on the image to see the video.

How does the reader/viewer of “…” know to make these connections, to fill in the omissions? Well, after the pause/delay come Küng’s essay and the colophon, which provide many but not all of the clues with which to make the connections.

Knowledge of — or the presence of — the 1914 edition of Un coup de Dés, Broodthaers’ 1969 version and Wyn Evans’ 2008 re-version seems essential. Attendance at the fireworks display — or finding the images in the deSingel archive — would seem necessary to make sense of Küng’s reference to the artist’s “fireworks texts”. For the reader/viewer ignorant of Debord’s last and autobiographical film, access to Pfohl’s essay is essential to connect that particular film with Küng’s reference. Also, access to Pfohl’s essay is essential to see the context of the sentences Wyn Evans extracts, essential to find the Latin title of Debord’s film, and essential to pick up Pfohl’s quip.

Does the burden of the elusive, multi-layered allusiveness and self-referencing placed on the reader/viewer diminish and interfere with the work or enhance and help it? Depends on the reader/viewer. Or as Terenziano put it, Pro captu lectoris habent sua fata libelli (The fate of books lies in the capability of their readers).

The colophon also provides a set of details that can shape the reader/viewer’s appreciation of “…” — DELAY. It assigns the concept to Wyn Evans, Armand Mevis and Moritz Küng, the overall graphic design to Mevis & van Deursen and the layout design to Paul Elliman, whose Albernaut font was used for the excised text. Collaboration as recorded in a colophon grounds this work in a lineage that extends far beyond Mallarmé and Vollard. Even before the printed codex, the colophon, or finishing touch, to a scroll or manuscript book recorded the collaborative effort that a book is more often than not. Although book art is leavened with Blakean works of individual creation, the works of artists such as Cerith Wyn Evans remind us how this object is so often the result of multiple talents going round and round and catching fire.

Further Reading, Viewing and Listening

“Cerith Wyn Evans”, desingel.be. Accessed 15 March 2020.

“Cerith Wyn Evans”, Mariangoodman.com. Accessed 15 March 2020.

“Cerith Wyn Evans”, Whitecube.com. Accessed 15 March 2020.

Other works inspired by Terenziano Màuro:

— Architectural installation: Didier Fiuza Faustino

— Choreography: Roberto Castello

— Music: Anders Brødsgaard