Books On Books Collection – Philip Zimmerman

Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene (2017)

Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene (2017)
Philip Zimmerman
Offset. Two-staple binding. 44 pages. H134 x W107 mm
Acquired from Journal of Artists’ Books #41, 25 July 2017. Photos: Books On Books

It opens with sunrise, closes with sunset. Each landscape shows water meeting land. A lighthouse or comms or water tower appears in each landscape. Some stand on promontories, some are nearly submerged. Tinted pages of NOAA charts of the Bahamas, Florida Keys and Gulf of Mexico lay between the pages of landscapes. The sentences placed across the charts in silvery white come from the random-seeming, poetic-sounding “Harvard Sentences“, used by audio engineers and speech scientists in Harvard’s Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory from the mid-20th century to the present to test the effects of noise on comprehension.

There are 72 ten-sentence banks in the Harvard Sentences. The artist’s choice of three sentences for each chart page is like a painter’s choice of colors and strokes.

“Men think and plan and sometimes act” is the first chosen. “A pink shell was found on the sandy beach” is the last. In between come “reds” like “Let it burn, it gives us warmth and comfort”, “greens” like “Lush ferns grow on the lofty rocks” or “blacks” like “That move means the game is over”. The sentences seem to change their color or meaning as the eye moves among the landscapes. What color has “Canned pears lack full flavor”?

The only other man-made structure in the book appears halfway through: the roof of a log cabin with the water almost to the eaves.

A small work of book art with an overwhelming force.

Further Reading

An Online Annotation of The Cutting Edge of Reading: Artists’ Books“, Books On Books, 7 September 2017.

Interview with Colin Rafferty, Book Arts Podcasts, University of Alabama, 12 January 2006. Accessed 6 February 2014.

Van Wyk, Gary. Our Anthropocene: Eco Crises (New York: Center for Book Arts, 2018), p.18. Descriptive catalogue of an exhibition (19 January – 31 March 2018).

White, Tony. “From Democratic Multiple to Artist Publishing: The (R)evolutionary Artist’s Book“, Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 45-56. Accessed 17 January 2020.

Zimmerman, Phil. Artist’s statement on the work. Spaceheater Editions. See also a video of the hard bound edition.