Books On Books Collection – Mikko Kuorinki

The Order of Things:
An Archaeology of the Human Sciences


The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (2011)
Mikko Kuorinki and Michel Foucault
Paperback, perfect bound. H175 x W105 mm. 432 unnumbered pages. Edition of 500. Acquired from XYZ Books, 18 September 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with artist’s permission.

Kuorinki’s alphabetical ordering/disordering of one of the sacred texts for literary theorists — Michel Foucault’s 1967 Les Mots et Les Choses: Une Archéologie des Sciences Humaines in its later English translation — rises above that too-frequent result in book art and conceptual art: the one-trick pony. Kuorinki accomplishes this by his choice of appropriation, his choice to use a translation of it and his choice of the alphabet and book art as technique and material.

The alphabet’s arbitrariness and the codical illusion of order and fixity make them the ideal artistic tools with which to make an artwork responding to Foucault’s sweeping treatise on the contingency of knowledge and language. The hefty, tightly bound block of paper and its cover title evoke the memories of anticipation on first picking up any book promising a vision of the order of things. But this book does not even offer a contextualizing preface, an orderly table of contents, chapters, page numbers or index.

When a text becomes canonical — a sort of common expression — how else to respond to it as a visual artist than “to take the mickey”? Of course, as the book’s bellyband tips us off, Kuorinki’s The Order of Things is a joke. And of course, on further reflection, it is serious.

In creating his artist’s book, did Kuorinki know the term calque — the literal, word-for-word translation that becomes a common expression in the borrowing language as in the English it goes without saying from the French ça va sans dire or the English word-hoard from the Anglo-Saxon wordhord? If so, it goes without saying that his work of book art is a calque itself — a literal, word-for-word translation of une alphabétisation of Foucault’s word-hoard for Les Mots et Les Ordres. And if granted its appropriation of the status of calque as a means of appropriating Foucault’s canonical text, Kuorinki’s The Order of Things is a pony of many different colors and tricks. Or to visit another attraction in the fun fair, hasn’t Kuorinki turned Foucault’s sacred text into an artifactual carnival of mirrors?

Further Reading/Viewing

Küng, Moritz. 3 July 2020. Artists’ Books Clips por Moritz Küng. Episode 06 Alphabet Books. Accessed 18 September 2022.

Popper Simon and James Joyce. 2006. Ulysses. Belgium: Die Keure.

Videen Hana. 2022. The Wordhord : Daily Life in Old English. Princeton: Princeton University Press.