Travis Jeppesen, who I recently met at his performance at the Cubitt Gallery in Islington, posits the notion of ‘editionality’ in order to concretise a practice of what has variously been referred to as ‘art writing’ or ‘writing in the expanded field’. While working in traditional media-publishing his work in the form of novels, volumes of poetry, and essays in art magazines, Jeppesen has recently worked to erase the occupational divide between ‘visual artist’ and ‘writer’ through his object-oriented writing installations and performances.
The Royal College of Art (RCA) PhD candidate conceives object-oriented writing as a writing that attempts to inhabit the object, rather than merely describe or judge it; in this sense, object-oriented writing serves as a sort of bridge between the disparate, though often surprisingly correlated fields of art criticism and poetry. 16 Sculptures, Jeppesen’s (re-)creation of sixteen sculptural works from throughout the history of art in the medium of language, continue to proliferate in numerous editional formats: as a book, sound installation (in which viewers, seated while blindfolded, listen to readings of the texts), performance, and vinyl records.
Iteration, being like an echo, becomes the medium now. Iteration as a means, an excuse foractual and virtual. There has long been the exclusivity of the “limited edition.” But what are those limits?
Print-on-demand was developed quite recently as a result of the expansion of possibilities produced by the “digital revolution” in desktop publishing and has quickly been adapted almost universally in the world of small press publishing. Now, cash-strapped publishers no longer need fret over the risks that publishing previously entailed – namely, the expense of producing, shipping, and storing an edition spanning the thousands that may or may not sell. Thanks to digital technology, books can be produced one at a time, according to demand. In theory, traditional publishing houses are now forced to compete with individual authors who can make use of P.O.D. platforms to issue their own works.
Publication Studio, publisher of 16 Sculptures, uses both the handmade – traditionally associated with the limited edition publication – and print-on-demand technology, a platform rooted in the idea of the limitless edition. Eschewing both the traditional publisher model and the myriad print-on-demand companies that are increasingly used by small presses, but often use mass production techniques to issue unaesthetically-pleasing cheap paperbacks, Publication Studio, a two-woman operation run by a poet and a visual artist, combine the use of their own POD machinery with rigorous standards of editorial control, design, hand-cutting, hand-binding, and hand-packaging. The books they produce, one by one as the order comes in, are thus instances, works of art. Works of art that are, paradoxically, not exclusive, in that they can theoretically never be quantified or contained in a single “edition.” The edition thus becomes both collectible and limitless.
Another iteration of 16 Sculptures is what you experience when you enter the gallery. Working with the musician and producer Paul “Snax” Bonomo, the writing has been transformed into sound, the sound into an experience of listening, which becomes yet another form of publication – an additional edition. (An editional addition…) 16 Sculptures becomes 16 interactive sculptures, in an edition of three.
The originals – the sculptures themselves – are absent, yet have not been negated. What is asserted is the value of perception – a way of seeing through other means, through an intensive encounter with language. Language as a vehicle for re-creation; re-creation as invention. My words, for certain, but once you put those blinders on, then it becomes a collaboration between you and I, between the words you hear spoken and the shapes and colors that can only emerge in your mind’s eye – it becomes your task to “see” the thing and invent it anew. This gives rise to yet another edition that is limited to the singular agency of your own faculties.
Plans for the near future: each of the 16 Sculptures as a vinyl record; 16 Sculptures staged as an opera. Etcetera. All the same work, the same words, but never the same means of transmission. These iterations represent just a few means of how a writing of objects, as a slippery force, might come to puncture a world of too much information and not enough reverberation.
Jeppesen (b.1979, Florida, US) and is an occasional lecturer for the MA course Critical Writing in Art & Design. Jeppesen has published several novels including The Suiciders (2013), Wolf at the Door (2007) and Victims (2003). Jeppensen also participated in the 2014 Whitney Biennial in New York City.
Photo: © P C Robinson Artlyst 2014