An Encyclopedia of Everything – The Expanded Version
In Celebration of 50 books.
The first installation of An Encyclopedia of Everything took place in October 2014. Over 380 books were on display at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban, but collecting and exchanging has not stopped there. All books are blogged on numerous sites including http://an-encyclopedia-of-everything.blogspot.com and to alleviate the enormity of the first catalogue, I have decided to publish a listing every 50 books. This first collection is available for download on http://issuu.com/cheryl.penn/docs/expanded_version_publishing_format
Artists’ books still function with some difficulty in the art world. To loose the pages of an unassuming book from its binding and separate the spreads could fill a gallery wall, yet the bound artefact remains small and intimate. Its stimulus is unlike that of a large two-dimensional painted canvas, or an arresting, digitally enlarged photograph. I think this is one of the reasons why some of the artists who make books are willing to exchange and collaborate. There is closeness in sharing words and images through the medium of books. A dynamic, multifaceted interaction evolves through this intimate involvement in personal expression, and this has come to be a hallmark of An Encyclopedia of Everything. There have been numerous collaborations organized on Robert Heathers book artists site http://artistbooks.ning.com – in fact, we are currently involved in our 15th book exchange. Other, closer collaborative engagement has also been an indicator of solid artistic relationships. All collaborative works are published on http://collaborativecanto.blogspot.com and I have begun to publish these works online on ISSUU. Let me give some examples.
David Chirot is an outsider poet/artist from Minnesota (USA), and together, over a period of 6 months we wrote a poem titled Today (an edition of 9 handmade chapbooks and 1 book). This is a series of pocket books, which hold copies of two rubbings David sent, and two visual poems I made on the day the books were complete. We wrote a verse/verses and the other artist responded. David Chirot and I also maintain an erratic email correspondence, but when his messages arrive their energy is rapid, like fast footfalls pounding the pavements of the city where he lives. One feels the truth of the true lives David inhabits within the spilling of his emailed words, falling too fast to take breathes between. His poetry is no different.
Today. David Chirot (USA)/Cheryl Penn (South Africa). 2015.
Rod Summers (VEC Publications)(Netherlands) is a conceptual artist and our first writing was done in a very short period. This collaboration became a limited edition of 5 chapbooks and 1 book from my side, but a multiple edition by VEC Publications. I say writing together, as words/lines/phrases were altered as we progressed, no matter who wrote the original lines. It’s a challenging way to work for me, as different voices have their own tones/word and rhythm colours, and successful collaboration demands sensitivity to this.
The Library. Rod Summers(Netherlands)/Cheryl Penn (South Africa). 2015.
A collaboration with John Bennett (USA) resulted in a limited edition of 1 book and 10 chapbooks – a series of 7 libretto arrangements. John Bennett is a writer/poet/performer who uses language and all its convolutions as his medium of expression. He puts together and pulls apart as the words move him, with unexpected juxtapositions of sounds and rhythm. John is an avid and very generous collaborator and I’m hugely pleased we got be ‘distrubeding our wurds’. We have been at this collaboration for over a year so I’m glad to have it committed to paper!
Also available for download on
Say What??? John M Bennett (USA)/Cheryl Penn (South Africa). 2015.
What can I say? From these few samples, this sort of trust and exchange circulating the globe has resulted in small works of great value, and personal experiences, which go a long way to fostering sound artistic rapport. Many thanks to all who continue this work with me.