READ ME. LIKE A BOOK.

30 YEARS OF DOBBIN BOOKS

A Retrospective of Artist Books by

Robbin Ami Silverberg

This virtual online tour was created with the support of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc. and The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

 

In the stacks: Pratt Institute Brooklyn Campus Library is a landmark building in the Renaissance Revival style. Of particular beauty are the interiors by the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company: the area built for the book stacks has floors made of glass, innovative air circulation, and bookshelves of oak with copper-plated supports.

 

I chose to place a number of my artist books into these stacks, so the exhibition viewers will more actively engage with this truly impressive architectural space, along with seeing them in the context of mingling with other books in the library.​

I have always seen my installations as books in space … with similar challenges of reading and pacing. I want to create small universes, mindscapes… worlds where the engagement with a viewer/reader is total.

“The similarities between installations and artists’ books lie more in their materiality (both make use of mixed techniques and media), activity (both demand that the viewer be active “to complete the work”) and linearity (in both cases, the reading is not linear).” 

– Paul Van Capelleveen in his catalog essay for Read Me. Like a Book.

 
 

Working with the book as my vehicle of expression inevitably led me to re-consider the act of reading. The transference of a dot matrix through the eyes of a reader into visual signs, that are equated to sounds, that evolve into words, language, and ultimately ideas -- is the purview of speculation and even fantasy, much like art-making.

In the context of a discussion on cartography, I would consider myself a paper/book/language artist, who makes descriptive and emotional responses to built spaces. A map names places, traces its shape & form, declaring its existence as a simulacrum. 

We imagine that maps describe the empirical but they do so much more. They inform or remind us of place of space of events of feelings... ideas of all that has transpired there... they are a pretext for a nomenclature. The map is not the place itself but the referent. 

 
 

Working with the book as my vehicle of expression inevitably led me to re-consider the act of reading. The transference of a dot matrix through the eyes of a reader into visual signs, that are equated to sounds, that evolve into words, language, and ultimately ideas -- is the purview of speculation and even fantasy, much like art-making.

 

The over-arching theme in my work is interlinearity, the portion of knowledge and the world that we ignore or omit, or consider negative space, whether the pause in a sentence, the gesture before the act, or the subtext of written language. One aspect of this is language cognition, what words can actually communicate and their limitations. 

 

“In the more than thirty years that Robbin Ami Silverberg has been artistically active, whether producing installations, artist books or objects, one gains the impression that there are two major lines she is following. Despite their being outwardly contradictory, these two lines are interwoven in the wide range of her abstract yet poetic work, intersecting time and again within it: the facets of remembering and of forgetting, memorial and loss.”

– Susanne Padberg in her catalog essay for Read Me. Like a Book.

I’ve produced many artist books & installations that focus on either feminist ideals or on exposing misogyny. The feminist movement was the first to effectively combine the Personal with the Political.  Thus the dominant themes seen in my artwork are the components of my reality.  I am an artist, a feminist, a sister, friend, professor, mother, a New Yorker... As artists, we draw on our lives but the process of making art is the transformation of the personal into something larger.

 
 

Political content in my work has varied according to place, culture & when working with others, my collaborators. Several directions are presented here: 

-  Evocative responses to our post- 9/11 world.

-  Issues concerning South Africa’s changing political and social situation.

-  Re-visiting memories & memorials of the Holocaust.

-  The American obsession with guns and its commensurate violence.

-  Failed government systems at home & abroad.

 

"Your exhibition at Pratt is a remarkable presentation/installation, which vividly and lucidly explains your rich and complex understanding of the book.  I can't imagine a more resonant setting... Although an online presentation can't duplicate the in-person experience, it is clear how much thought and care went into the overall design of the website, the sequence of the various cases as they appear throughout the library and the weave of text and images.  The staircase is a marvel!"

 - Roberta Waddell 

"The arrangement and design of the library exhibit is the most thoughtful and meaningful site-specific display of artists books that I have ever seen. The virtual tour navigation is simple and seamless making the online experience quite easy. I know all of these details are by careful design and take a great deal of work and skill to execute."

- Ellen Sheffield

"Wow….just dipping into this and it’s a whole realm of worlds opening up. I love the way I can see your books in place, in a library, well lit, in a space for bodies and eyes to move. What beautiful settings, and how alive the website is with the power of your work. Thanks so much for sending this. I’ll take some more time to look and absorb."

- Casey Gardner

"This is just superb! I not only got to see the exhibition but better yet got a tour of the books, seeing them in many instances page by page, with you as the perfect tour guide... Your website is so well designed that the viewer can go right to a given thematic area, and then choose specific books to ‘leaf through’!  I just hope that this will remain on your website for eternity, as I plan to return many times!"

- Pam Allara

Exhibition & Website Design: Noa Rabinovich Lalo, Robbin Ami Silverberg

Installation: Christopher Arabadjis, Noa Rabinovich Lalo, András Böröcz & Locus Xiaotong Chen

Photography: Dorka Hübner, Ernst Fischer