Body of Evidence (2020) Ana Paula Cordeiro Artist’s book. Bound on meeting guards, covers in full leather lacunose panels with tree bark and mother-of-pearl onlays. H16 x W9 in, 30 pages. Somerset, Magnani and Zerkall papers with gampi and mulberry inclusions. Edition of 9; this copy commissioned by the Bodleian Library. Photos: Books On Books Collection, with thanks to Alexandra Franklin, Jo Maddocks and Sarah Wheale of the Bodleian.
When I encounter works of book art, I often recall some collector’s comment — “you don’t collect these works to read them” — and shake my head. Every one of these works expects you to try — even the ones nailed shut, submerged, cast in concrete, burnt to calcification or otherwise hermetically sealed. At their end of the spectrum, those are challenging your expectation that a book is meant to be opened. At the other end are…
No final de 1999 eu pedi demissão da agência e vendi meu carro para me mudar para os Estados Unidos, com a intenção de aprender inglês. Como a única viagem ao exterior que eu tinha feito até então tinha sido o fim-de-ano anterior em Nova York, alguns amigos vieram me alertar sobre o racismo nos EUA. Eu ouvi uma estória sobre Renato Russo tirando onda de ter um sotaque neutro o suficiente para se passar por israelense, e como isso deveria ser considerado vantajoso.
Eu não me senti intimidada, mas tomei um fôlego grande antes de embarcar. No fim das contas, ao longo dos 16 anos seguintes eu me tornei fluente, encontrei uma comunidade, vivi nas cinco vizinhanças de NYC e desenvolví uma profissão – tudo com um sotaque brasileiro pronunciado, e do tal racismo: nada. Aqueles alertas se apagararam na minha mente. Eu não me considerava mais “estranha”.
Até as eleições presidenciais de 2016. De repente, não mais que de repente, as coisas mudaram. A expressão Fragilidade Branca entrou no meu vocabulário pela chaminé, aterrissando com um baque e uma nuvem de fuligem. O poder do governo federal contra imigração passou a ser gabado. As conexões com a polícia tornaram-se motivo para puxar conversa. Insinuações foram feitas. Um punhado de gente passou a não gastar mais energia com seus próprios fracassos. De repente, quase misteriosamente, esses indivíduos se tornaram os donos da bola. Minha presença aqui passou a ser questionada: nessas situações, eu me tornei aquela “outra pessoa”: uma estrangeira, em posição vulnerável.
Corpo de Evidência (Body of Evidence) é minha resposta ao clima desses últimos quatro anos. Originalmente concebido para conter apenas um poema e um ensaio, o projeto cresceu a 30 páginas para caber tudo que me deu nos nervos a cada ciclo de notícias, a cada tuítaço, a cada desastre, a cada atrocidade. Livros de artistas são narrativas rítimicas por natureza, e apesar de uma certa falta de linearidade, esse se manteve o caso. Uma estória sem fio, como acontece com aqueles que vão levando a vida a curto prazo: minha “trajetória” enquanto imigrante – não do tipo de imigrante que sentiu horrores infligidos na carne, mas como imigrante-testemunha, o tipo de imigrante que teve “escolha”, e que “escolheu” ir em frente e continuar na labuta. Como Agnes Martin escreveu: “não somos os instrumentos do destino nem somos peões do destino: nós somos o material do destino”.
Esse livro foi impresso nas cores do patriotismo norte-americano: vermelho e azul sobre branco, porém com a adição de todos os tons de cinza. É moldado como um envelope com abas abertas, dobradas longitudinalmente. Por design, é incapaz de se manter em pé.
Todas as imagens são do meu bairro no norte de Manhattan, historicamente um santuário de imigrantes. Elas foram impressas a partir de xilogravuras, fotogravuras, processos fotográficos alternativos, serigrafias e chapas de fotopolímero. O livro é encadernado em guardas, e as capas são painéis de couro lacunoso com relevos e depressões, e incrustadas com cascas de árvore e madrepérola. É uma edição de 09 exemplares numerados, a serem encadernados e personalizados a pedido.
As chapas e a impressão das fotogravura foram feitas por Aurora De Armendi. As serigrafias foram possíveis graças a uma bolsa de estudos do Fine Arts Work Center em Provincetown, Massachussets.
Passagens dos meus diários relacionadas com a minha experiência de 20 anos enquanto artista imigrante formaram o texto, complementadas com citações de Fernando Pessoa, Rebecca Solnit, Emily Dickinson, William James e Agnes Martin. A impressão foi feita na oficina de tipografia do The Center for Book Arts, usando a coleção de tipos da casa.
Das duas, uma: ou eu trabalho muito devagar, ou o ritmo da história ficou mais rápido (provavelmente as duas). Durante o tempo que levei para criar e imprimir esta edição, as emergências climáticas e políticas se agravaram. Os últimos quatro anos foram uma passarela de desastres ambientais e humanitários, culminando com a pandemia e a crise da justiça racial. Como Nova York foi por um tempo o epicentro do COVID19, eu não pude frequentar o ateliê e acabei encadernando a primeira Prova do Artista na privacidade do meu quarto.
Enquanto isso, Bolsonaro foi visto competindo com Trump pela posição de pior líder de todos os tempos. As mensagens entre mim e minha família eram apenas tentativas corajosas de produzir um sorriso de um lado para o outro, com pequenos sucessos. Fui uma das finalistas em um concurso, e durante a entrevista (online) me perguntaram se o momento presente vai deixar uma marca no corpo do meu trabalho.
Marcas? Não, meu senhor: cicatrizes.
Um fato curioso: a encadernação tem uma imagem apotropaica oculta no revestimento da espinha. De acordo com a página da Wikipedia, a palavra “apotropaica” vem
Do grego antigo ἀποτρόπαιος (apotrópaios), de ἀπό (apó, “distância”) e τρόπος (trópos, “turn”); assim, significa “fazer as coisas se afastarem”, como em “se afasta o mal”. (esconjurar?)
Como Georgious Boudalis mencionou em “O Códice e os Ofícios da Antiguidade”: Livros e corpos eram vulneráveis e o fato de esforços serem feitos para proteger tanto livros quanto corpos alude ao seus poderes.
Por razões de força maior, apenas o meu primeiro nome ficou visível.
Este projeto foi possível com o apoio da Fundação Pollock-Krasner.
Meus sinceros agradecimentos para Aurora De Armendi Delphi Basilicato Sonia Cordeiro Maureen Cummins KS Lack Celine Lombardi Sarah Nicholls Sarah Perron Jessica Russ Abby Schoolman
At the end of 1999 I quit my job and sold my car to make a move to New York, with the intention of learning English. As the only trip abroad I had taken until then had been the previous holiday season in the city, some friends took upon themselves to warn me against racism in the US. I heard stories about other Brazilians who got enough accent reduction to pass as Israelis, and how that was supposed to be a good thing.
I wasn’t intimidated, but I braced for it. As it turned out, throughout the next 16 years I got fluent, found a community, lived in the five boroughs and honed a skill – all with a pronounced Brazilian accent, and yet racism didn’t materialize. The warnings faded in my mind. I didn’t think of myself as the other.
Then, in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, things changed. Just like that. The expression White Fragility entered my vocabulary through the chimney, landing with a thump and a cloud of soot. Connections within NYPD became reason for name dropping. ICE power was bragged about. Insinuations were made. A small but loud handful of people no longer wasted their energies being angry with their own failures. Suddenly, almost mysteriously, these individuals found themselves somewhat smug. My presence here was questioned: in these situations, I became not only the other but that leverageable other.
Body of Evidence is my four-years long response to this climate. Originally conceived to hold only a poem and an essay, it grew to 30 pages with all that got on my nerves from each news cycle, each social media storm, each disaster, each atrocity. Artist books are time-based narratives by nature, and that is true for this one even though it has no fixed chronology. A story line without much of a line, as it is the case for those of us who have lived on short term perspective for so long. My crooked path as an immigrant it is – not the kind of immigrant who had felt horrors inflicted upon but as a witnessing immigrant, an immigrant who could choose and whose choice was to stay and to work. As Agnes Martin wrote: “we are not the instruments of fate [n]or are we pawns of fate, we are the material of fate”.
The book was printed in red & blue over white, plus all shades of gray. It is shaped as an envelope with flaps open, folded lengthwise. By design, it is unable to stand on its feet.
All images are from my neighborhood in Northern Manhattan, historically an immigrant sanctuary. They were printed from woodcuts, photogravures, alternative photographic processes, screenprints, and photopolymer plates. The book is bound with meeting guards, and the covers are full leather lacunose panels with tree bark and mother-pearl inclusions. It is an edition of 09 numbered copies, to be bound upon request and personalized.
The photogravures plates and printing are by Aurora De Armendi. Screenprints were possible thanks to a scholarship by the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA.
The letterpress text is mainly a selection of journal entries related to my experience of 20 years as an immigrant artist, supplemented with quotes from Rebecca Solnit, Emily Dickinson, William James, Agnes Martin, and Fernando Pessoa. It was printed at The Center for Book Arts in a Vandercook Universal III Proofing Press, using the house type collection.
Either I work very slowly or the pace of history got faster (probably both.) During the time it took me to create and print this edition, both the climate and the political emergencies have picked up. These past four years were a litany of environmental and humanitarian disasters, right up to the pandemic and the racial justice crisis. As result of New York City being the COVID19 epicenter for a while, I ended up binding the first AP in my bedroom.
Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro could be seen competing with Donald Trump for the nomination of worse leader ever. The text messages between my family members (all of which live in Brazil) and me in the city are but a brave attempt to produce a smile from one side to another, with small successes. I was one of the finalists for a residency application process, and during the Zoom interview I was asked if the present moment would reveal itself in my body of work.
Why, it is coming out of the woodwork.
Fun fact, the binding has a concealed apotropaic image in the spine lining. As per the Wikipedia entry, this word comes
From Ancient Greek ἀποτρόπαιος (apotrópaios), from ἀπό (apó, “away”) and τρόπος (trópos, “turn”); thus meaning “causing things to turn away”, as in “turns away evil”.
As Georgious Boudalis mentioned in “The Codex and Crafts in Late Antiquity”: Books and bodies were vulnerable and the fact that pains were taken to protect both books and bodies alludes to their power
For reasons of force majeure, only my first name is visible in the book.
This project was made possible with support from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. It was produced at The Center for Book Arts, with additional help from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA.
I wish to express my deepest gratitude to my dear friends
Aurora De Armendi
This post has a follow-up post for the book colophon,
According to Keith Houston, “the last thing the reader saw was the “colophon”, a single page at the back of the book named after the Greek word for “summit”, or “finishing touch.”*
Still quoting Houston: “The colophon was a place for the printer to record the details of the book’s manufacture–the name of its firm; its coat of arms, perhaps; and the place and date of its production.”
The attentive reader will notice that I got carried away. Under the influence of a Walter Hamady retrospective at The Center for Book Arts–plus a generous helping of the social and emotional conditions under which we are finding ourselves, I vented.
And I vented, and vented and vented, as if after all that was said and done, there was yet much steam gathered under the valve.
And yet–yet again, after so much has been said and done, there is something else I want to share: the very attentive reader might have noticed that I harbor a romantic hope in between those lines. That one of my impulses for splurging so bad comes from wanting to expose a certain hierarchy of labor in the making of works of art. That creating and crafting for me are one contiguous act, that honing these skills have made me an artist, and that by being an artist I am honing my skills.
And that one is no lesser than the other. And that I am grateful for it, and that I am grateful for you to have noticed it, too.
*source: a book called The Book, by Keith Houston. 2016, published by Norton.
What started as another unpractical dream: a group of artists materializing a gallery space and creating work to be shown in the space based on the experience of creating the space. I called it Groupcracia. The more practical of you can easily spot the flaws. And galleries, I was told, wouldn’t take the risk of committing real estate to unknown quantities. Not to mention this irksome work-in-progress nature – how to fit it in the curatorialsphere ? Mainly, I think, this was not meant to be as such notions of interchangeable roles between administrative and artistic… too much, just too much. We are supposed to push the envelope – but not like this, they said.
Enters Joseph Cornell, from whom until then I knew so little. A stack of books borrowed from NYPL later, Groupcracia became Introspective Collective. This iteration branched at the hip like conjoined twins: part existing work that had an affinity with Cornellian visions, part new work created in response to the experience of interactions in preparation for the show itself. Still a little convoluted, but at least not as much of an unknown quantity.
I lost track of how many applications I sent out over the past 3 years, but that is immaterial: the only place were we could fit called me, and we needed none other: The Clemente, in the Lower East Side, with its majestic building and its ambitious mission, somewhat at odds with itself, as any other thing that is full of life. It happened all of the sudden, too, some other group dropped the time slot and we were given a handful of weeks to get our act together.
Our act together we did get, with KS Lack joining as co-organizer (we resisted labeling ourselves curators, and anyway we loved how the bilingual wall text set us right as Las Organizadoras!) With her on board the project grew more complex and more ambitious. As for the space, shabby-chic and DYI was among the definitions I heard. KS said “we will wear it well”. I can’t tell you how happy I felt when she walked in and proclaimed this.
Six weeks to create for six another weeks to run, twenty artists, one host institution and another one as partner, plus two grants. It was dizzying. Did I tell you how much fun we had when we laid our hands on a vinyl cutter? As we were groaning under the weight of those wall texts a friend said “you know, you are not MoMA”. Yeah right. Guess what, we might not be MoMA but we behaved as if we were.
Las Organizadoras once again wish to thank The Clemente Exhibitions Committee Board Member Linda Griggs and The Center for Book Arts Executive Director Corina Reynolds, for having believed in us. Special thanks also to Peter Schell and Colin McMullan, for having saved us on the opening day, and to Argenis Apolinario for his superb documentation skills.
Introspective Collective – A Joseph Cornell Co-op, was as multi-media exhibition installed at the LES Gallery in The Clemente from December 7th 2018 – January 20th 2019.
This is the typical reaction when I talk to old friends about the new book:
What is the book about, they ask.
Immigration, I say.
SHE IS FINALLY GETTING POLITICAL, they say (rather, they shout.)
Variations of this are happening so often, but so often, that I am led to believe I should have grown out of poetic abstraction sooner. Thanks, Trump! We are growing stronger, more cohesive, more compassionate, more aware, and much more courageous, in a relatively short period of time. Cheers. Here is to Gratitude, for All The Negativity that is coming out of the closet: twice after the election (but not once before), people who act as if life owed them some sort of prestige threatened to use my immigration status as leverage in favor of their – their honor, I guess? Their starved sense of superiority? I can only guess. Walt Whitman comes to mind:
Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you my brother or my sister?
I am sorry for you… they are not murderous or jealous upon me;
All has been gentle with me… I keep no account with lamentation;
What have I to do with lamentation?
What have I to do with lamentation? True, my stomach turned a few weeks acidic around the inauguration, and after children were used as live ammunition I realized I shouldn’t read into my phone before I go to bed. And I surely feel ever less inclined to get out of town. But, other than that, it is getting to work. If political, then be it. If under the spotlight for being a) woman and b)born in an underdeveloped nation, then be it. In my way of making books by hand, stuff of life makes a fine content.
As such, this new book grows from the core outward, the core being an
essay – Citizen, my first-person narrative about the concussion of an
undocumented alien, which my editor-friend Maureen Cummins generously
shaped into publishing material for her resistance journal Tinker Street
last year. Gravitating around it there are photogravures, passages from
my journals, letters from Celine Lombardi and Sarah Nicholls, text
messages from roommate Jessica Russ and, of course, from my mother, and,
if all angels of institutional licensing allow: snippets of Rebecca
Solnit precious prose; a line from the diaries of Joseph Cornell; a poem
by Emily Dickinson, in which she offered her being for Brazil.
I asked no other thing, No other was denied.
Why, it is after all My Take on Immigration: political-poetic, or maybe poetic-political, depending on How You Read It.
Someone created a true sculpture park in Manhattan, by the Hudson River. At first I took some phone pics thinking ‘Instagram’, but before long I came to my senses – phone pics alone don’t do it justice.
I asked the man who seemed to be always on site, are you the sculptor?
“I am the stone lifter”, he said with a smile. He was surprised when I asked for his name so that I could credit the work when posting. “People don’t usually do that.”
His name is Uliks Gryka. According to a New York Times article, he had the whole thing rebuilt once after vandals toppled them all, and then again after someone from the Parks Department took an opportunity to meddle.
While I was meandering (with my clunky film camera) between balanced stones, I heard something fall on the river with a big splash. It wasn’t me. “Yeah, I knew that one was about to come down”, he said. The sunset that particular evening had been magnificent, with perfect-drama clouds framing the pieces. I felt surrounded by a crowd of magnetic fields; every where I turned there was purpose and beauty and mystery and gravity. I couldn’t get enough of it, and as it turned out I didn’t get any of it at all: that roll of film had been badly loaded, operator deficiency.
Having to go back was all I wanted, though. Didn’t get the same fantastic clouds, but with hindsight I think in B&W the sculptures fare better this way – less interference. And there where new pieces too. “It’s getting there”,
Uliks said. Where is there, I asked. “By the trees”, he said vaguely.
Be it because of the trees or some vandals or the parks department or a mighty storm, something is sure to draw a line and change the place after the place has been changed by the skill of a human hand. Sounds like art?
I can get to see as much art as I want in the city, but I don’t get to see as much truth as I want. This work was so truthfully humbling, I can only feel proud to share.
Last years’ election night saw to it that my friend Maureen Cummins would right away launch Tinker Street – A Journal of Visual Art, Writing and Resistance, “a fireball collection of work by writers and artists from the upstate New York region and beyond.”
Maureen and I first bonded back in 2003, during my semester as an intern at the Women’s Studio Workshop. She has seen pretty much everything I have ever made by way of artists’ books, from the limited editions publicly shown to the very folios of my private journals, which I got into the habit of gathering and binding into volumes.
Why, she thought, maybe one of these could make good Tinker Street material? Why sure, thought I, and then she saw to it be professionally photographed.
Then one day she asked if I would consider writing an essay about my bike accident to go along, “from an immigrant perspective.”
You would think she could have seen this coming. Maybe she did. Anyway, the essay I came up with goes about the bike accident by way of September 11th, divorce, the English language, Charles Dickens, the French Revolution, patriotism and, of course, the rise of Donald Trump. It was enormous and convoluted but, after much of us putting our heads together, it turned out only a bit too long and no longer messy – to her credit. She is a tenacious editor, and a fierce friend.
The down side is, now with this 2-headed, 4-handed essay monster we have created, that old bound journal she had gone through the trouble of getting pro images of no longer fit on Tinker Street. Viola voilá, WordPress comes to rescue!
I think it is funny, though… at the end of the day, pics of the handmade journal taken for another handmade journal get published online. All things digital and all things analogue to love. So the journal is here, but for the above mentioned monster immigrant essay you have to get Tinker Street on your hands.
“Tinker Street is hand bound, hand-printed (in part) and produced in an eminently collectible limited edition of 500 copies. Since contributing artists have the option to buy copies at cost for re-sale at readings and openings, by supportingTinkerStreet you are supporting living artists and grassroots publishing.”
If you would like to purchase a copy, please send a check for $24 to
Maureen Cummins c/o:
TinkerStreet, PO Box 252, Woodstock, NY 12409.
(you may also consider giving a subscription [$48] to a friend who loves art, literature and handmade books.)
As result of a bike riding concussion of which I have no memory whatsoever, on a late summer night my body laid unconscious in an under lit street of Northern Manhattan I do not know for how long. As an undocumented alien, at that time I carried with me no identification at all. Another age and place, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story. It having being New York City in the year of our Lord of 2015, I am making a photography artist book.
By itself, the book will not be able to stand on its feet.
My best means of materializing such vulnerability (and my growing hopefulness for the best angels of human nature) is through B&W photographs of bridges and stairways that are part of my neighborhood. Why bridges and stairways: because I often abstract from such structures the concept of transposing oneself from one reality to another – a commonplace in an immigrant’s life.
Besides photographs, this book will feature Emily Dickinson’s poem “I asked no other thing”, in which the author offers her being for Brazil, along with my Portuguese rendering of it.
I propose to make some 20 white cubes, probably 20x20x5″,
inside of which 20 artists will display their work.
There won’t be many rules to start with, but I will set forth some guidelines drawn from 13 years of experience as a member of a communal studio which functions within a gallery.
The first guideline is: each white cube will have an opening custom-made to allow a viewing experience apart from all others.
As result, although the 20(sh) cubes will be exhibited in the same space, the viewer will be able to absorb the contents of only one at a time.
20(sh) “solo” shows will thus be displayed simultaneously, plus one “group” show
(the contents of the “group” show will be decided by the Group.)
The Group will be formed by artists who will have agreed to provide artwork to be shown in one such private white cube, which means they will have consequently had signed up to work for the Group the same amount of time I will have had invested in making the cube she/he will use.
The cubes will all be white in the exterior, but the interior may also be customized.
The range of options of what shall be meant as “work for the Group” will be decided by the Group. I will suggest that to be circumscribed within the boundaries of a) this project promotion (documenting, fundraising, etc); b) production/publication of art criticism; c) volunteering for the communal studio/institution where the cubes will be made; and/or d) volunteering for an organization such as Fountain House.
As for the art to be displayed, the artists will choose whether to
a) work within his/her field of inquiry
b) use as motive the experience of working for/with the Group.
The curatorial cut I will employ is an equation of what I perceive as a) an individual’s commitment to an artistic practice; b) an individual’s awareness of the influences her/his choices of inquiry have brought upon themselves and c) an experience I would have previously had of working with these artists in a fashion such as to have had the workload harmoniously shared – in other words, people who I look forward to work with again for knowing that within a given set of constraints the work dynamics are biased toward fairness. Consequently the Group demographic will be: ethnically diverse; 30’s-60’s years-old; female in majority.
In essence, I propose the job of the curator to be the job of a facilitator in an experiment of art market cast barter, establishing as currency the time we artists will have spent together and separately creating a reality for our work to be experienced.
Hours spent at meetings (or absences) will be currency; tardiness resulting in pressure over the production chain will be charged at equal rate with intellectual chores. For example, as an artist I will add to the sum of hours owed to the Group, hours traded for my labor as a craftswoman, hours which will be paid through my administrative role.