A collaborative artist’s book by William Gibson and Dennis Ashbaugh
Brian Hannon, former Director of the Center for Book Arts, said of the exhibition: “Book artists will inevitably be divided about works like AGRIPPA: to some, they exemplify new modes of expression for the book arts; to others, such works epitomize the use of technologies that undermine the traditional book format, and the book experience itself.
Author William Gibson and artist Dennis Ashbaugh, along with publisher Kevin Begos, Jr., have created an artist’s book that defies conventional notions of how a book is supposed to function, since it’s designed to be read only once — and then self-destruct! The physical object is a metallic-looking box which encases a bound volume with a distressed cover. Within its pages, Ashbaugh’s original copperplate engravings of DNA accompany an autobiographical story by Gibson about his dead father. Gibson’s text, however, is located on a floppy disk found in a special niche made into the book. The disk not only contains the narrative of the book, but is also encrypted with a computer virus that destroys the text as it scrolls across your computer screen. The reader is therefore confronted with an irreversible decision: to know the story of AGRIPPA which links it to the artwork, or to save it, for the text cannot be stopped, copied, or printed once it is set in motion. As well, some of Ashbaugh’s images disappear as you touch the pages of the book. Obviously, this is no ordinary book.
Ultimately, AGRIPPA is simply the story of human mortality, of a man’s life told from afar: via the memories and recollections of his own genetic material, his son. If a primary objective of the book arts is to bind content to form, to present ideas in a format that augments their manifestation beyond the text and image, then perhaps AGRIPPA has done well to reveal the fleeting existence of a life that is once here and then gone forever.”
Support for the Center for Book Arts’ visual arts programming is provided, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of the New York State Legislature, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.