MASS MoCA's Book Club April 3

Features Artists Johnny Carrera and Tom Phillips

By: - Mar 19, 2013

The second installment of MASS MoCA's Book Club will feature artists Johnny Carrera and Tom Phillips. It will be held on April 3rd at 6pm in the Life's Work exhibition. Unlike traditional book clubs, this program makes connections between museum exhibitions and the written word. 

"We cannot imagine a more exciting pair of artists for this presentation than the artists behind Life's Work - an exhibition specifically dedicated to printed text and imagery in a changing society," said Laura Thompson, MASS MoCA's director of education. The Book Club series is MASS MoCA's first foray into this type of programming.

For the last 45 years Phillips has been working on A Humument, "a serial project" based on an otherwise forgotten 1892 Victorian novel, A Human Document, by W.H. Mallock. Phillips covers the original book with collage, painting, and drawing, while leaving some of the original text intact. The result is a haunting, humorous, non-linear text poem, glimpsed in fragments. Now in its fifth edition, the Washington Post called A Humument, "one of the most winning and witty artistic experiments of recent times," and the San Francisco Chronicle said it was "full of humor, visual invention, and the peculiar poignancy of unnoticed meanings in the very lay and spelling of printed words."

Carrera's project, like Philips' begins with an existing book: in this case, the original engravings of the 1859 American Dictionary of the English Language published by Merriam-Webster's. Carrera's work, The Pictorial Webster's Dictionary, transforms the original source and includes his own engravings, ultimately creating a new lexicon of words, texts and meaning. Brainpickings said, "This alphabetically arranged gem is both archival record and aesthetic feat, a treat for history geeks and design aficionados alike."

At the April 3rd event, Phillips and Carrera will read from their works, discuss their artistic process, and reflect on their decades-long engagement with repurposed text and images. The event will consider the very nature of books and images, as well as the ways that individuals and societies change over long expanses of time. Refreshments will be served. The program is free to museum members and students, and $5 for not-yet-members.

This is the second book club event organized by MASS MoCA. The first, held in November 2012, explored Invisible Cities, the dream-like novel by Italo Calvino. Held in the galleries of the Invisible Cities exhibition -a group exhibition inspired by Calvino's book - the event featured a discourse between MASS MoCA curator Susan Cross and Williams College Professor of English Gage McWeeny.