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Book Arts: Abstracted/Metaphorical

Subject-specific lists of book arts materials available in Special Collections at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library

Haas Arts Special Collections

Absence.  J. Meejin Yoon. New York: Printed Matter & Whitney Museum of American Art, 2003. Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections Call Number NJ18.Y7925 A12 2003 (LC)

With one page for each of the stories (including the antenna) in the World Trade Center towers, architect J. Meejin Yoon poignantly reminds us of the immense physical structure that is now absent in lower Manhattan.  The bulk and heft of the book object recall the strong presence of the two towers, despite the small size of the book itself.  The reader can hold it in the palm of his or her hand, heightening the intimate experience of flipping through the seemingly abstract compositions before seeing the book’s culmination, a map of the area in which the twin towers formerly stood.  Only then does the reader feel the “weight” of the negative space carved out of the solid text block.  

Sleepers, Dreamers & Screamers. Emily Martin. Iowa City, IA: Naughty Dog Press, 2006. Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections NJ18.M38664 A12 2006 (LC)  

Martin’s more light-hearted approach in imagery to a difficult and sensitive topic is no less serious in its content.  Martin uses the metaphor of nightmares to suggest that the time after 9/11 resembles our greatest fears.  A series of typical nightmare scenarios (stranded in a boat, hurtling uncontrollably on a roller coaster) unfold literally as pop-ups while Martin’s text scrolls underneath: “We’ve all had nightmares.  Vivid as they may be there is always that sweet release upon waking.  But what happens when the events in our waking lives surpass even our most horrific dreams.  Where is our release now?”  

IX XI MMI. Mac McGill. Brooklyn, NY: Booklyn Artists Alliance, 2003. Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections Call Number NJ18.M47127 A12 2003 (LC)

McGill’s anthropomorphized drawings of the buildings in lower Manhattan and post-attack debris clearly express the anguish that many New Yorkers and other Americans felt.  The drawings are so powerful that at first the reader does not notice the lack of text in this book. The original drawings are in the collection of the Library of Congress.  

Snowstorm of Documents. Robbin Ami Silverberg. Brooklyn, NY: Dobbin Books, 2002. Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections Call Number In Process  

In response to the debris that covered large expanses of the city, Silverberg created this book object/tool.  The tools of brush and pan have fused, making them difficult but not impossible to use, and evoking the trauma of the physical clean-up after the attacks.  The text on the paper-covered dustpan concerns the fluctuating state of the city and state of mind of its residents.  The detritus on the pan contains a text about quantification: “Daily we read numbers in the papers and then heard them on the news.  So, we counted: the pain of each person who was in the WTC and the pain of their families and the pain of their friends and the pain of those near the WTC and of those watching the horror of the WTC like we did…”   An accompanying book shows Silverberg’s photographs from the month of September 2001 and reproductions of New York Times newspapers clippings on paper made by the artist; the paper recalls the dust and debris that covered the city.  

Craps.  Robbin Ami Silverberg. Brooklyn, NY: Dobbin Books, 2001. Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections Call Number Miniature NJ18 Si3138 A12 2001 (LC) AOB 59 Box 3

This book contains one month’s worth of newspaper clippings reproduced on Silverberg’s handmade paper.  She titled the edition “Craps” because of the similarity to the classic gambling game where the object is simply to guess the correct number. Page after page of newspaper clippings titled “Dead and Missing” are paired with a seemingly random selection of numbers representing a throw of the dice, but are in fact the fluctuating number of those reported missing from the World Trade Center.

Hecatombe 9-11.  Maria G. Pisano.  Plainsboro, NJ: Memory Press, 2007. (Accompanying prints) Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections Call Number NJ18.P67775 A12 2007 (LC)

“Night Before the Day,” “Skeletal Remains,” and “Waiting Urns,” the series draws a parallel between these two kinds of containers for the human body. The buildings in which we reside are normally considered a place of shelter.However, the 9/11 attacks made many question the safety of the places they visit every day. The sequence of these three prints reminds us of the literal and intellectual “before and after” marked by a particular day.

Other Yale Libraries

11. Marshall Weber. Brooklyn, NY: Booklyn, 2002. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Call Number Zab W3885 2002E

Weber’s photo essay documenting the proliferation of missing posters and other postings that appeared in the days after 9/11 is paired with writing by several New York City authors.  A compact disc of the writers reading their texts is included with the book.  Weber has exhibited the book on a turntable to enhance the reading experience.  By inducing a physical sense of disorientation in the reader, it accentuates the mental discord that many experienced after the attacks.

From the website of the publisher: “The book has an innovative structure of alternating vertical and horizontal page-spread orientation. The alternating orientation prompts the reader to rotate the book 90 degrees with each page turn. A small white or black silhouette of the WTC Towers rises from the bottom right hand corner of every page-spread to assist the reader with keeping the proper page orientation. Two recessed bars on the front cover both recall the missing Towers and act as a mnemonic device to remind the reader where the front of the book is located since the direction of page turning varies with the page orientation. The constant re-orientation produces a visceral experience of vertigo that evokes the intensely disorienting atmosphere of 9/11 yet still keeps the reader engaged with the texts and images.” [1]