Approaching Whiteness; If you can afford it – a triumph in content/communication

In part this is a genuine frustration but I should also say that I have spent my limited book budget for the year in just the first three months and so perhaps a good deal of my frustration is aimed at my own lack of self restraint.

Rinko Kawauchi teamed up with Ivan Vartanian/Goliga recently to realise her latest work ‘Approaching Whiteness‘. The result is a beautiful scroll with a set of images on it, there are 9 scrolls with different themes or images, each also has a silk-screened pattern in luminescent ink and calligraphy with sumi ink. Sounds great eh! Those amongst us who occasionally fetishize the photobook must be in heaven, but unfortunately this excessive beautifying may have gotten in the way of something much more valid for the photobook (at least for most of us) in the expansion of the reading experience.

From the Goliga site and video:
“The sequence of frames flow from right to left and connote the passage of time as an uninterrupted sequence. This idea extends to a larger philosophy that all things are connected.”

Of course the scroll is not a new invention and so perhaps it is over the top to call it a triumph in communication, but here is a photographer and publisher thinking beyond the bound book to the most suitable means of communicating a horizon to the viewer. I only wish the damn thing wasn’t £200+ pound for each version; surely a sign that this is being produced solely for the collector. There’s nowt wrong with collectors editions and making work specifically for them, hell I imagine that without the collectors money many projects would never be realised, much less break even. But what’s the alternative for the vast majority of us? Can we not enjoy this work as it is intended to be read, minus the rare wood, gold butterfly wings and price tag?

John Baldessari once said that every artist should have a “cheap line”. I imagine in 6 months time I shall be proved wrong about Approcahing Whiteness and Vartanian might bring out a non boxed scroll set or something similar for the masses but in the meantime I wish Baldessari was taken into account for this is a mainstream artist asking questions of the book that few others have dared to.

– Matt

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