the exhibition, symposium, and other events related to Word and
Image: Samuel Beckett and the Visual Text, click here.
Academic Exchange October/November
1999 Contents Page
In November and December,
more than thirty fine artists' editions of texts by playwright
Samuel Beckett will be displayed in the Robert W. Woodruff Library's
Schatten Gallery. The exhibition, Word and Image: Samuel Beckett
and the Visual Text, is the result of collaborative efforts between
the library and the Beckett Correspondence Project, based in
the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences since 1990. With the
leadership of associate editors Martha Fehsenfeld and Lois Overbeck,
the project is preparing the definitive scholarly edition of
Beckett's letters. The library has assembled an extensive collection
of Beckett's published work in support of this editorial project,
including many of the livres
d'artistes, or artists' books,
featured in the exhibition.
In conjunction with Word and Image, Emory will host a symposium
November 1113 which will bring to campus a number of the
international artists whose work is included in the exhibition.
Stanford University Professor of Humanities Marjorie Perloff
will deliver the keynote address on November 12. Along with a
discussion with visiting artists, the symposium events will include
talks by Dalia Judovitz, Emory Professor of French and Italian;
Overbeck; and Breon Mitchell, Indiana University Professor of
German; as well as Theater Emory performances and a panel of
graduate students presenting work in progress.
Together, these events will examine the place of the livre
d'artiste within the twentieth-century art book tradition
and Beckett's life and work. They will also open interdisciplinary
dialogue concerning the dynamics of word and image in the visual
and written arts.
For more information about these events, click here or contact
Lois Overbeck at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-6840.
The literary and artistic culture of the twentieth-century avant-garde
both informed and were formed by Beckett's writing. In his own
work, Beckett incessantly questioned and explored the limits
of language and form as well as the tension between words and
image. His writing extended the boundaries of all the genres
for which he wrote (poetry, fiction, drama for stage, radio,
film, and television). At issue during this symposium and exhibition
will be methodological responses to the juxtaposition of words
and images in the twentieth-century avant-garde.
The thirty-eight fine artists' editions we gathered for this
exhibition are, in a sense, "created rare." Because
of their rarity, livres d'artistes are seldom seen, except
by the connoisseur collector or the scholar who seeks them out
for private study. As Beckett bibliographer Breon Mitchell has
noted, it comes as a surprise to many readers to discover that
Beckett's works have appeared in expensive and limited editions,
illustrated with original graphics by major artists. Such books
seem by their very nature at odds with Beckett's austere texts,
with what most readers know of his ascetic life, and with the
desire he once expressed "to live in a totally bare room,
with no books, no pictures, just four empty walls." Yet
time and again Beckett allowed his texts to first appear in luxurious
illustrated editions, available to only a fortunate few.
It was as readers that the idea for this exhibition caught hold
of our imaginations. Each book, hand-crafted and executed with
great regard for the text, is itself an objet d'art. And
at the same time, the story of each conjunction between an artist
and the Beckett text, creates a new "reading" of the
work. Not only does the exhibition make more widely known the
place of the livre d'artiste within the twentieth-century
avant-garde tradition, but it invites a new "regard"
of the text and new questions about the fundamental yet constantly
changing dynamic of exchange between word and image in this century.
In the twentieth-century livre d'artiste, the image has
been released from its function of decorating or explaining the
text. In the contemporary examples of the exhibition, the image
is a reaction to the text--as Mitchell says, "variations
on a theme, a shape, a tone."
These books present a wide range of artistic responses to Samuel
Beckett's texts that, at their best, establish a creative dialogue
between word and image with implications far beyond Beckett's
own work. The twenty international artists represented in the
exhibition-including such well-known contemporary artists as
Jasper Johns and Avigdor Arikha-employ a variety of graphic means,
including some highly experimental printmaking techniques. Conversations
with artists Sorel Etrog, Charles Klabunde, Manfred Garstka,
Dellas Henke, and Hans Brøndum will help us appreciate
the intensity and range of these responses to Beckett's texts.
As photographs, letters, and other documents included in the
exhibition show, the process of discovery and creative exploration
differs for each artist.
While this exhibition is a celebration of Beckett's own artistry,
the works exhibited are also a site for the literary and visual
arts to meet. The result is striking beauty and power that reminds
us, once again, of the collaborative nature of artistic creativity.