The students in Antoinette LaFarge’s fall Design for Print class (Art 106c) are having an exhibition of the artist’s books they made hosted by Langson Library, thanks to Special Collections librarian Steve MacLeod, who has put up a page about the project here, with installation photos.
The students’ challenge was to create a small book in the chapbook tradition as a personal meditation on the subject of plagues. The underlying thought was to create a collection in honor of International AIDS Day 2013, addressing this important disease obliquely through the ancient trope of the plague; hence the title of the show: A Meditation on Plagues.
Most of the students in this class had never made a book before or worked with print design software, but they approached the project with enthusiasm and flair, bringing to bear their competencies in related media such as photography and drawing. They took up a wide range of subjects, from historical plagues like syphilis and leprosy to plague-like outbreaks of mass hysteria. They experimented with the form of the book, creating accordion books and foldout books in addition to western codex-style booklets, looking in each case for a physical structure that would complement their book’s theme—like the fold-up book about AIDS that is structured like a quilt in honor of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, or the one whose transparent images of bacilli evoke microscope slides. The texts are mostly factual, but there are instances of fiction and poetry as well. Sometimes funny, sometimes grim—but never despairing—these thoughtful and visually sophisticated books illuminate our long history of cohabitation with plague organisms.
The exhibition is in the vitrines on the 5th Floor of Langson Library and runs from the evening of Dec. 11, 2013, through Jan. 31, 2014. Stop by the next time you are in Langson: you won’t see books like these on the other floors of the library.