“A rare gem: a book of pivotal works that have received little critical attention”

News Section, Reviews

May 13th, 2012


(Review) It Is Almost That: A Collection of Image+Text Work by Women Artists & Writers





Siglio Press’s anthology of text-based art, It is Almost That, is a rare gem: a book of pivotal works that have received little critical attention. Because of its attention to the obscure, It is Almost That is essential for anyone interested in feminist art, performance studies, cross-genre writing or the graphic novel.

It is Almost That was conceived and edited by Siglio publisher Lisa Pearson, who envisioned the book to be the first of several editions that would document pieces in the fuzzy area between art and text, works that are “not-quite-this-and-not-quite-that.” In her afterword, Pearson emphasizes that “categories cannot contain” and that works that are “partly (almost) visible to one world [are] often entirely invisible to another.” The twenty-six pieces that comprise the volume are not arranged in chronological order, though they are loosely associated with works that precede and follow them. Through this manner of curation, Pearson poses the question of what it means to “read” a text that reveals itself primarily as image when it is not the only work of its kind.

The title of It is Almost That is borrowed from a slideshow included in the volume by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Cha is best known for her text-art novel Dictée (1982), a harbinger of the recent surge in experimental memoir. Like Dictée, It is Almost That (1977), designed on black paper with white press-type, explores the effect of point of view in the project of personal narration. The piece is composed of fragments and does not offer the reader the satisfaction of narrative or declaration. Like many of the pieces contained in this book, it incites “more questions than answers.”

A vigorous commitment to conceptual practice unites the artists, no matter how different the content of their work. All pieces contained in the volume are by women, including several key performance artists from the genre’s boldest era, among them Hannah Weiner, Adrian Piper and Ann Hamilton. Alison Knowles’s “A House of Dust” (1968), an exercise in randomly generated content, appears as what is arguably the first computer generated poem. Eleanor Antin’s “Domestic Peace,” a graphic notation of the artist’s emotional responses to conversations with her mother during a visit in December 1971, reveals the degree of friction between the two women that arises over mundane topics. . . .

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