[ excerpt ]
photos of book
series: image to word 4
||a user's manual
by Jiří Kolář
translated from the Czech by Ryan Scott
artwork by the author
Written in the 1950s and ’60s, the “action poems” comprising a A User’s Manual were published in their complete form in 1969 when they were paired
with the 52 collages of Weekly 1967, the first of Kolář’s celebrated series in which he commented visually on a major event for each week of
the year. Taking the
form of directives, largely absurd, the poems mock communist society’s officialese while offering readers an opportunity to create their own poetics by performing the given directions.
The collages on the facing pages to the poems are composed of layered documents, image cutouts, newspaper clippings, announcements, letter
fragments, reports, or decontextualized words, oftentimes forming concrete patterns or the outlines of figures, to create a sort of “evidential” report on the year.
Text and image taken together, the volume displays Kolář’s enduring interest in extracting poetry from the mundane to demolish the barrier separating art from reality,
or even to elevate reality itself through this dual poetics to the level of art. What art historian Arsén Pohribný wrote about Weekly 1968 equally applies to Weekly 1967:
it “shocks with its abrupt stylistic twists” and is “a Babylonian, hybrid parable of multi-reality.” The volume also includes the complete Czech text as an appendix.
What others say:
For the most part Kolář’s poems avoid any overtly political calls to rebellion or insurrection. They demonstrate how
individual people can exhibit their displeasure in small, daily surreal acts.
— Chris Oleson, Bookmunch
As unusual as they are, many of the poems are oddly practical enough that they could serve as inspiration triggers. The language is spare,
reasons and explanations are not offered, but therein lies the charm. Some are even strangely beautiful.
— J.M. Schreiber, roughghosts
If we only regard Kolář's oeuvre as an assemblage of artworks we would miss its meaning, which lies in its overall message, in its synthesis of word and image,
and most of all in its highlighting the fluid, protean, ambiguous nature of reality ...
— Marie Klimešová, Grimace of the Century
142 pp., 17 x 20 cm
52 halftone and color illus.
silk ribbon marker
poetry : art : avant-garde
RRP: $24 • £18
UK: September 25, 2019
US: December 2, 2019
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