The Potential Library 2016 (ISBN: 978-3-943196-37-5, ISBN: 978-3-943196-51-1, ISBN: 978-3-943196-49-8, ISBN: 978-3-943196-48-1, ISBN: 978-3-943196-50-4)
Five books and a broadside, dimensions variable.
A Library of Potential Books, an Aside
I was in Kassel mid-way through the last dOCUMENTA (13) and I stumbled into a talk in the Ständehaus about books that did not exist. The potential of this left me wanting more, but more of what I couldn’t quite say. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as it feels like books can offer us all something, and we’ve all of late asked a lot of books, and asked a lot of questions about them, but it seems that perhaps the answers we seek are themselves slippery, ethereal, a tad proleptic.
These books were by the writer Mario Bellatin and it came out of his inclusion in the project Never Odd Or Even by Mariana Castillo Deball, a collection of book covers for books yet to be rendered fully real.
Only of course they are real, the project itself is a handsome bookwork edition, published by Bom Dia Books. For a long time I had been seeking a way to marry the practice of fiction novelist, editor and publisher and in 2013 I first wrote a potential book and assigned it an ISBN from my publishing house – itself a fiction I should add. This is a fine tradition to be. I found inspiration in the magisterial Stanislaw Lem, whose Imaginary Magnitude, a collection of introductions to books yet to be written, so wonderfully ‘proposing prefaces that lead nowhere, introductions that go nowhere, and forewords followed by no words at all.’ And in this nothingness, the ‘parable of our destiny’, is freedom. This very freedom seems particularly ripe to me, and in the new art of making books, I see it all the way back in the godfather Mallarme’s unfinished magnum opus Le Livre, an all encompassing book that was, by necessity, empty. And then that next name in the Parthenon of artbooks, Ulises Carrion, had it that ‘The most beautiful and perfect book in the world is a book with only blank pages, in the same way that the most complete language is that which lies beyond all that the words of a man can say.’
Simon Starling’s empty books, Ed Ruscha’s empty books, all the books I want to write but never will, all the books I want to read but never will. These are all, of course, anything but voids: they’re as rich and as nuanced as any book I could hope to come to handle in this life.
These five books are accompanied by a broadside entitled The Future of Reading, it is a short work of fiction, told from the point of view of an imagined future self; it is to be read only in the proximity of these five potential books. Some of these books could be considered to exist already, To Warmann for instance appeared in my first novel The Readymades, others still are scheduled to appear such as And When The Panic Rises You Shall Have This City’s Sympathy which will be published during Berlin Art Week as part of Buro BDP’s inclusion on the programme as a Project Space Award winner. Others still are works by fictional writers, dreams and desires of yet more made up possibilities. They have been designed in consultation with my long time graphic design colleagues, Oliver Spieker and Beata Niedhardt of Form Und Konzept. The only things printed inside each book states all that I have left to say in this Aside:
This book was printed using digital print-on-demand technology in an edition of 2. One copy has been sent to the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, the other exists in the world.
John Holten, Berlin, July 2016