In the Minute Before / In the Minute After
By Tona Wilson and Maureen Cummins
High Falls, New York: Maureen Cummins, 2013. Edition of 25.
7 x 10.75"; 18 pages. Dos-à-dos structure. Printed on Arches cover with over two hundred runs of letterpress printing, silkscreen, stenciling, and hand-coloring. Covers were handpainted, screenprinted, and stamped with the numbers 11:39 and 11:41 the times (respectively) before and after the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street. Both sections of the book can be tucked into an end-flap for ease of reading, or untucked and fully expanded for exhibition purposes.
Maureen Cummins: "In the Minute Before / In the Minute After is the result of a year-and-a-half long collaboration between Maureen Cummins and Tona Wilson. This book was created as part of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition, an international response by over two hundred artists to the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street (also known as the Street of Booksellers) which occurred in Baghdad, Iraq, on March 7, 2007.
"The book is an impassioned paean to the flowering of book culture, as well as a mournful enumeration of deliberate acts of censorship, repression and destruction. The contrast and continuum of these two realities is represented within a dos-à-dos structure, which allows the reader to flip from one narrative to the next, from a bright, jewel-colored world to a dark, fragmented one, neither of which is clearly the beginning or the end of the story.
“In the Minutes Before depicts the world of knowledge and beauty. Grand epochs are contained within sweeping, horizontal spreads. The multiple layers of text and imagery within these pages reference great books, writers, and critical moments in history, a sampling of which include: 'The Dawn of the First Libraries'; 'the Egyptian Book of the Dead'; 'the Dead Sea Scrolls'; 'Hypatia of Alexandria'; 'Abelard and Heloise, Lovers and Scholars'; 'the Diamond Sutra'; 'William Blake, Poet, Painter and Book Artist'; 'the Birth of Dada'; 'the Beats'; 'Artist Books'; 'Spoken Word.'
"In the Minute After depicts a world of chaos and annihilation, the only light that of books being burned. Figures from the previous spreads appear broken, dismembered, and hurling across a space so dark that even words become difficult to read: 'Mongols invade, the Tigris runs red with book, black with ink'; 'Hypatia tortured to death'; 'Abelard castrated, Heloise sent to convent, their writings banned in the US as late as 1930'; 'Argentina, 1970's, writers, publishers, editors, even proofreaders 'disappeared'; 'An eyeglass mark on the bridge of the nose merited a death sentence from the Khmer Rouge.' In the final pages of this section the text transitions into light.
"Cummins and Wilson worked closely together to create this edition. While Cummins worked on 'The Minute Before' and Wilson worked on 'The Minute After,' there was a continual discussion, overlapping of ideas, and shared decision-making throughout - a true artistic collaboration. World events also influenced the artists' choices and direction: When reports emerged about threats to precious manuscripts in Timbuktu, that crisis was included ... Similarly, the controversy surrounding restructuring and renovations plans at the New York Public library led to the playful inclusion of Patience and Fortitude, a pair of stone lions that guard that library's 42nd Street branch. ..."
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