Apeirophobia – Karin Kihlberg & Reuben Henry
Book Launch at Danielle Arnaud Gallery, Wednesday 21 March, at 19.00
Apeirophobia is a new publication by artists Karin Kihlberg & Reuben Henry exploring the processes of translating an artwork into book format, an extension of a theme in Kihlberg and Henry’s work of things changing form through processes such as memory and recall, documentation and revisiting histories and possible futures.
At the launch Kihlberg and Henry will be in discussion with artist and writer Emma Cocker and designer James Langdon to discuss some of the issues of making an artists book and publishing.
A review of Apeirophobia in Art Monthly can be read online here and also below.
Review by Colin Perry, Art Monthly, September 2012
'Apeirophobia' is the fear of infinity, and may be manifest as a gnawing fixation on the endlessness of space and the innumerable possibilities of time. Of all the phobias we might list, it is one of the most abstract. Most anxiety disorders - say, gephyrophobia (fear of bridges), mottephobia (fear of butterflies) or coulrophobia (fear of clowns) - are centred on a concrete object or experience. But it is the more general phobia that is frequently of interest to artists and writers, for the more general an anxiety, the broader the author's statement might be. Edgar Allan Poe and Willtie Collins, for example, might be said to be exploring the idea of modem psychological depth through the motif of taphephobia (fear of being buried alive); art- world audiences may be more familiar with David Batchelor's Chromophobia, 2000, which details modernity's quest for colour-purity; and I'm a fan of Roberto Bolano's posthumous opus 2666, which features an exhaustive index of pathologies including the mother of all of them, phobophobia (fear of fear itself). Here, phobias are a measuring stick for society's vertiginous path into new technological, architectural and visual landscapes.
Karin Kihlberg & Reuben Henry's Apeirophobia is an anti-catalogue that remixes and expands upon works made by the duo over the past few years. Its modest format invites you to read it as, say, a novel or volume of poetry, but it quickly shrugs off any attempt at linearity, and one finds oneself shuttling back and forth between image and text. This elliptical structure is most evident in Emma Cocker's contribution, which is cut up into paragraphs that seem to loop back into one another, starting from the sentence: ‘This was not the beginning for that happened elsewhere in other words and times that have since been assimilated into other parts of the text', and ending with ‘This is not the end but rather another place from which to start' (my definition of the 'starting' and 'ending' are, of course, what she seeks to deny).
Textual looping and self-referentiality are certainly not new in literature but they remain fertile fields in contemporary art writing, which seems intent on escaping the tyranny of authorial power, reasoning and intellectual guidance. At worst this form of writing is pure megalomania - a means of locking others into the prison house of one's own language. The metaphor is least thrilling when it follows this path, for it is ungenerous to the audience and we have been here before. Eli Noe's text in Apeirophobia is a pastiche of Jorge Luis Borges's short story "The Library of Babel' - it adds little to the original, but has the advantage of brevity. Noe's text is included here in reference to Inbindable Volume, 2010, a video by Kihlberg & Henry set in Birmingham's brutalist Central Library, and a snippet of the film's spoken narrative, which mixes temporalities with joyous abandon, is reprinted here. The text is surprisingly taut in print format, with such proleptic gems as: The people who inhabited this place during the future remained insensitive to the imminent change.'
What has all of this to do with apeirophobia, the anxiety disorder? Fear of infinity is presented here as a paradoxical condition in which one might dread both the chaotic infinity of choice and the endless desert of order. Cocker puts it succinctly when she says: ‘The tighter our grasp upon the world becomes, the greater our need for or fascination with the idea of escape. Escape is a fugitive act where the resulting freedom is only ever temporary, fleeting. No sooner is one boundary breeched another becomes established.' Cocker's text is, in part, a struggle to locate a world beyond the page - a refreshing position. Indeed, the book as a whole is engaged in an attempt to unshackle itself from the drab bookishness of artists' monographs - particularly exegesis and biography. All of the images here, for example, are from the artists' catalogue raisonné, but are largely without explanatory notes or credit lines. Instead, one flicks between images (of architectural interiors, an inverted ziggurat and drawings of corpses) as if to construct a new and entirely personal story in one's own head. Two other essays expand on how we might read the artists' work by inference and association rather than exposition. Mladen Dolar's essay is an enjoyable scamper through the history of prerecorded and recorded sound, and Brian Dillon's contribution is a readable if rather more conventional essay contextualising Kihlberg & Henry's numerous explorations of cinema's ghostly ruins. The artists' most obvious cinematic references are evident in the series of drawings Acting Dead, 2010, depicting Hollywood actors playing dead, and This Story is About a little Boy, 2010, in which a narrator attempts to recount Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol, 1948 (the film is based on Graham Greene's short story about muddled perceptions and mixed-up narratives).
This publication is related to Apeirophobic Framework, an installation presented at ArtSway in 2011, which consisted of a set-up for an exhibition in which Kihlberg & Henry filmed a parodic version of the artist interview beloved of publicly funded arts institutions (whose aim is partially pedagogical and also intended to preserve the event of the exhibition for the future). By predicting this fate of the installation and showing it as the artwork itself, Kihlberg & Henry try to capture what they describe as 'a sense of planning and of the imagining of the future and gathering it into the present'. Looking into the future for the two organisations that have supported this show and publication - ArtSway and VIVID (the latter commissioned this book) - their existence is bleak. Both are victims of Arts Council England's culling of funds from smaller and regional art institutions and have announced their imminent closure. But the book's most extraordinary extra- textual manifestation was at the book launch itself, for which copies of the volume were literally launched in a field in Cambridgeshire - slung into the cold morning air using a clay pigeon launcher (or trap) and unceremoniously blasted mid-flight by a gun-toting huntsman. The event was filmed in all its punning glory: as daft and memorable as a John Smith film (the more conventional launch was in London, at Danielle Arnaud gallery). The book is an object, after all - finite rather than infinite and as susceptible to gunshot wounds as actors in the movies.
Karin Kihlberg & Reuben Henry, Apeirophobia, VIVID, 2012,128pp. b&w, pb, £10,978 0 955248} 4 4. Colin Perry is a writer and critic based in London