TRAPPINGS OF THE MIND – New Books by Jordan West

by Katy Crocker

Editor’s Note: We are very excited to welcome our newest contributor Katy Crocker to join us on The End of Being!

Desirous inclinations stem from the need to “close the gap that separates language from the experience it encodes,” according to Susan Stewart writes James Clifford in The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. This “gap” ponderously remains whether in slight, or gaping proportions. Individuals may exhaust epistemology to close this gap: excavating the depths of philosophy to meticulously understand phenomenology. No matter the taxing of the brain, however, the gap remains, which results in ever-present questions, endless scientific discoveries, and the continuation of philosophy as a field of study (among other things).

With reference to this beautiful notion that symbols might bring us humans closer to an experience, we use words. Rhetoric pervades as a means of person-to-person connection. Kenneth Burke, American philosopher, refers to humans, thus, as the “symbol-making, symbol-using, symbol-misusing animal,” which is ultimately, “rotten with perfection.”

Obsessions connote “rotten perfection,” like the tireless efforts to exact an understanding of reality (rather from an external, or internal perspective). As if attempting to defeat the Ego in order to glimpse personal truth, artist and writer Jordan West partakes in the self-reflexive act of introspection, his mind reeling with dense philosophical discourses. All the while, the artist knows (as is indicated in one of his books Dialogues) that “I” cannot see clearly the parameters of Ego. In Dialogues West refers to this idea in the following, “If you are the vase, how is it that you have any concept of what you appear to be?”

West’s philosophical investigations—published in a series of abstruse art books—prove enrapturing. The artist’s books “mark-off” certain parameters of his identity. The writing consists of a collection of West’s fragmented thoughts and personal axioms. Clifford refers to such an act as the, “marking-off of a subjective domain.” The books serve as a counterpoint for the artist, allowing West to see himself more clearly, which extends to us readers the interior of his mind.

Carrying around partial phrases in file boxes for fifteen years, the culmination of these books is vast. The feverish trappings of the artist’s obsessive speculations needed to be extricated in order to bring peace, so that he might “free himself of these thoughts,” says West. And, therefore, he writes. The artist has long since written, drawn, and painted. Although, to date, he has only one body of work that incorporates words on paper.

One book in the series, titled Myth, opens with two sentences, set in large typeface, on two pages—one sentence per page. Dense sentences require the reader to carefully consider each phrase. Then, the following pages reveal one image after another, photo-documenting the artist in front of his studio. The expanse of white space on each page provides the reader with time to reflect on the problem presented by the artist. In Myth the problem is to consider suppositions that may arise based on the series of photographs within Myth—photographs of the artist in front of his studio. Conclusions are the readers’ to discover, not mine to judge. Like most philosophical quandary there is no “right” answer, so to speak. However, considering the occult of the artist proves worthwhile—a supposed struggling genius, ragged, mysteriously beautiful, and standing before a “graffiti-ed” garage door.

I will now point to phrases in TM (Trademark). Phrases like “extreme lucidity” prompt a response; the mind begins to search for connections. Either at the precise moment of reading these words, or at a later time, the reader may experience, “extreme lucidity.” Open-ended, short idioms fill the small, square book and its flawless pages—occasioning further investigations. The wordings—filled with conceptual potency—loiter in the mind. “Your development was altered from the majority programme,” reads one page of TM.

West’s writings seem derivative from another time, or space—more reasonably coming out of Paris during the Situationist International movement in the late 1950s. West’s books stand in opposition to banal, consumer-culture. The artist’s intellectual and psychological processes, resulting in the subsequent meticulously crafted books, serve to facilitate personal truth, which connect human to human. Thus, the books become precious, and fetishized—a source for internal revelation, which can occur for both the artist and reader.

In this current series, three of the six books are completed thus far, including Myth, TM, and Dialogues. Your Place or Mine (with lithographs from the artist) and Broadside are scheduled for completion in the first part of 2011. Plan for a New American Home is to follow.

Please note a “certificate of propriety” will not accompany these books.

Jordan West is represented by LAUNCHPROJECTS in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You can learn more about the artists via his website by clicking here.

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2 Comments

  1. Nice share! Interesting read.

  2. Dominick Koopmann says:

    An art book (or artbook) may mean a conventional book on art or art history, or an artist’s book, which is a work of art in the form of a book, usually produced in a small limited edition, often not just using normal printing techniques. The term might also cover graphic novels, books of anime and other types of graphics, or books of fine art photography. It is not generally used for illuminated manuscripts, though these are both art and books.”

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