Statement #02 | An Onghena — Performance for the Book

Performance, July 5, 2018, 3 – 7 pm
Performers, An Onghena and Tom Exelmans

“A book is a sequence of spaces.
Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment –
a book is also a sequence of moments.”
—Ulises Carrión, 1975

Over four decades ago, in his manifesto The New Art of Making Books, Ulises Carrión asserted that books made by artists, unlike traditional books, cannot simply be read—each publication, according to the statement by the artist, writer, publisher, and book dealer, requires its own specific form of observation. He emphasized the spatial dimension of the book, its object character and architecture, and conceived it as a social space in which an array of working methods and interests come together.

The graphic designer and artist An Onghena pursues a broad interpretation of the medium in keeping with Carrión’s ideas, while incorporating the openness of the book format in a self-reflexive loop as a focus of her artistic activity. In her works she reflects upon the underlying parameters in the production of printed matter, such as paper and ink, or the different processes employed to correlate these elements and how printing techniques are realized. Through the use of obsolete printing methods or meticulous research into certain aspects of these techniques, the artist also stimulates discussion about the role of the analog artist’s book as a counter point to ubiquitous digitization.

Onghena’s work with the programmatic title Performance for the Book is an investigation into the material, formal, and contentual requirements and conditions of bookmaking. “In my work paper became a working partner rather than a tool to use for drawing, writing, or painting,” says the artist about her preferred carrier medium. “The performance tells the story about the love of paper and the feelings of frustration with regard to paper, about the making of books, the contents and the folding, the binding and the cover. A performance as a visual experiment to give life and meaning to the paper. To give it its own role.”

In Performance for the Book the artist appropriates a standard large-format paper roll to tell of the potentiality of her material. By subjecting the paper to a variety of different transformation processes, Onghena not only demonstrates its possible aggregate states, she also reveals all of the agents involved in these states. In an interplay between artist, performer, exhibition space, instructions, the given properties of the material, and not least the observers, the paper is folded and becomes a collective act.

Quote: Ulises Carrión, “The New Art of Making Books,” Kontexts 6–7 (1975).

An Onghena (* 1992 in Belgium) lives and works in Antwerp and Maastricht.


An Onghena, Performance for the Book, 2017