Inside Inside the White Cube Jérôme Saint-Loubert Bié Yann Sérandour is an artist whose primary interest is in the notion of reading and the book form. This was clear in the group exhibition he curated in 2005, “Un art de lecteurs” [A Readerʼs Art], (Galerie Art & Essai, Rennes)—whose title announced an unmistakable statement—and it is highly visible in the present publication by dint of Sérandourʼs selection of his own works. Nearly all of them refer to other publications and consequently to other authors and artists. When he and I began working on this project, it seemed only natural to take as a starting point one or several books and to infiltrate them through Sérandourʼs “interstitial and mimetic” approach, developed out of “works, publications, and already existing products,” to use his own words. This way of working joins up with my own interest—largely shared by Sérandour—in a comprehension of art through elements traditionally considered as peripheral (catalogs, reproductions, etc.) but which allow a knowledge of the work to circulate and determine its reception, as well as in a contextual approach to artistic practice, in appropriation, in methods of reproduction, and in the fabrication processes of a book. In the early stages of this collaboration, in spring 2008, Sérandour informed me that Patricia Falguières was preparing for La Maison Rouge a French edition of Brian OʼDohertyʼs book Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space.* Before being published under this title in 1986 by The Lapis Press with a preface by Thomas McEvilley, Brian OʼDohertyʼs essays first came out in three issues of the magazine Artforum in 1976. Artforum published a fourth essay in 1981, which was included in the bookʼs Expanded Edition published by the University of California Press in 1999. Sérandour was planning on using copies of the expanded edition for a piece he was to present at the Palais de Tokyo in July 2008 (see page 11). It turned out that the French edition of Inside the White Cube was to be copublished by JRP|Ringier, which also houses the series Christoph Keller Editions, of which the present book is a part. We immediately agreed it was the perfect foundation to work from. Beyond the reference and homage to Brian OʼDohertyʼs writings, which are essential reading and have since had considerable influence on the production and reception of art, this book evokes, both visually and materially, the various published forms this set of essays took: 1/ in Artforum, which has always preserved—notwithstanding its uneconomical format and even in times of financial crisis—the same 10-inch square format, which is unusual for magazines and therefore so characteristic of this one; 2/ the two English editions in book form, also square in format but smaller, designed by Jack W. Stauffacher who chose the typeface Méridien, by the Swiss typographer Adrian Frutiger; and 3/ the French edition, published as part of a series of small, vertical format books designed by the Swiss graphic design duo no-do. In an interview with Paul Cummings (John Coplans Interview, 1975 Apr. 4-1977 Aug. 4, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution), John Coplans, cofounder of Artforum, explains that the magazineʼs choice of square format aimed to avoid privileging vertical reproductions over horizontal ones, a common problem in art magazines. As for Jack W. Stauffacherʼs design of Brian OʼDohertyʼs book, one could easily imagine that it was only logical to choose the two-dimensional form that was closest to the cube mentioned in the title. It is precisely this truncated third dimension that Sérandour restores to the book in his piece Inside the White Cube (Expanded Edition) (2008), by means of multiplying the
number of copies. Shortly after, Sérandour made a piece out of the cover of Artforumʼs September 1969 issue, illustrated by Robert Smithsonʼs First Mirror Displacement (see page 55). Sérandourʼs work also often refers to the work of Ed Ruscha (see pages 65, 73, and 83) who, coincidentally, did the layout of the magazine under the pseudonym Eddie Russia between 1965 and the summer of the same year, 1969. And notably, Sérandour has used the form of the white page in several projects, such as Pages blanches [Blank Pages], his contribution to a book published in 2006 on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the Cneai (Centre National de lʼÉdition et de lʼArt Imprimé) or Weiss, shown in 2008 during his solo show at the gallery gb agency (see page 17). All the while keeping Sérandourʼs work and working method in mind, the design of the book you have before you borrows from specific material elements of the publishing history of Inside the White Cube and is literally constituted by this history through different layers of printing and format. The most recent layer—the top layer—consists of reproductions of Sérandourʼs works and descriptions of them written by the artist. This layer is printed entirely in green (violet for the French edition) over the exact reprinting of the entire set of printing sheets used to produce the French edition of Inside the White Cube. Before, however, those printing sheets were covered with squares of opaque white ink that are the same size as the English editions from 1986 and 1999 (8 in. x 8 in.). Lastly, the printing sheets were folded, bound, and cut to the format of Artforum (10 in. x 10 in.). The result is a palimpsest whose preceding states are buried—literally covered over rather than erased, but whose fragments emerge in the margins and through the semitransparency of the white squares. In accordance with the indexical system of which Sérandour is fond, the white square can, of course, refer to many works from the history of art (by Malevich, Ryman, Manzoni, or LeWitt) but above all else, it constitutes here a new “blank page.” On some pages the image that fills the white square spills over into the margins surrounding it. Meanwhile the ample format preserves the French editionʼs printerʼs marks (registration and crop marks, signature numbers, etc.), traces that are normally eliminated when the bound sheets are cut to size. These marks provide the reader with decodable signs of the process. To put it in other words, the size of this Overprinted Edition is identical to Artforum, in which appeared the earliest publication of the first White Cube essay, the typesetting in Méridien is from the English editions of the book, whose design was established by Jack W. Stauffacher with the first edition, and the support, that is, the paper stock and the first layer of printing, is precisely that of the first edition in French, also the latest edition of these essays, designed by no-do. This principle is systematically and meticulously applied to the cover and to the pages inside. While the different publications of a specific text are cited graphically, this process nevertheless reveals the successive stages of fabrication for any book. Printed on large sheets, the pages of a book are arranged, signature by signature, in imposition so that the correct sequence and orientation of pages is obtained once the printing sheets have been folded, bound, and trimmed. In Sérandourʼs overprinted edition, the pages of Inside the White Cubeʼs French edition, which has a rectangular format and is much smaller, are redistributed, shifted, and cropped otherwise in the final large, square format whose imposition is necessarily different. It interesting to note that despite their very different formats and aside from the addition of white and green (or violet) inks, a copy of Brian OʼDohertyʼs French edition and a copy Sérandourʼs Overprinted Edition use the exact same raw materials: the same paper stocks, black ink, glue, and binding thread, and all in the same quantity. Sérandour ordered his projects so that they would form connections with the fragmented pieces of text and image that show through from Brian OʼDohertyʼs book, appearing in
black in the background. We could think of these traces of the original book as “phantoms,” to use the title of one of Sérandourʼs pieces (see page 62). Édition fantôme is also the subtitle he gave to the limited edition of this book, which comes in a presentation case issued by Christophe Daviet-Thery (see previous page). This box was designed to provide clues to the bookʼs layout, all the while incarnating the absence of the original references through photographic illusion. Sérandourʼs works, on the other hand, are not so much faithfully and illusionistically reproduced in this book as they are evoked through monochrome illustrations. Moreover, scanned rather than photographed, all of his artistʼs publications are presented in actual size (1:1), sometimes only partially, with no attempt at the impossible task of fully restoring a work and its exhibition context through photography. The new piece Sérandour made out of the erroneous publication of a photograph of his exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, taken after part of the work had been stolen (see page 15), humorously plays up the very impossibility of that task. As a matter of fact, the descriptions written by the artist in the pages to come take on chief importance, as they are perhaps better equipped to document his work and its conceptual implications than is photography. Lastly, the present text is a space for identifying the publishers, editors, and authors (whether they be critics, artists, historians, graphic designers, typographers, etc.) whose work is quoted or borrowed from in the latticework that makes up this book. It is a place to share with readers the choices that led to the resulting publication—something there usually is not room for—and to describe with words the process that ends with what you have in your hands. Describing within a book its own construction completes the circle. * The publication history of Inside the White Cube: Brian OʼDoherty, “Inside the White Cube: Notes on the Gallery Space,” Artforum, vol. 14, no. 7, March 1976.“Inside the White Cube: The Eye and the Spectator,” Artforum, vol. 14, no. 8, April 1976.“Inside the White Cube: Context as Content,” Artforum, vol. 15, no. 3, November 1976.“The Gallery as a Gesture,” Artforum, vol. 14, no. 4, December 1981. Brian OʼDoherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. Santa Monica: The Lapis Press, 1986. Brian OʼDoherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. Expanded Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Patricia Falguières (ed.), Brian OʼDoherty, White Cube. Lʼespace de la galerie et son idéologie. Zurich and Paris: JRP|Ringier and La Maison Rouge, Fondation Antoine de Galbert, 2008.