McVarish, Emily: Caption
Caption’s questions revolve around the nature of witnessing in a media-rapt age. The book is set during a night inverted by moonlight. Through a window, a landscape is both seen and hallucinated. The space is that of a bracketed moment; the temporality, that of an image. How, in such conditions, to detect the possibility or arrival—the mechanism, process, or sign—of a change? Where to draw the line of difference between that and this, before and after?
Caption began as a project to alchemize newspaper reports in the year running up to the 2020 election. My plan was to process the news, week by week, into collaged designs. Inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s Inferno series, I thought of recasting the material I gathered by pairing it with a classic literary text....But after a few months, during which I managed only to collect a pile of headlines, the pandemic arrived. Instead of the trackable momentum of hoped-for political transition, change came invisibly, unknowably.
Each page of Caption corresponds to a week, the news of which is somewhat randomly reported by a selection of caption texts placed in its gutter. Clipped images, lifted from front-page stories, do not relate to these captions or follow this chronological convention. More loosely placed, they combine freely with firsthand photos and a first-person text. Metered segments of solid rule produce the variations and repetitions of a score that runs, with pauses, throughout the book. Dashed rule draws on alignments supplied by this score, marks cuts in the visual field, and radiates from chosen figures. Finally, the route lines of an unseen map surface in fragments that surround and encounter the rest.
en., letterpress, cloth over boards, 64p, 9.6 x 12.2 inch, Ed. of 35, num., sign., New York, 2023, Granary Books
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