Lyall Harris and Patricia Silva, “A Concise Encyclopedia of Unknown Things That Belong Together”

Book and enclosure

Page spread with flap

Page spread with removable Mylar discs

Page spread with vellum sheet

Page spread with transparency


Lyall Harris and Patricia Silva (San Francisco, CA)

A Concise Encyclopedia of Unknown Things That Belong Together
encyclopedia/dictionary format, paper flap elements, appropriated images, borrowed and original text, inkjet and letterpress, spiral binding, sewn cloth case
Edition of 2
30 page spreads
7 1/2 x 5 3/4 x 6 in open
7 1/2 x 5 3/4 x 1/2 in closed

Book artists Lyall Harris and Patricia Silva began the collaborative project A Concise Encyclopedia of Unknown Things that Belong Together with a quote from Charles Simic’s book Dime-Store Alchemy — “Somewhere in the city of New York there are four or five still-unknown objects that belong together” — and found images from a 1968 illustrated, multi-volume Italian encyclopedia.

Collaborations between these two artists are rooted in constraints they set for the process, both of materials and time, which force them to respond and work in an immediate, intuitive and exploratory way. Their process begins with one artist providing the inspiration and starting materials. These should come from the artist’s studio, such as saved remnants or quotes and ideas previously set aside. The receiving artist then works for 2 weeks, bringing the project to a “halfway” point, materials may be added or edited during this phase without straying too far from the initial supplies provided. The project is then given back to the originating artist who finishes the books in two weeks time (edition size 2). The collaborations often address issues and experiences from their shared and multifaceted point of view as mother/wife/artist/teacher/expat.

This project is based in the artists’ intuitive response to the images, in selecting which to use, how to pair and order them, and in composing the accompanying text. Borrowing from an encyclopedic and dictionary format, the project presents unexpected text and image juxtapositions while taking the reader on a journey of overlapping and intersecting narratives.

Technical/material description: Spiral-bound books housed in cloth cases, single-sheet papers include vellum, transparencies, gridded and lined paper, text and cardstock weight paper, and a few dimensional elements (flaps and removable Mylar discs). Images and text are inkjet printed, cover title is letterpress printed.

In all of the joint projects to date, the finished books seem rooted in a unified aesthetic and made by one hand. More than a set intention, this is a natural outcome of the collaboration between these two artists.