Robbin Silverberg, “I write what I know on one side and what I don’t on the other”

Robbin Silverberg
Brooklyn, New York

I write what I know on one side and what I don’t on the other
printed vinyl strips on the risers of a staircase—installation
53 pieces: 4.5″ x 81.5″ each (on a 3 story staircase, 6 sections in all)

Artist Statement

My 30-year retrospective exhibition is called Read Me. Like a Book. a phrase taken from the installation: I write what I know on one side and what I don’t on the other (this phrase references a Carl Sandburg poem). Sixty-eight artist books are exhibited on three floors of the central atrium in Pratt Institute Library where the central staircase is located. As such, movement between the exhibited work necessitates climbing up this marble staircase, and led me to consider its function as a vehicle of transition between the ideas in the show, along with its larger role as an aspirational architectural structure. As such, the stairs became an artist book, literally ‘read’ while moving up to the higher floors.

The text that I wrote to be attached to the inset on the risers creates a dialogue between ‘stairs’ and ‘books’, where each riser becomes a page and locus for a thought and the stairs a sequence of ideas.

Because there are three sections with landing between floors, I used that format to write six paragraphs, of which five of them are in the photographs chosen here. The first paragraph presents the idea of ritual as movement, and movement as reading. The second paragraph explores the act of making books as a form of thinking. The third paragraph confirms that ‘the book is an essential part of who I am’. The fourth examines book space and reading as traveling. The fifth examines disparate ideas of communicating stories, paper & movement. The final paragraph confirms the interrelationship between stairs & books. And, that the stairs of the library can be seen as a stack of books.

Behind the text, the viewer can see printed imagery of an MTA subway map that has been filigree-cut for another book of mine about psycho-geographical movement through NYC. This imagery seemed appropriate, as I would consider myself a paper / book / language artist, who makes descriptive and emotional responses to environments. Maps name places, tracing their shape and form, declaring their existence as simulacrums. They are not the place itself but its referent, just as books are containers of ideas, and not the thing itself.