Creative Research: The Artists’ Books of Veronika Schäpers, Robbin Ami Silverberg
and Julie Chen

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg is the founding director of Dobbin Mill, a hand papermaking studio, and Dobbin Books, in Brooklyn. She has designed, produced, and published more than 25 collaborative artist books, 60 solo editions, 55 unique artist books, and 20 artist book installations. Her artist books are in over 130 public collections and numerous private ones. Silverberg’s commitment to all aspects of concept & production is due to her intention to realize a coherent innovative work of art and her love of the creative processes involved. Her work conceptually focuses on interlinearity, mapping, and memory themes, with paper as an activated substrate. Silverberg has both exhibited and taught extensively in both the US and internationally. She is the Professor of ‘Art of the Book’ and the coordinator of the BOOK minor at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn.

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg
Walls of Kakotopia
In collaboration with Kim Berman
Brooklyn & Johannesburg, 2019

African Street Press & Dobbin Books Drypoint & monoprinting, collage & drawing on cotton rag & translucent abaca Dobbin Mill papers with inclusions & pulp-painting / Printed handmade paper folder in an etched aluminum slipcase.

40 pages / 14.5 x 11 x 1.2 inches when closed, opening to a width of 38.75 inches. Varied edition of 8 copies.

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Walls is an exhortation of the shortcomings of our respective governments (USA & South Africa). Its title refers to ‘Kakotopia,’ a state with the worst possible conditions existing in government and society. We combined our artistic styles via printmaking, papermaking, collage, and drawing while reinterpreting present-day visual landscapes of fences, walls, and barriers (from Robben Island, Palestine, and the US).

The resulting collaboration is a double pamphlet French-door structure that allows for numerous permutations and presentations, which enhance our non-linear exploration of these corrupt states. Printed on or embedded into the handmade paper are definitions of the meaning of ‘wall,’ lists of government expenditures, quotes by Trump, texts about corruption, and our statement.

The metal slipcase has spots, drips, and the word ‘Walls’ etched like graffiti into its surface, a reference to the urban commentary on the vertical planes of our cities.

Robbin Ami Silverberg
Material research is an essential part of my art process, with paper as my preferred material for over forty years. As I touch and move through books, in other words, when I read, I want a multisensory experience, enhancing its content and ideas and engaging me in the choreography of the read. I make my statement by how the ideas become physical again.

The creative process, which from our cultural perspective contains at its core the individual statement, is transformed by the inclusion and disruption of another’s vision. This fascination has brought much of my work into the arena of both cultural research & collaborative discourse. As a complex container of information, the artist book asserts its sensibility on the artist as an ideal collaborative artform and a potent vehicle for ideas.

- Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg
Brooklyn, 2012/13

Archival inkjet printing & collage on handmade cotton & abaca Dobbin Mill papers with inclusions & pulped detritus from New York City streets. French translation by Carole Naggar; German translation by Cynthia Peck-Kubaczek.

Box: 18.25 x 19.25 x 1.5 inches.
Book: 34 pages / 18.5 x 17.25 x 0.75 inches when closed, opening to 38 x 35.5 inches.
Varied edition of 10.

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Abriss, a nonlinear combination of installation, performance, and artist book, is a result of my ambulatory mapping of New York City. Since 2009, I have created hundreds of postings I’ve placed in specific locations around the city to engage the viewer in a discourse on the psycho-geography of place and memory. Abriss is a sequence of these flyers. I call this practice Anamnesis, which means the opposite of forgetting, or as Socrates determined: What one perceives to be learning is the recovery of what one has forgotten.

Each copy in the varied edition contains the exact text and images in the same sequence. Still, they differ in materials: each page contains paper detritus that I collected on an earlier walk and then incorporated into the paper I made at Dobbin Mill, either as inclusions or actual pulp.

Abriss, therefore, is the residue or evidence of the act of my ambulatory mapping cum colportage. Since the grangerized pages vary between copies in terms of found material, it made sense that the language was variable, English, German & French. Abriss is, in essence, a psycho-geographical mapping in terms of place, memory, time & language.

The title comes from Abriss-(kante), German for the tear-off edge or ticket stub.

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg
Home Sweet Home
Brooklyn, 2006

Archival inkjet printing on translucent abaca Dobbin Mill papers.

32 pages / 12 x 18 x 0.5 inches.
1st edition of 20, 2nd edition of 20: 11 x 17 x 0.5 inches, 2007, with machine made vellum papers.

I designed an architectural album of an imaginary middle-class suburban house, filling its plans and layout with sayings about women in the home. I printed the book to look like an architect’s presentation, using what looks like the almost obsolete technique of Diazo printing (blueprinting), but in fact, it is archival inkjet, printed on paper I made to look like an architect’s vellum.

Over the years of reading and research, I found and collected countless proverbs from around the world that encapsulated those cultures’ perspectives on the role of women and their labors. What astounded me was that they were profoundly misogynistic, regardless of their culture of origin. In the making of Home Sweet Home, I acknowledge this, funny as it is painful.

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg
Brooklyn, 1995

Text sewn in human hair & copper wire on cotton rag Dobbin Mill papers with pulp painting. Two books sewn on leather cords rest in separate drawers, and an embedded human hair accordion joining the two boxes.

5 x 7.25 x 1.5 inches when closed, opening to a width of 17 inches / Book: 28 pages each & 4.25 x 2.25 inches.
Varied edition of 3.

Robbin Ami Silverberg

In the mid-nineties, I felt the need to present words in a new book structure, as I was struggling with how to make words and language master feelings. I sensed that offering the reader a multi-sensorial reading experience might bridge this gap, and I chose to explore words through the sense of touch.

The choreography of the read requires the removal of the wrap-case, pulling out the drawers, and removing the books, and only then can they be read.

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Two matchbox-like containers attach by a paper accordion with protruding human hair, much like a brush. This accordion can expand or contract to move the boxes closer or further apart. The two tiny books inside have leather cord bindings and waxed linen thread sewing with texts sewn to their pages with human hair and copper wires.

The books contain a sentence with words that resonate in their similarities but vary in meaning and intention, like the brush accordion’s expansion and compression. Surfaces also carry meaning: The Egyptian goddess Nut arching over the wrap case is pulp-painted on its front; the containers & drawers within are covered in papers pulp-painted to appear like flecks of dried blood.

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Robbin Ami Silverberg
Brooklyn, 2009

Archival inkjet printing, notary stamps, signatures, white acrylic paint & typewriting on cotton & abaca Dobbin Mill papers.

Box: 13 x 9.75 x 0.75 inches.
Book: 24 pages / 12.5 x 9.5 inches.
Pamphlet: 26 pages / 5.5 x 8.5 inches.
Edition of 10.

Robbin Ami Silverberg

My Affidavit describes a day in the life of an artist, divided into seven spans of time, each a text that I got officially notarized by different officers in and around New York City.

It is both a performance and artist book: while requesting their services, the exchanges with notaries frequently segued into complicated discussions, which revolved around what is a signature, identity, and the signifiers of identity. These engagements, which took place over many weeks, are described in the Compendium.

It documents these exchanges, highlighting the book’s theme: the meaning of identity and its signifiers - specifically the signature.

It becomes a kind of meta-information, which is fascinating when the research or response component becomes an integral part of the larger work. This booklet lies in a compartment at the bottom of a box designed to look like office filing storage.

Hungarian writer István Örkény’s story of the same name, was the fillip for this small edition.

 Veronika Schäpers

 Robbin Ami Silverberg

 Julie Chen

© Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts (JGCBA). All rights reserved.