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Just 30 Words

Item date(s): 2005

Robbin Ami Silverberg

Pages: unpaged
Size: 322mm
Inscription: Signed by the artist.
Edition: #1/30

Place publication: New York
Publisher: Dobbin Books
Exhibition 2019; 2022

Additional notes:
"In 1944, deported Hungarian Jews were forced to write postcards home from Auschwitz, suggesting that they were well and in the resort town of Waldsee. The cards additionally requested a response in 30 words or less. This micro-managed horror was the starting point for Just 30 Words, which also presents scenarios that are each limited by the same dictate attached to those postcards – any communiqué must be a maximum of 30 words. With this artist book, I attempt to understand the limitations of written language: Each time, reading between the lines offers more than what can actually be read".

From Susanne Padberg’s essay in the catalog Read Me. Like A Book.:

​"When in 2007 I visited Silverberg for the first time in her studio, it was her artist book Just 30 Words that mesmerized me, a German of the post-war generation. The book is an intense red/orange with each page containing watermarks outlining the shape of a postcard. Only through its conceptual rigor is the book’s power tamed. Silverberg, a Canadian Jew who has strong links to Europe having studied in Vienna and being married to the Hungarian artist András Böröcz, had been shown a pile of postcards at the Hungarian Jewish Archives.

The need to write between the lines, the perverse structure of the limit of “30 words,” the dreadful discrepancy between vacation postcard and death camp: all this runs palpably through the entire book. As controlled as it is emotional, the book presents this example of the horror and destruction of the Nazis in an attempt to document something at many levels, to preserve it and keep it from being forgotten".

Reference note:
Printed at The Artists' Press, South Africa.


Illustrated on page 151 of "Book Art Object", The Codex Foundation, 2008.

Illustrated on p40 of "Book as Witness, The Artist's Response", by Maria G. Pisano. 2012.

Exhibition notes:
Samplings: International Artists' Books and Archive on the Book Arts


26 March to 6 July 2019

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


22 September to 15 December 2022

Ref: GB/11129

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