The Last State or the Penultimate
4.5 × 7 in. closed
Varied page counts
Saddle-stitched softcover pamphlets
Inkjet and laser
Depictions of a Developing Lampshade
The Chiliagon Locket: A Mental Exercise from My Childhood
The Perverse Doilies
Curious Details in Postcards
Music of the Uncanny Soundscapes
To review Neil Majeski’s The Last State or the Penultimate, a series of five interrelated publications, I will depart from the Artists’ Book Reviews format. After this overview, which will introduce the overall themes and shared elements of the five pamphlets, I will publish brief reviews of each work. (This format may also allow me to review future additions to this ongoing series, for which Majeski has planned two more publications.)
The pamphlets in The Last State or the Penultimate share a consistent look and feel. The page counts differ, but their size is the same, their saddle-stitch binding is the same, and their inside paper is the same. Each has a different cover paper, but the titles are set in the same face. The colophons are similarly consistent, and the typography and layout overall lend a sense of cohesion to the series. Perhaps the most notable feature is that the illustrations are tipped in like color plates in a vintage book, adhered along the top with three unfixed edges. This, and the typography, give the series a decidedly antiquarian feel that suits the subject matter, which often originates in estate sales, antique stores, or other, older books.
The physicality of tipped-in images also reminds the reader that images are also objects — and objects are of central importance to Majeski. Throughout the series, Majeski plays with the relationship between objects, images, and imagination. Objects are never fixed, and it is through their own agency as well as the agency of the viewer that they change. Objects change when they are put in dialogue with one another or set in new contexts, when we attend specific aspects of them or mentally will them into new configurations. So too does the entire series, The Last State or the Penultimate, change with each new pamphlet. Majeski suggests a reading order, but the pamphlets are unnumbered and develop as much through accumulation as sequence.
This, too, suits the subject matter of the individual publications, where Majeski explores sequence and seriality, changes over time, and the progression of time itself. While this is most obvious in illustrations, where the same object might morph from image to image, Majeski also subtly distorts time through his writing. The first- and second-person narration is emphatically present with deictic references to corresponding illustrations as if the pamphlet transcribes a slide lecture, but references to recent and distant past events push and pull the reader into other times, sometimes within the same sentence. The pamphlets also manipulate time through their pacing. All five are relatively short, but the length and pacing of each is tailored to its content. Text and image are carefully meted for the unit of the page and two-page spread to maximize the impact of a reveal or a text-image relationship. Despite their simple structure, these are thoughtful space-time sequences, not interchangeable containers of content.
In this way, the pamphlet format emphasizes the material presence of the text in the same way the tipped-in illustrations emphasize the physicality of images. Thus, just as Majeski’s objects act and are acted upon, the physical structure of the pamphlet co-determines the reading experience along with the reader. What could be better than a book to think through the ways objects change time and change over time, give form to experience, and invite and resist interaction and meaning?
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