Depictions of a Developing Lampshade
From the series: The Last State or the Penultimate
4.5 × 7 in. closed
Saddle-stitched, softcover pamphlet
Inkjet and laser
[In a departure from the usual Artists’ Book Reviews format, this mini review is part of a series on Neil Majeski’s pamphlet series, The Last State or the Penultimate. The first of these mini reviews covered Majeski’s series as a whole.]
“I once made a study of a table lamp which I acquired from an estate sale not long ago,” Neil Majeski announces on page one of Depictions of a Developing Lampshade. The strange temporality of this statement, straddling the remote and recent past, contributes to the overall sense that time works differently in Majeski’s series, The Last State or the Penultimate. It is hard to pin things down; they are always in a process of becoming. In Depictions of a Developing Lampshade, it is the lampshade that is becoming. Images on the recto document each new state of being while accompanying text on the verso explains how it was brought into existence.
I use the passive voice to describe this because, even as Majeski details precisely how he creates each rendering, he also conveys the agency exercised by the object and each subsequent depiction of it. This agency seems to work through the transformation of ideas into images, images into objects, and objects and images back into ideas. No sooner does Majeski turn an object into an image — say, a lamp into a study — than the image asserts its materiality. The reproductions are conspicuously tipped into the pamphlet like old-school color plates and the text revels in the material of each image, emphasizing the many layers of media, like titanium buff and charcoal.
The boundary between material forms, whether image or object, and immaterial ideas is as unstable as that between image and object. Majeski is motivated by his own curiosity, which is to say he renders ideas. Yet, once material, the image-objects he creates elude him. Furthermore, we should take seriously the possibility that the original object, the lamp, is being altered through Majeski’s mental and artistic activity. After all, these are “depictions of a developing lampshade” and not “developing depictions of a lampshade.” And if Majeski’s mental activity can alter the object, why not the reader’s?
Therefore, we should resist the temptation to see Depictions of a Developing Lampshade as a form of documentation that offers closure for the endless circulation of ideas, images, and objects. Majeski certainly uses the book form to neatly frame a small idea (and, likewise, uses the series format to connect these small ideas into larger ones). However, the book is an opening as much as a closure. Alongside the particularities of his estate sale lamp and the quirks of his curiosity, Majeski leaves plenty of room for the reader.
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