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The text of Robbin Ami Silverberg’s Testament Textiles – quotations from famous men and women concerning women and their perceived or actual position in the world – is radically altered by means of visual illusion. As the text appears in the book, it looks as though the words have been printed on some sort of light textile laid out in horizontal strips like fabric swatches complete with pinked edges.

But this remarkably convincing effect is achieved by an ingenious imitation of fabric through the use of printing and the artist’s handmade paper. This calculated deception is a stinging reassertion, in visual form, of the inherent falsity of many of the assertions about women in the text. These often discredited views of womanhood are embodied in purposeful imposture.

Testament Textiles

Robbin Ami Silverberg

The scrapbook shown here is an appealing and unintentional combining of stories. In the 19th century, it was not uncommon for people to send away for free, hard-bound government publications so that they could use the pages of these books to create scrapbooks.

The underlying text is from the pages of the U.S. Geological Survey 1888-89. The “scrapbooker” has, from the looks of it, rather hastily cut out several poems, A Narrow Escape, A Ballad of January 1 and Uncle Hiram’s Visit, and pasted these verses over a section on, of all things, fossil insects. Unless the scrapbook maker somehow intuited postmodern

attitudes about text of our age, it is clear that no relationship between the text of the geological survey and the poems was intended. The relationships, wonderful as they are, are all serendipitous. Look at this double-sourced line: “here be given it The water wagon driver grins.” Or this: “corded in internal Backward, turn backward oh time in your flight.” Both of these conjoined lines are from places where the pedestrian survey text meets the poem A Ballad of January 1.

This 19th century practice of repurposing (and recycling) free publications, in some ways, sets the stage for altered artists’ books.

Unknown Artist

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