Friday, 6 May 2016

Zak Sally's Recidivist IV: Engaging on Form, Content, Ways of Seeing in Multiple Ways

I bought a copy of Recidivist vol. IV by Zak Sally at Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal in January 2015. I meant to write about the form, the content and the various ways of seeing art in a post that I never finished, knowing I would revisit it at some point. It has been incredibly difficult for me to separate the book itself and the explanation of the book. Zak Sally wrote a passionate piece on the book upon it’s release explaining what the book might be, and what it wasn’t. Over time, I even came to believe the justification for Recidivist became an art piece in itself. It’s raw, it’s reactionary, it’s pre-emptively striking it’s naysayers and warning those approaching it to arrive with an open mind. It is asking the reader to engage in the piece. Sally says the book “is about failure and obsolescence and fear and hope and why anyone in this day and age would spend time and energy making and disseminating obscure printed sheets of paper with stuff on it”. And this is what I will do. I’ll engage with the pieces until I’ve observed it raw.

I think it’s relevant to engage with it now, months after it’s release. Most books aren’t tied to a specific time period. Some are, and while they are not created in a vacuum, they certainly do not become irrelevant because of the passage of time. I’m not doing this to influence the sales of a product; I don’t even know if you can buy this thing anymore anyway. What I’m hoping to accomplish is to evaluate this comic at the intersection of its terms and my own. How can we look at this in a way that goes beyond the simple reading. If this book was meant to simply be read, it wouldn't be made the way it is. Sally’s book is an experiment in dissonance and effort. It requires an effort on the part of the reader to read it, and I’ll try to do the same as a reviewer.

This will be the first of a series of posts on Recidivist vol.IV. I have no idea how they’ll turn out. Since the book is asking us to engage with the piece, I will engage with it and the environment. I’ll read it eight times in eight different locations and write about it. Here are the locations I've flagged so far to do this.
  • In a plane;
  • On the top floor of a skyscraper;
  • By the Ottawa River;
  • On a busy street in the downtown core;
  • In an industrial park at night;
  • On a bridge;
  • At a Casino;
  • in a moving vehicle (probably a car though I won't be foolish enough to drive and read);
  • And finally at home, at night
I’ll listen to the album while reading it sometimes, but not every time. I`ll listen to it digitally or from a CD player, with headphones or not. How will reading this differ from one place to the next? Well, I’m not quite sure. I’m hoping that the dissonance between the locations, the sounds and visual stimuli will create entirely different reading experiences. I’ve done a similar exercise for a university class before. A poetry creation class where we would travel to different places and be inspired by that location. I’m hoping to achieve similar results but instead of creating, I'd be interpreting the art. A reading experience can often differ depending on the time of day, your mood and who you are on any given day and the location can also affect your comprehension and reception of a piece. 

We'll see how the experiment goes. I should have the first post up in a few days.

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