The Unmaking and the Making of the World
By Ann Tyler
Chicago, Illinois: Ann Tyler, 2007. Edition of 12.
16.25 x 11.75"; 44 leaves. Set in Aldus. Letterpress printed on Mohawk Superfine. Images created by riddling paper with a punch one-half inch in diameter. The images — the negative space of the riddled leaf, which Tyler calls "specimens" — are then layered with other images (riddled leaves) to form a set. Within each set a changing series of images is created when the page is turned. For example, the first set has 7 separate leaves. You first see the image created looking through all 7 leaves. Turn top page and you are looking through the remaining 6, then the remaining 5, etc. There are six sets of images in all, comprised of a varying number of individual leafs (7, 3, 5, 7, 5, and 5). Each image section separated with full blank page and tissue guard page. Quarter bound in brown cloth with marbled paper over boards. Paper title label on front cover.
One of Tyler's three books about lynching, each with a uniquely indirect approach to the subject.
In this haunting book, which contains only two snippets of text, the connection to lynching is not revealed until the next to last page: "To 'riddle' is to pierce with holes suggesting those of a sieve, to pierce a body repeatedly with bullets. Victims were often subjected to riddling during the course of a lynching."
Ann Tyler: "The Unmaking and the Making of the World has a more metaphorical relationship to lynching as well as a broader reference to human behavior in general. The specimens are abstracted life forms derived from my prints. (The prints are fabulist natural creatures constructed from a base documentary image taken at a lynching.) Made with a ½" punch, the construction of these specimens relate to the act of 'riddling' or shooting a victim so many times that the body was riddled. A dictionary definition of riddling appears in the epilogue.
"I developed the forms in the book as I wondered 'what does such a violent action do/take away from one’s soul?' As a perpetrator shoots a victim, 'how are they destroying themselves?' The forms are both perpetrator and victim, but at the same time they are neither. They represent complex aspects of life, death, destruction, and creation.
"I wrote the text at the beginning of the book as a metaphorical, pseudo-scientific introduction. Some invisible weight is created as we destroy another being. I imagine the weight increasing with each act of violence, each shot, each hole punched. These acts can be brief in the span of time but they impact the universe which is one aspect of the reference to anti-matter. Anti-matter is very heavy and invisible becoming a metaphor for the soul. I also describe these multiple aspects of human behavior and desire as shadow worlds so anti-matter invokes this idea as well.
"The specimens are situated in the terrible and yet they are so beautiful. The beauty represents a number of ideas: desire, what endures and cannot be destroyed, what is worthwhile, the best in us and the worst in us."