Panorama
By Julie Chen
Berkeley: Flying Fish Press, 2008. Edition of 100.

10 x 21 x 2"; 12 pages. Three foldout pages and two double-page engineered structures. Cloth-covered boards with paper titles on front board. Housed in matching cloth covered box with magnet closure.

Colophon: "Letterpress printed from wood blocks and photopolymer plates by Julie Chen and Alan Hillesheim, and assembled in the studios of Flying Fish Press by Julie Chen, Erin Latimer, and Kimi Taira. Special thanks to Erin Latimer for her stalwart support in the studio through the year-long process of birthing this book."

Panorama is a warning, a challenge, a clarion call to action. It begins with “You do not want to believe that time is running out” and ends with “What matters now is whether you will think beyond your own survival / And respond to the challenges that await you.”

Its five spreads present in a visual, tactile, and focused way the situation: You are here and now, and you are in denial; the earth’s environment is delicate and endangered; “everything is inextricably linked” and “your failure to change is having serious repercussions”; species are disappearing at an alarming rate; “your habitat is in peril.” What will you do?

As always with Julie Chen’s work, it begins with an elegant box, suggesting that what is inside can be contained. But once the pages begin opening, Panorama expands in two and then three dimensions. The problem is bigger, more complex, and more entwined than we might think.

And as always the craft and formal invention are lusciously overwhelming and yet on point. Three sections of the book demand physical interaction with a lift tab structure; two sections turn into grand — in both senses — sculptures (to call them pop-ups would be an injustice).

You might not want to hear what Panorama says; you might not believe what it purports; but if this doesn’t elicit at least an inward gasp, it may be too late for you anyway.
$2,400