Glenn Goldberg’s book is a mystery. Its title is a question mark, literally.
“That’s probably going to wreck a bit of havoc in terms of where they would file it,” Goldberg said.
In his lecture at 7 p.m Tuesday in the Hultquist Center, Goldberg will join his former student, fellow artist and co-author Amber Scoon in discussing the book they published through Atropos Press in June. By Goldberg’s estimate, he’s known Scoon 15 years, but it wasn’t until about two and a half years ago, when they began thinking about publishing a book, that they started recording their conversations.
As the book’s back cover reads: “? is a collaborative text of conversation between two artists that challenge themselves to articulate their questions and insights. The exchanges include ideas about ownership, instability, nature, curiosity, language, contemporary art, ghosts, religion, fetish objects and consciousness.”
“In life, we’re asked to have answers,” Goldberg said.
In the book, however, Goldberg and Scoon are “more interested in exploration” than in providing answers.
The book’s unique structure features selections from transcribed conversations between the two, but without identifying whether Scoon or Goldberg is the one speaking. As the thoughts aren’t personalized, “you can just read the ideas,” Goldberg said.
The book also leaves room for interaction on the part of the reader, as all the pages on the left hand side of the book are blank. Goldberg said this should encourage readers to draw, take notes or write their own ideas in the open space.
Both authors helped design the book, but that’s the only visual art either of them incorporated into the final product. Goldberg, a painter, works as a professor at The Cooper Union School of Art and Queens College CUNY, while Scoon is the John Berger Fellow at the European Graduate School and a professor at the Institute for Critical Philosophy at the Global Center for Advanced Studies. Despite their credentials, neither discusses their own work, or includes images of any sort, in their book. It’s an art book with no pictures, but as Goldberg said, that’s because the book is about more than art.
One caveat is that art can only be discussed through words up to a point. Just as one spoken language cannot be fully translated to any other spoken language, that difficulty “gets compounded when you talk about art and words,” Goldberg said.
“With art, there’s a huge difference between physical presence — physical meaning — and spoken meaning,” he said.
Goldberg has been teaching a seminar and a drawing class for Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution’s School of Art. He estimates he first visited 25 years ago and that he has taught more than 20 summers.
He has had images of his artwork appear in art books before, but publishing a book of writing is new for him. Scoon, who studied at VACI’s School of Art in 1999, previously published another book from Atropos Press on art and philosophy, Quantum Art, which she discussed in a 2013 VACI lecture.
? is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Goldberg and Scoon are bringing their own copies to the lecture, and some copies may be available at the Chautauqua Bookstore.