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Not I: A Samuel Beckett Centenary Celebration

Jan 13–Apr 23, 2006

Beckett Books

Front: Left to Right: No Understanding Any Time, Marcia and Irving Stern Artist’s Book Fund; Richard Olsen, Double Bind, 1978, Gift of Artist; John Cage, Empty Words, writings ’73-78, 1981, Gift of the Men’s Council. Middle Row: Left to Right: David Dunn, Pocket Codifier, 1979; Buzz Spector, Beautiful Scenes: Selections from the Cranbrook Archives, 1998; Jeri Robinson, Inhale, Exhale, 1994; Lori Christmastree, Mother/Mate Messages: Is There A Difference, 1983, Gift of the Artist. Back Row: John Baldessari and Lawrence S. Sterne, Photo-collage for Tristram Shandy with quotation from the novel by Lawrence Sterne, 1988, Gift of Gerald S. Elliott.
All works Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

This artists’ book exhibition celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Irish writer Samuel Beckett, and complements the performance of No Danger of the Spiritual Thing: Short Works by Samuel Beckett, a series of short one-act plays performed at the MCA on January 13–15, 2006. This exhibition highlights the fundamental questions that Beckett and other artists have explored concerning human identity, communication of thought, and the question of subjectivity.

While the exhibition does include a Beckett work, it draws primarily from the MCA artists’ book collection and from the work of Bruce Nauman, who was heavily influenced by Beckett. The central work of the exhibition is the 15-minute play by Beckett, Not I, which is to meant be presented as a film to be seen rather than read. The exhibit also includes Nauman’s drawings for Studies for Elliot’s Stones and his film Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk) (1968) which directly draws from Beckett’s novel Watt, depicting an individual moving only at 90 degree angles. Featured artists from the MCA’s artists’ book collection include Marcel Duchamp, John Baldessari, and John Cage.

This exhibition is curated by Tricia Van Eck, Curatorial Coordinator and Curator of Artists’ Books.