Friday, March 11, 2011

Tree of Codes

Tree of Codes a newly released book by Jonathan Safran Foer, is a fantastic example of how the book is made can shape how a reader perceives the content. In this book the author has designed cutaways removeing words and parts of pages to reveal words and pages beneath. The main theme of the book is the story of “an enormous last day of life”. But with different die-cut on every page, the story is shaped and reshaped each time a reader turns the page. New relationships and juxtapositions between pages encourage new interpretations by the reader.

For more information, and a short video explanation from the author go to:

This approach to book writing and creation also reminds me of artist Brian Dettmer.

Instead of creating literature, Dettmer carves one page at a time from out-of-date books, re-purposing and reinterpreting them. Amazingly, he doesn't add anything to the books (with the exception of glue and binding materials) but only cuts away. By taking away material, these are books transformed into sculpture.


  1. Dear Ms. Fon:
    Ijust linked the following comment about your very interesting blog to my FB page:
    "This fascinates me. I am wondering if anyone else out there is as intrigued by the possibility of true ergodic design in literature, whereas the design of the book and the story are wholly dependent on one-another? It is a fine line, I think, between illuminating manuscripts and creating this truly unique new genre.
    I have quite a bit of thinking to do before I post more, as this is new to me. My one issue is, getting hung-up in definitions as I always do, in order for this to truly become a literary genre, isn't it necessary to define ergodic design as that which the story is totally dependent on the design, as opposed to simply (and elegantly!), creating sculpture out of a re-purposed book?
    Thanks - enjoying your blog!

  2. OK, one more thing: doesn't this hark back to the argument of decoration, as in Jack Kerouac's round poem, v. what I perceived as truly ergodic poetry of Kenneth Patchen, both from the Beat-school of literature?

    peg(O), again...

  3. peg(O)
    =D thanks for your comments!

    I really started this blog as a way of getting my own thoughts around Ergodic Design—a point of view in design I am interested in... a description of a way I work to create artist's books... So thank you for your questions and points! Dialog certainly helps to form and shape the definition...

    I fully agree with your comment about a fine line between being decorative and being informative. In my mind the point of Ergodic Design is for the Designer (possibly the author, but might not be) to act as a sort of interpreter or director of the work. (like a director of a play or film)
    What I had in mind with Ergodic Design is the integration of content of a work with it's design in a functional and enriching way. Not obliterating the former for the sake of the later but a presentation of the material that colors it and adds multiple levels of interest. For the presentation to not be illuminated but illuminating...

    And so, I should have been more clear when posting I do not consider Brian Dettmer's work to be, strictly speaking, ergodic design. However, his work certainly stretches the boundaries of a narrative... and I find them fascinating and inspiring... a different way to see the medium.

    One last bit.. I love that you mentioned the beat poetry of Kerouac and Patchen! Although, I love to read, and have certainly heard of both of them, I am NOT well versed—or prepared to make comment. There is always something new to learn in the world! I can say both authors just moved up on my reading list!

    I look forward to hearing more from you, thanks again!

  4. Dear Kat,

    Thank you for your insightful and thoughtful reply. One thing for certain: "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", as is meaning and definition. Although I suppose I consider myself somewhat a visual artist, I am a poet first. I know you are a very visually-oriented (and talented!) woman. These positions in our lives certainly have resulted in individual ways of "seeing" or experiencing, and defining, all things art.

    I am happy to send you a link to some of Kenneth Patchen's picture-poems. He is the only writer I know who could actually do this, get away with it, make it a genre all his own. I hope you enjoy his work.