Joseph Cohen
Joseph Cohen
124 pages, cloth hardback
First edition, 2022
Print run: 10

Serving as an ur-text, the self-titled, self-published, and self-printed book Joseph Cohen emerges from a Vandercook press that Cohen cranks by hand at Wesleyan University’s printshop; in the turn of the printing cylinder, a body is manufactured into an edition of ten books that read the name of the author from cover to cover.

Over and over and over again, the subject is the one who writes themself into subjecthood; as Roland Barthes puts it, “the I is no more than the [one] who says I.” If a form is repeated enough times, it could signify a monument, a mythology or both, simultaneously–so Marcel Duchamp writes in a journal entry. The “I” is let loose into a hall of mirrors where language moves from the tongue to the page to the archive. A myth takes a hold of the sign and exhausts the name, Joseph Cohen, until it can work no more.

The book was called upon as a sculptural object in Cohen’s senior thesis exhibition in Zilkha Gallery, where it was used as a door-stopper, paper-weight, and display plinth. During the exhibition run, Cohen hosted a group reading where peers gathered to read the text from cover to cover while sitting in a circle outside of the gallery. Those who came were instructed to read aloud from the text until they preferred not to do so anymore, then to pass the book to the person to their right. As participants became frustrated by the task and left the reading, there were multiple instances when Cohen was the only person at the group reading. Cohen invited people who were walking by (some who knew Cohen personally, some who were strangers, and a few who were prospective students touring the university with their family that day) to “collaborate” out of desperation and exhaustion. Most cooperated; some did so begrudgingly. With an ever-changing cast of over thirty people, this task took nearly two hours to complete. Cohen was the only person to be there for the entirety of the reading. After the group reading and following the exhibition, the books were collected by library archives in California, Connecticut, and New York.

In the collections of the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive, Olin Library, and Wendy’s Subway.