Agrippa (a Book of The Dead) - Origin and Concept

Origin and Concept

The impetus for the initiation of the project was Kevin Begos Jr., a publisher of museum-quality manuscripts motivated by disregard for the commercialism of the art world, who suggested to abstract painter Dennis Ashbaugh that they "put out an art book on computer that vanishes". Ashbaugh—who despite his "heavy art-world resume" was bored with the abstract impressionist paintings he was doing—took the suggestion seriously, and developed it further.

A few years beforehand, Ashbaugh had written a fan letter to cyberpunk novelist William Gibson, whose oeuvre he had admired, and the pair had struck up a telephone friendship. Shortly after the project had germinated in the minds of Begos Jr. and Ashbaugh, they contacted and recruited Gibson. The project exemplified Gibson's deep ambivalence towards technologically advanced futurity, and as The New York Times expressed it, was "designed to challenge conventional notions about books and art while extracting money from collectors of both".

Some people have said that they think this is a scam or pure hype … aybe fun, maybe interesting, but still a scam. But Gibson thinks of it as becoming a memory, which he believes is more real than anything you can actually see.

Kevin Begos Jr., End Notes,

The project manifested as a poem written by Gibson incorporated into an artist's book created by Ashbaugh; as such it was as much a work of collaborative conceptual art as poetry. Gibson stated that Ashbaugh's design "eventually included a supposedly self-devouring floppy-disk intended to display the text only once, then eat itself." Ashbaugh was gleeful at the dilemma this would pose to librarians: in order to register the copyright of the book, he had to send two copies to the United States Library of Congress, who, in order to classify it had to read it, and in the process, necessarily had to destroy it. The creators had initially intended to infect the disks with a computer virus, but declined to after considering the potential damage to the computer systems of innocents.

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