Elisabeth Tonnard is a Dutch artist and poet working in artists’ books, photography and literature. Printed Matter Inc. NYC recent mailing featured her work. Tonnard has published thirty books that are included in international collections and exhibited widely. Much of her work involves responding to existing books, texts and images, reworking them into poetry, and creating photographic visual narratives.
Several of Tonnard’s books appropriate the physical form of the novel. Traditionally printed and bound with unassuming covers, books like THE STORY OF A YOUNG GENTLEMAN, TWO OF US and IN THIS DARK WOOD do not announce themselves as artists’ books, disguising them just as their contents challenge the divide between artists’ book and literature.
THE STORY OF A YOUNG GENTLEMAN includes the entirety of War and Peace, written in miniscule type and couched within a minimalist narrative of Tonnard’s own devising.
TWO OF US constructs a visual narrative from street photographs of pairs of people walking, combining the images with a poem by Baudelaire in a reflection on the concept of the double described by Baudelaire, Benjamin, and Freud.
IN THIS DARK WOOD, similarly novel-like in size and bearing, opens to reveal Tonnard’s haunting meditation on urban alienation in America: 90 unique English translations of the first three lines of Dante’s Inferno are each accompanied by a different photograph of a person walking alone in a city at night, resituating their modern solitude, with Dante’s words, into an ancient narrative of human isolation.
You can see more of Elisabeth Tonnard's work on her website HERE.