Friday, July 28, 2023

The Business is Suffering

Special Collections is more than just old books and dusty manuscripts. We also actively collect books created by contemporary artists who use the format of the book as their medium to explore deeper concepts while challenging societal expectations of how information is disseminated and received. One such book is The Business is Suffering (2003).

Made by Maureen Cummins, with typographic assistance from Kathy McMillan, this sobering project was inspired by a collection of letters found by the artist in the archive of the American Antiquarian Society. The letters are part of their Slavery in the U. S. collection and are concerned with the profitable business of trafficking humans between 1846 and 1863.

Cummins's artistic reproduction of the texts, one per folio, is juxtaposed with an image of human silhouettes whose numbers are inexorably diminished with each turn of a page. The silence of the enslaved is deafening when contrasted with the brisk and commonplace tone of the mirroring correspondence. 

To sit down with this moving and disturbing work, come to Special Collections and ask to see Presses C915cubu.