Launch of Cabinet’s new 24-Hour Book series, with Brian Dillon

| December 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

At 10 am on Saturday, 10 December 2011, author Brian Dillon sat down at Cabinet’s event space in Brooklyn, New York, and began writing a book. By 10 am the next morning, the completed book was at the printers and is now available here.


Thomas Rowlandson, The Brain-Sucker, or The Miseries of Authorship, 1787. Courtesy Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

The inaugural volume in Cabinet’s new “24-Hour Book” series, Dillon’s book explores the scenography and architecture of writing itself. Inspired in part by Georges Perec’s short fragment in Species of Spaces on Antonello da Messina’s painting of St. Jerome in his study, Dillon’s text is both a personal reflection on the theatrics of the study, the library, and the office, and a historical consideration of the paraphernalia associated with celebrated writers, from Flaubert’s divan to Proust’s bed, from Leibniz’s card cabinet to Thomas Wolfe’s refrigerator desk.

Dillon, who arrived without any notes or other prepared material, of course also had to remain open to the contingencies of an unfamiliar writing environment, peculiar and perhaps slightly dodgy take-out food, a makeshift bed, and a capricious heating system, not to mention the obvious pressures of working under extreme time constraints. If that were not enough, this particular scene of writing was a public one, with curious onlookers dropping in during the process to watch the author (and his support staff) “at work.”

This first book in Cabinet’s series is also accompanied by a critical volume, similarly produced under apparently prohibitive time constraints. At the precise moment Dillon’s tome was completed on Sunday morning, Princeton University’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities (IHUM) invited a group of faculty and graduate students to read and respond to it within twenty-four hours. The respondents’ “encounters” were themselves gathered into a volume ready for printing by 4:30 pm on Monday, 12 December, in time for a symposium considered the past, present, and future of such experiments in the radical compression of culture. This companion volume is also available here.

About Cabinet’s “24-Hour Book” series
Inspired by literary precedents such as automatic writing, by the resourcefulness of the bricoleur making do with what is at hand, and by the openness toward chance that all artistic production under severe constraint must necessarily incorporate, Cabinet’s new series will invite a number of distinguished authors and artists to be incarcerated in its gallery space to complete a project from start to finish within twenty-four hours.

About Brian Dillon
Brian Dillon is UK editor of Cabinet and tutor in the Critical Writing in Art & Design program at the Royal College of Art. He is editor of Ruins (MIT Press/Whitechapel Gallery, 2011) and author of Sanctuary (Sternberg Press, 2011). His book Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives (Penguin, 2009), published in the US as The Hypochondriacs (Faber and Faber, 2010), was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize. His first book, In the Dark Room (Penguin, 2005), won the Irish Book Award for non-fiction. A collection of his essays, Culture and Curiosity, will be published by Sternberg Press in 2012. Dillon writes regularly for Artforum, Frieze, Art Review, the Guardian, the London Review of Books, and the Wire, and is currently at work on Blown All to Nothing, the story of an explosion at a gunpowder works in Kent in 1916.

Brian Dillon was born in Dublin in 1969 and lives in Canterbury, England.

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Category: Fine Art

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