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Title: Museum of Chance Bookcase
Date: 2015
Medium: Teakwood structure, embossed leather bag, five Steidl books with original covers
Unique edition 4/7
Dimensions: Leather case (not including strap): 14 3/4 × 13 1/2 × 8 1/2 in. (37.5 × 34.3 × 21.6 cm) Closed dimensions of teakwood, accordion-fold structure for display of books: 13 1/4 × 11 7/8 × 1 1/4 in. (33.7 × 30.2 × 3.2 cm) Closed dimensions of each book: 13 × 11 1/4 × 11/16 in. (33 × 28.6 × 1.7 cm) Installed dimensions variable
Credit Line: Acquired through the generosity of Deborah Goodman Davis, Class of 1985, and Gerald R. Davis, Class of 1984
Object Number: 2017.002 a-g
Label Text: Dayanita Singh’s Museum structures, which vary widely in size and construction, offer insight into her approach to photography. Unlike the traditional documentary mode, where a single photograph operates independently and derives meaning from both the formal composition and the context of its creation, Singh focuses primarily on the random nature of sequencing and narrative that emerge in her format of choice: the photo book.

Equally important to the presentation are the elegantly manipulable (and in some cases portable) varnished wood structures—“photographic architecture”—that display the books, as well as the sumptuous leather carrying case into which it cunningly fits. The books can be removed and reordered in any number of variations, heightening the effects of chance and surprise that her images, laden with history and memory, evoke.

The five Steidl-printed books in this artwork are identical inside, with the only difference being the photographs printed and added separately (a process known as tipping) onto the front and back covers of each. Though the Johnson’s piece was produced as a limited-edition artwork, the mass production of the books themselves increases their accessibility, in contrast to the rarefied world of fine-art photography collecting. ("All for One and One for All: Portfolios from the Permanent Collection," co-curated by Andrea Inselmann and Sonja Gandert and presented at the Johnson Museum June 24-August 20, 2017)


NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.