Tuesday, August 11

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel by Tom Phillips (1970)

"... A Humument is a strange, beguiling work, which [Tom] Phillips found within W.H. Mallock’s long-forgotten novel. A Human Document opens: ‘The following work, though it has the form of a novel, yet for certain singular reasons hardly deserves the name.’ Phillips obscures most of the first page with a blue and orange arrow, leaving a few scattered words that cohere into a version of the opening of Virgil’s Aeneid (‘I sing of arms and of a man’): ‘I sing a book of the art that was/now read on/of mind art/though I have to hide to reveal.’ He treats each page of Mallock’s novel in this way, effacing most of the text, generally by painting, occasionally by cutting, slicing, or even in one instance burning the page, to leave an alternative narrative. Phillips’s revealed story was in one sense always there in Mallock, just lost amid the torrent of other text. This is authorship as pruning, a process of erasure or cutting away that finds in the buttoned-up A Human Document a teeming world of humour, sex, sadness and art that would have baffled and shocked the conservative Mallock. ..."
London Review of Books: Double Act - Adam Smyth
W - A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel
Tom Phillips: Humument Slideshow 1-50
Tom Phillips: Essays
A Humument - ask

2010 October: Tom Phillips, 2011 October: A TV Dante by Tom Phillips and Peter Greenaway, 2013 September: Art Made from Books: Altered Sculptured, Carved, Transformed