by Emily McVarish
Last Year at Kew Gardens is composed of words lifted from an 1858 guide to Kew Gardens and a 1961 screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet. Intercutting moments of inner life with global news headlines, the text attempts to track the phenomenology of media consumption and grasp how individuals metabolize world events. The book borrows its sweeping approach and contrasting scales from the tradition of the “world landscape” (Weltlandschaft). It uses the “language of cinema” to position subjectivity and the microcosm of a botanical garden to relate devastating personal experiences to the apocalyptic implications of climatic, economic, and political trends.
Headlines sampled from the front pages of The New York Times disrupt Last Year at Kew Gardens' narrative at regular intervals. Like paintings that compile far-flung geographical features within a single composition, both the references contained in these headlines and the colonial scope of Kew Gardens’ itemized collection stretch the notion of context, puncturing the story’s backdrop with asynchronous parallels, incongruous adjacencies, and incommensurable analogies. From one spread to another, a map’s lines and features maintain the spaces of Kew Gardens, which photographs taken there occasionally populate. A baseline grid positions isolated lines of uniform text and scores images when text intrudes.
Written, designed, hand-set, and printed letterpress by Emily McVarish. Bound in cloth over boards by John DeMerritt. Signed. 10 hors commerce, 25 for sale.