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Leaves, Seeds, and Kalff's Little Books

Posted on: Sunday, January 28, 2007

Foglie 01, Abigail Doan (2006)

I recently began studying the basics of Sanskrit in conjunction with my yoga practice. Bija, the word for "seed" is also translated as "the origin or cause of things". I love the idea that chanted "seed-sounds" can unlock hidden potential and take root in the leaves of the mind . Having also studied Asian book making techniques, particularly miniature book forms, I am currently contemplating how to create vessels or containers for seeds and organic particles.

Manuscript covers/painted panels with Buddhist deities, late 11th c., Nepal

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of manuscripts, painted panel book covers, cuneiform tablets, and vertical and horizontal silk scrolls - all remind the viewer that the delivery of data and image need not follow a linear format. Many of these book forms are easily transportable and sacred in their promise as spiritual vessel and refuge.

Manuscript with ink and colors on paper, early 15th c., Iran

Concurrent with these recent investigations, I was introduced to the work of the artist and musician, Sibyll Kalff. Currently based in Cologne and New York, Kalff is a nomadic global citizen whose mixed media work weaves together the language of map, signage, travel diary, quirky tour guide, and local spirit. Her "Little Books" series, exhibited most recently at The Abaton Garage Gallery in Jersey City, are ad-hoc, pasted mementos embedded in the miniature text books of Indian school children. Kalff has traveled and sown art in exotic locales, and I love that these pieces are as much about preserving the "seed-sounds" of a personal, psychogeographic journey as much as they are about making books or being a storyteller.

Little Books, (image), Sibyll Kalff (2006)

Tashi Deleh, (image), Sibyll Kalff (2005)

Kalff is able to isolate the spirituality of the every day object and the folly of roadside and trainside views - and in turn conveys messages about the state of the world and our contemporary kingdom. Her books, texts, drawings, and collages are "passports" to another life, another point in time, and the land that we are all perhaps making a pilgrimage to but have yet to locate the map for.

Passports, (image), Sibyll Kalff (2004)

For more information on Sibyll Kalff's original work and music, go to

Images from Kalff's exhibit at The Abaton Garage are viewable at


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