Read Me Like A Book

Paper Talk
Paper Talk
Robbin Ami Silverberg

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Robbin Ami Silverberg is an artist and founding director of Dobbin Mill, a hand-papermaking studio, and Dobbin Books, a collaborative artist book studio. Her artwork is divided between artist books and installations. The work conceptually focuses on themes of interlinearity, mapping, and memory, with an emphasis on process and paper as activated substrate.
We spent a good deal of our conversation talking about Robbin’s 30-year retrospective at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and here are some of the pieces we discussed.
I Write What I Know: The exhibition is on three floors of the central atrium in Pratt Institute Library. As such, movement between the exhibited work necessitates climbing up the staircase, which led Robbin to consider its function as a vehicle of transition between the ideas in the show along with its larger role as an aspirational architectural structure. The text that she eventually wrote creates a dialogue between ‘stairs’ and ‘books’, where each riser becomes a page and locus for a thought, & the stairs a sequence of ideas.

BOOK. It’s a book… albeit a Duchampian one; and the bristles, like a story’s narrative, poke through its wooden ‘cover’ to reveal the content. The wrap-case has book cloth printed with dictionary definitions over images of bookshelves on the outside and with Mark Twain’s well-known quips defining books within.

From Dreams to Ashes: Contained inside From Dreams to Ashes are two books with texts about a woman’s secret & dreams. The first book’s prose is based on a dream, hand-written on matches embedded into the fore-edges of the paper. Their bright blue heads are clearly not burnt: looking at someone else’s inner world can be dangerous. The paper is made from mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, also known as St. John’s Plant, Sailor’s Tobacco, or Felon Herb), a common weed that was used in colonial times to stuff pillows, because, as a mild hallucinogen, it brought vivid and prophetic dreams.

is a series of pamphlet books about 9/11. The actual paper was made from pulps mixed with NYC bus & subway maps, maps of the New York metropolitan area, and actual detritus from the destruction of the World Trade Center. Robbin collected this dust, after visiting the site end of September 2001.
Find out more about Robbin Ami Silverberg’s work on her website.


Music featuring excerpts of Makin’ Paper folk song by Peter Thomas. Listen to the full song and find out about other paper and book arts folk songs.

Gary A. Hanson did the sound editing for this episode. He practices and refines his skills in audio production while making his own podcast I’ll Have a Beer and Talk, a show about tech news, culture, weird animal stories and of course, beer. Gary is also the Deckle in Pulp & Deckle, a Portland-based community hand papermaking studio.