60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC
Will Ethridge
10/1/10 2:01PM

Blank canvases are highly overrated. And, frankly, in a world that grows fuller and fuller by the minute with information of all kinds—images, texts, data, trash, people—they also seem somewhat out of touch. This goes for empty sketchbooks too. How apropos then that Will Ethridge has appropriated an old copy of Thomas Mann’s “Magic Mountain” to serve as the ground for a work of art. The 706-page tome offers ample space for Ethridge and scores of other artists and non-artists to mark up the pages with every kind of offering, from colorful kiddie drawings to dainty floral doodles to poems composed of letters from Mann’s printed text. Most of these, it must be said, are less than inspiring as art. Those that stand out engage with their medium, not so much to comment on the content of the novel as its physical existence as a book. On page 42, a hand is drawn such that it rests on the ground of Mann’s words. A hole burned through page 135/136 reveals a startling silver cloud painted on page 137. It may seem ironic to find so much unambitious doodling on the pages of one of the most celebrated novels of the 20th century, one that captures the whole of Western civilization on the eve of World War I. But perhaps that casualness, like Ethridge’s re-use of the book itself, is in fact a fitting representation of our society today.

—Lori Waxman
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