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18  |   A E A E A
Bookwork, 1989
Offset printing ( black on white stock )
134 pages, 15 x 10 cm
Berlin, Rainer Verlag 1989

Public and private collections, including the Walker Art Center Library’s Rosemary Furtak Collection, Minneapolis.


AEAEA, the third and final book I published with the Rainer Verlag, begins as do both WALDEN and TIDE with a full black page; and its over sixty drawings, like those of TIDE, can also be considered to be single frames in a film, and manually ‘animated’ in the same manner.

Here, five miniscule white letters, spelling the word “AEAEA,” on black, appear on the second verso, or left-hand page, and grow incrementally in a total of thirty-one stages, until the cross stroke of the central “A” completely fills the page, that is, until the page has become completely white. Then, out of this blank white page, the tiny word “AEAEA” appears again, this time in black, and grows, in the course of thirty-one further ‘frames,’ until—filled by the cross stroke of the black central “A”—the left-hand page has once again become completely black.

Centered on each of the white, right-hand pages is a group of five words, printed in small caps, with initial full capitals, which build an acrostic on the palindromic word “Aeaea.” This, as we know from Homer and Ovid, was the name of Circe’s island realm, and apparently so-called due to its proximity to the entrance to the underworld, whence the lamentations of the dead—in Greek, traditionally : “Ai ! Ai ! Ai !”—were to be heard. The book AEAEA’s entire text comprises sixty-three acrostics (sixty-four if one counts the dedication ), which together tell the familiar tale of Odysseus’ visit to that island, where his followers were transformed through the sorceress Circe’s magic into wild animals, and then back again into men. (This metamorphosis, of course, occurs at the visual point in AEAEA at which the cross stroke of the central white “A” has completely filled the initially black page.)

AEAEA, Rainer Verlag, Berlin 1989: cover and spreads [digitally redrawn and reset, 2018]

Thus, on each two-page spread, a drawing of the word “AEAEA”—or a detail of it, cropped by the edges of the page—stands to the left and an acrostic on the same word to the right. The height of the letters in the drawing of the word,  or word fragment, is 131 per cent of that of the drawing that immediately precedes it ; in its entirety, the text comprises 313 words, some of these being hyphenated compounds.

For publication, I originally composed AEAEA’s text in German ; however, aware that the book resembled nothing more than the storyboard of an animated film, and determined to produce such a film with both German and English soundtracks, I soon created an English version. [AEAEA (Film) ] Both versions have been reworked somewhat since then—the first word spoken in the English film, for instance, is “Action !”… I could go on revising them literally forever .

The German text :
À E., A., E.—A.    

Achaias einfallsreichster Anführer eilt—abermalig
aufgehalten, erneut Argem entronnen—ans
allertreuste Eheweib, ans Eheglück. Aeolus’
anfänglich ehrenvollen Absichten entgegen Antiphates’
Anthropophagen elendig ausgesetzt, entkommt Autolykos’
abenteuernder Enkel abermals—ewiger Athenes
Augensternchen, er ! Also errettet, allerdings
am Eiland Aeaea entkräftet angelegt,
allerart Exzesse andernorts entsinnend—argwöhnisch
allemal !—entscheiden alle, Erkundungspartien abzulehnen.
Aber eine Auslosung erfolgt. Als
Abgesandter Eurylochus auserkoren, einundzwanzig andere
als Ergebene angeschlossen, eifern alle—
angst-ergriffen—Aufklärung entgegen. Am
Ansitz’ Eingang angelangt, erschrecken alle
an einem Andrang exotisch anschwänzelnder
Animalia. Erster Abstand entschwindet aber,
als einige Adepten Eurylochus’ Anvertraute
ans edle Arbeitsgemach ehrerbietig anführen.
Auf erhöhter Aussicht ebenda achtet
Aeëtes’ eigenmächtige Anverwandte—erhabene Alleinherrscherin—
aufs Einteilen allerlei erlesener Arzneipflanzen,
auf Eingeweihter’ Arbeit. Ermutigenden Antlitzes,
aufmerksam entbietet also ebendiese alle
Ankömmlinge. Entsprechend ahnungslos erwarten alle
ausschließlich Erquickung, als Erfrischungen—arglistig
angereichert !—erscheinen. Auf einmal aber—
alles Elixier Ausgelabt—erwachen alle,
als Ebersläufe Arme ersetzen, Angrunzen
Artikulation. Erbärmliche ! Allgemach entmenscht, auf
allen Extremitäten, Augen erdgewandt, angewidert
 an Eberskoben angetrieben, eingestallt !  Allein
abstinenter Eurylochus ahnt ehrlose Absichten,
auch er allein entkommt. Allen
Abwartenden entgegengeeilt, angstschweißgebadet erzählt—außer
Atem—er alle Einzelheiten, Abscheulichkeiten !
Als Errinys aufgebracht, enteilt Antikleias
Ältester, empfängt alsbald eine Art
Allium, entwurzelt, als erforderlichen Abwehrzauber
aus empyrëischer Ahnenhand : ebenholzschwarz-atlasweißes
Amulett. Erleuchtet am Empörungsort angekommen,
ahnungsvoll entleert auch er alles
Aufgetragene, entgeht allen entstellenden Auswirkungen
aber. Erkannt als ebenbürtig, allzugleich
als Ehegemahl angenommen, entringt—als
angemessenes Ehegut abverlangt—er, Angriff
androhend, Eidesleistungen, allem eben Angerichteten
augenblicklich entgegenzuwirken. Ausschüttung eines Antidots,
auch entgegengesetzte Anrührungen Ebershäupter,

Abrakadabra erfolgen. Als Enchantierte anfangen,
aufzustehen, entfallen allseits Ebersborsten ; als
Abnormes endgültig abklingt—ergeben Achseln
also erneut Arme—empfangen alle,
Augen emporblickend, alten Eumaeus’ Arbeitsherrn
als Erretter, als Erlöser. Allesamt
atmen erleichtert auf, endlich auf
altvertraut erfreuliche Art, einander anzusprechen,
anzufassen, einfach anzusehen. Ebenso ausgelassenen
Aufenthalt erfahren alle, einen allerletzten
Aufschub, ein Altersjahr, eh’, an
Anderwärtige erinnert, ausgesprochen eilfertig ! alle
Achäer entschließen, alles entsagend ! abzusegeln—
Abyssus entgegengesteuert … Ach ! Eilandsidylle, adieu !

The Englished text :
À E., A., E.—A.    

Athena’s ever-ready Argive enters, admiralling
an epical armada, enduring accident
and exile. Against egregious adversaries,
Ajax’ erstwhile agonist executes audaciously
adroit elusions and escapes again
and—encore !—again. Erelong—athwart
Aeolus’ expressly altruistic ends, alas !—
Antiphates’ evil anthropophagi entrap, assault,
and engorge all except Achilles’
armor’s entrustee and entourage … Anchoring
at enigmatical Aeaea’s edge, ashore
all educe, as elsewhere, anathema
and, espying an edifice afar,
animatedly eschew any exploring—albeit
afterwards Eurylochus accepts election as
ambassador, eleven and eleven automatically
attending. Encountering alarmingly entreating animalia
abroad, Eurylochus and escorts arrive
altogether enervate adoors, entering, apprehensively,
apartments elaborately appointed. Enthroned aloft
amidst exquisite auric excess, above
adepts engaged assorting essences, an
autocratess enchantingly affects encouraging allures,
and each and every anxiousness
appears encreasingly absurd, even as
adulterated edibles are enticingly arrayed,
and enjoyed—appalling error !—accordingly.
Alackaday ! Exhilirants and esoteric actions
animate excessive alter egos ; alien
appendages, enormous animal extremities and
appetites evolve apace, enslaving all
as elegiac acorn-eaters !     Eurylochus alone
abstains, explicitly anticipating evil-doing, and—
alone—escapes afoot encampment-bound, arrives
afever, excites alarm. Exit amain
Anticleia’s eldest, accepting Empyrean aid :
an ethereal ancestor’s efficacious amulet
and exhortations apropos ensorcellment. Appropriately
astrut, Eurycleia’s auld eye’s apple
approaches enormity’s abode, enters, and—
agreeably ensconced—affably eats alchemical
ambrosia, evincing artful equanimity. Although
awaited eagerly, altering effects are
absent. Energetically assaulted, eminent Aeëtes’
able enchantress agnate—explicably astounded !—
abiding earlier auguries, espouses arch
affinity. Exorcisms are exacted and
agreed, establishing accord enduringly. As
apposite enunciations are expressed and
antidotal emollients applied, each agonized
anatomy’s excrescences abate entirely and
all exultantly arise. Erect again,
arms entwining, arms embracing, all
apotheosize Eumaeus’ august employer as
avenging, emancipating angel. Entr’acte : As
an en-isled annum expires along
Arcadian embankments, amongst ever-blooming arbors’
airy ease …  Abeyance ends abruptly !
Avoked elsewhither, all earnestly abet
an exodus, although ensured annihilation,
and, extinguishing altar-fires, embark anon.
Asea, eyes aland, each ardently—
abandonedly !—exhales adieus. Exeunt abyssward.