Erin Zwaska | Thesis Book Project

Thesis Book Story: Erin Zwaska

More than ever, we’re confronted with bottomless archives of information, seemingly infinite systems, and sprawling natural and social landscapes. My thesis responds to this condition of overwhelm, and looks for ways to interact on a personal level with these vast and seemingly inaccessible things. 

There’s already a lot of really great work in this area, some of it focusing on uncovering pre-existing narratives in these endless archives. I wanted to take a slightly different approach—rather than finding a specific story in the archive itself, I was interested in structuring an encounter with the subject of the work (say, Google Maps) that creates the conditions for a personal narrative to arise, often using metaphor and analogy—uniquely human ways of understanding. 

While we were required to present our work as a printed book, the format was a great fit for my thesis. One of the tensions in my work is facilitating a personal, human-scale interaction with the subject of the work, while at the same time confronting and celebrating the huge (and potentially infinite) nature of that subject. A book is the perfect format for this. It’s inherently personal: it’s tactile, it’s an object that fits in your hand—and my challenge was to make that kind of inherently finite artifact point to something vast and boundless. One reference point here is Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Book of Sand,” a short story intended to grapple with the concept of the infinite in a fixed text. I streamed “The Book of Sand” on an endless loop throughout my thesis book, and made other design choices (black and white, embedded footnotes, etc.) so that the book suggests a draft, unfinished form—while fixed, it doesn’t feel final; it suggests other possibilities. 

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