Hank Lazer


Hank Lazer's Notebooks -- Project Summary

I began writing The Notebooks on October 8, 2006. Initially, I called the project The Notebooks (of Being & Time). The duration of the writing would be determined by the length of time it took me to read Heidegger's Being & Time, and his two primary topics would also be at the heart of what I wrote. That first phase of the Notebook project took me through ten notebooks of varying sizes, page textures, and length -- from an eight page notebook to an accordion notebook to a 144 page notebook.

I treated the page as a unit of composition, and thus the form of the writing would often vary radically from page to page, with each page being a new performance of the possible shapes suggested by the particular dimensions at hand. The work in the Notebooks has been driven by a vision of what each page would look like. I would see the page -- black shapes on a white background, not the specific words but simply a relationship of black and white on the page -- and then write words to actualize the shape as envisioned. The shape of the notebook itself is always a crucial factor in the composition. I never work from drafts. I see the page and its shaped writing, and I begin writing; I think of these compositions as improvisations. I immediately write the words to the specifications of the envisioned page.

The first phase of the Notebooks project took approximately two and a half years. After I had completed Heidegger's Being & Time, I felt that I had not exhausted the topics of "being" and "time," and that I was just beginning to gain a kind of facility that would allow me to explore more fully the possibilities of this shape-writing. I determined that phase two -- probably another set of ten notebooks -- would be linked to a reading of Heidegger's student Emmanuel Levinas, beginning with Totality & Infinity, which carried me through Notebooks 11-14. I am currently writing in Notebook 16, as I am reading Levinas' Otherwise Than Being. To date (July 7, 2010), I have written over 1,000 pages of the Notebooks.

There have been a few sporadic publications of early pages from the Notebooks. I have collaborated with animation/video artist Janeann Dill on a dome projection multimedia installation involving the Notebooks. (A short film extract, MAH: Moving Around Heidegger, has appeared in several international film festivals.) Pages from the Notebooks were performed as part of a multimedia improvisatory performance, Beginning, Begin Again, in November 2009, with a range of dancers, jazz musicians, poets, visual artists, and sound artists. I am currently collaborating with book artist Steve Miller and several Cuban books artists and visual artists on a small bilingual extract from the Notebooks. Two magazines have presented feature articles on the Notebooks: First Draft Vol. 16. No. 1 (Fall 2009): 8,9,15; and Jelly Bucket #1 (2009): interview, 96-102, followed by 8 pages of color photos taken by Laura Shill.

I anticipate completing the Notebook project sometime in 2011 or 2012. I have already begun thinking about ways to represent the project. One version might be a series of chapbooks/extracts for each set of ten notebooks. I have also begun assembling a thread that I have tentatively titled Extracting the Jewish Book. I think that when the Notebooks are completed, there will be many possible extractions and publications, many ways to represent the project.

--Hank Lazer


to go back to the home page