Cannibal Actif: The Artist Book as Threshold for Material Encounters

Two feet emerging from a pool of black oil touch the edge of a bathtub. The dark ink contrasts with the shimmery copper highlights. These feet belong to a bather in Baku, Azerbaijan, where bathing in crude oil — rich in naphthalene — is said to have healing properties. On the left, a white page with barely discernible letters reads, “But to de-privilege our bipedal flesh. Cannibalism as taboo barriers the partnership across species lines. As if we are not also consumed. As if we don’t consume ourselves. Denial. Crying. Even the cannibals are leaky.” I suddenly realize that I have stained the coppery image with the oil of my fingers. Cannibal Actif(2017), co-created by artist Rochelle Goldberg and editors Frances Perkins and Katherine Pickard, is an artist book centred around an intricate reflection on materiality. It was published on the occasion of Goldberg’s exhibition at the Miguel Abreu Gallery in New York in 2017. The Vancouver-born artist’s oeuvre is composed mostly of sculptures and installations thought of as intra-actions — thresholds — that explore the materiality of blurred spaces where living and non-living entities meet.

Castañeda Delgado, Maria. Dubé, Joëlle. “Cannibal Actif: The Artist Book as Threshold for Material Encounters.” Esse: New Materialisms n°101 (January 2021): 38-47.