Elisabeth Tonnard

Blank. Raw. Illegible…

From May 14 to September 3, the Leopold-Hoesch-Museum in Düren shows Blank. Raw. Illegible… Artists’ Books as Statements (1960-2022). Expect a whopping total of 259 books in the show, most of which will be visible to the eye.

Curated by Moritz Küng, the exhibition explores how contemporary artists and artist collectives exploit and activate the conceptual potential of a blank sheet of paper or a book with empty pages for their artistic practice. Starting with an authoritative exploration by artist Herman de Vries of the designation of the color white, the exhibition opens up the diversity of artistic concepts in reflecting on emptiness, purity, and raw material in relation to the formal and functional criteria of books in 15 chapters, the headings of each of which are taken from one of their book titles.

The Invisible Book will be on view in the show, and gives one of the chapters its name. For more information, visit the museum’s website. A catalogue will be published by Walther König (ISBN: 978-3-7533-0463-2).

For those wishing to read up on The Invisible Book, there were recently some new discussions of it: by Gill Partington in the London Review of Books (Vol. 45 No. 4, February 2023), by Annette Gilbert in the quite essential Literature’s Elsewheres (MIT Press, 2022), and by Felipe Cussen in La oficina de la nada (Ediciones Siruela, 2022).


The postcardset of The Invisible Book will be part of Inexistent Books VI, curated by Sveinn Fannar Jóhannsson and Jan Steinbach at Salong in Oslo, May 19 – June 4.

Visible, but also involving blank spaces, the book version of The Man of the Crowd is on view in a small exhibit on Edgar Allan Poe at Centre Céramique in Maastricht right now.

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

May 8, 2023 at 6:11 pm

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The Power of the Powerless

Not a book but a gesture.

In my work I have explored white spaces since 2003 as a method to suggest rather than erase. Even if the suggestion was that the omnipresent Plan may be empty.

I have been struck by the recent street protests in China in which blank sheets of paper are used to defy censorship. The sheets serve effortlessly to indicate everything that should be expressed. Something so small, simple, and yet universal.

The title of The Power of the Powerless is a reference to Václav Havel’s essay of that same title. It speaks of the power that those who are not in power have through simply no longer living (as if) in obedience to the system. No longer “doing” the lies. Something relevant not only in totalitarian states but wherever system tries to dominate life and replace actual experience. The blank of this paper can never be totally contained by those who want to control it.

Published in Leerdam, The Netherlands, December 2022.

Free to enjoy as an idea.

For those who find themselves inclined to purchase:

Edition limited to 40 numbered copies.

12 x 19 cm cover, handmade, inkjet printed, with in it a loose blank A4 sheet.

Priced at € 50,- plus shipping. Order through the webshop or by email. Please note orders will be taken in December but shipped out in January. If you need to get it sooner please email me and we can arrange that.

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

December 1, 2022 at 6:57 pm

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The Pine of Takekuma

I’m pleased to publish a small handmade book I have been working on. It is based on Matsuo Bashō’s Oku no Hosomichi, one of the major texts of classical Japanese literature. Specifically, it traces Bashō’s description of the pine tree of Takekuma, an immortal image that utters itself through several temporary realizations.

Bashō’s Oku no Hosomichi – one possible English translation is The Narrow Road to the Deep North – is a travel sketch, written in a combination of prose and haiku, based on a journey Bashō undertook in 1689. This journey took shape around many places mentioned and celebrated in earlier Japanese poetry. One of the sights depicted by Bashō is the pine tree of Takekuma. Time and again this tree, forked into two trunks, is resurrected.

The Pine of Takekuma presents and continues this process of resurrections by placing before the reader ten different existing English translations of the same passage in Bashō’s work.

Inkjet printed and handbound in a Japanese style stab binding with folds on the foredge, 30 pages, 12×19 cm.

Edition limited to 45 numbered copies.

The book is priced at €95 plus shipping. Order through my webshop or by sending an email.

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

December 9, 2020 at 4:19 pm

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Indirections #11

Pamphlet #11: Deputy Mayor Nico van Driel picks up tompouces at the Hema, is now available within the series Indirections.

The series focuses on the manoeuvring involved when ideas are presented to the public eye with the aim of persuasion. Whether we look at Soviet propaganda or at minor deceits in the local newspaper: things are bent, spun and twisted. The series presents found image-and-caption combinations from books, leaflets and newspapers. Each item in the series is a folded sheet containing a single found image with its caption. The caption is on the front, the image is hidden inside.

More details about the pamphlets and an overview can be found here.

The pamphlets are priced at €7,50. Order through the webshop or by email.

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

December 9, 2020 at 4:16 pm

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Inexistent Books at I Never Read

Inexistent Books is currently taking place at I Never Read, Art Book Fair Basel. Curated by Jan Steinbach, it questions the invisible in times of contemporary hypervisibility and explores the utopian potential of the art book. To this end artists have submitted publications for the ephemeral Book Shop that deal with non-existence or the outright refusal to exist at all. Among them are works by: Bia Bittencourt, Cassie Thornton, Christiane Blattmann, Claudia De La Torre, Elisabeth Tonnard, Fiona Banner, Florence Jung, H.P. Blavatsky & Sun Ra and others.

See the full list of exhibitors and detailed program of the fair on ineverread.com.

Opening hours
Thursday and Friday 3pm — 9pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am — 5pm

Schaulager, Laurenz-Stiftung
Ruchfeldstrasse 19
4142 Basel/Münchenstein

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

September 18, 2020 at 3:47 pm

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Dichters in de Prinsentuin

A post in Dutch about this poetry festival that took another shape this year, including clues about where my poems can be heard in the landscape.

Meer dan zestig dichters zouden dit jaar optreden in de Groningse Prinsentuin. Hun gedichten zijn nu bij wijze van alternatief tot 1 september te horen via de VERS-app in de Prinsentuin en op talloze fietsknooppunten in de provincie. De app is te downloaden in de Google Play Store en de Apple App Store. Instructies voor het downloaden, installeren en gebruiken van de app staan hier.


Mijn korte gedicht ‘Tegen de avond’ is te horen op een locatie bij de Waddenzee. ‘Ons gesprek’ aan een weg in Paterswolde. De locaties lijken me nogal in contrast met de inhoud van de gedichten, wat misschien juist wel goed is. Een kleine verbeelding schuift voor een moment over het landschap.

Van alle dichters is er een gedicht opgenomen in de digitale festivalbundel. Men kan ook een verrassingsdoos bestellen met bundels, gedichten etc.

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

August 5, 2020 at 3:03 pm

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Recently the book Foto-Objekte (Photo Objects) was published, for which I wrote a short essay-with-photos titled ‘More Than A Few Glimpses Of Its Charms’ documenting this work.

The book, which is mostly in German, brings together contributions about work on and with “photo objects” from four photo archives in Berlin and Florence. This compilation is supplemented by the perspectives of various artists (Johannes Braun & Toby Cornish, Ola Kolehmainen, Joachim Schmid, Elisabeth Tonnard, Akram Zaatari).

Some info from the press release:

In ordinary conversation and frequently in scientific jargon, photographs are referred to as images. Usually, they are only perceived as surfaces. But aren’t they a great deal more?

Photographs are constantly being handed around, written on, cut up, framed, pasted on boxes on into albums, printed out and mailed in envelopes, swiped on smartphones, or uploaded onto the Internet. They are exchanged, thrown away, sometimes torn up or deleted. Photographs are not just images, but material objects as well. They are not only looked at, they are also handled.

Archeologists, anthropologists, ethnologists, and art historians began working with photographs in the nineteenth century, collecting them in archives. Mechanically produced images promised objectivity. Based on this supposedly neutral evidence, scientists developed their own methods and practices that remain fundamental to this day, with some now digitalized. Precisely because of their lasting importance, these practices must always be questioned in both their historical and contemporary dimensions. It was archival procedures, such as ordering, notating, and classifying, which first made photographs useful documents for research. Therefore, photographs are neither objective, nor timeless: rather, they have stories of their own. In order to be able to tell these stories, we have to consider photographs as objects, not just as images. These are the methodical, theoretical propositions behind the Foto-Objekte (Photo Objects) project and the essays in this eponymous volume. They deal with the visual contents of the photographs, as well as the boxes they come in, their stamps, inscriptions, spots, blemishes, and other traces of their functionality and how they were used over time.

Kerber Verlag
ISBN 978-3-7356-0477-4
22,00 × 28,00 cm
240 Pages
Hardcover, bound
Languages: German, English (partly)

Julia Bärnighausen, Costanza Caraffa, Stefanie Klamm, Franka Schneider, Petra Wodtke

Texts by
Julia Bärnighausen, Johannes Braun, Costanza Caraffa, Toby Cornish, Ute Dercks, Almut Goldhahn, Stefanie Klamm, Ola Kolehmainen, Nora Riediger, Joachim Schmid, Franka Schneider, Elisabeth Tonnard, Petra Wodtke, Akram Zaatari

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

July 22, 2020 at 3:44 pm

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Exhibition at Tartu Art Museum

While I’m traveling through my garden and through books, sitting with birds looking at a glorious sky of fewer airplanes, my work somehow travels out, which at the moment feels quite miraculous. I hope you who read this are also doing well. This is a small update concerning the exhibition ‘Silver Girls. Retouched History of Photography’, in which my print series and artist book The Library will be on view. Curators Šelda Puķīte and Indrek Grigor have managed to put this exhibition about lost, damaged, neglected photographs/visual heritage on with only the slightest of delays. The focus is on a selection of works by ten early women photographers from Estonia and Latvia. These vernacular works are contrasted with the works of three contemporary European artists who contemplate the lost and the neglected in our visual history. More information about the show can be found here.

Works by early women photographers from Latvia and Estonia: Antonija Heniņa, Minna Kaktiņa, Lūcija Alutis-Kreicberga, Emīlija Mergupe, Marta Pļaviņa, Olga Dietze, Helene Fendt, Anna Kukk, Hilja Riet, Lydia Tarem.
Contemporary works by: Nanna Debois Buhl, Sami van Ingen, Elisabeth Tonnard.

Tartu Art Museum
Raekoja plats 18,
Tartu, 51004

The exhibition runs from June 12 to September 27.


Unknown Photographer. A group of women from the Women Member’s Committee of the Latvian Photographic Society during the observation of the solar eclipse, 1914. From the collection of the Latvian Museum of Photography.

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

June 9, 2020 at 5:40 pm

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Indirections #10

More news, pamphlet #10 is now available within the series Indirections.

The series focuses on the manoeuvring involved when ideas are presented to the public eye with the aim of persuasion. Whether we look at Soviet propaganda or at minor deceits in the local newspaper: things are bent, spun and twisted. The series presents found image-and-caption combinations from books, leaflets and newspapers. Each item in the series is a folded sheet containing a single found image with its caption. The caption is on the front, the image is hidden inside.

More details about the pamphlets and now also a complete overview can be found here.

The pamphlets are priced at €7,50. Order through the webshop or by email.

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

October 30, 2019 at 1:14 pm

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A History of Dogma


I’m happy to announce my newest book: A History of Dogma.

It is based on a book about the history of dogma (a 1951 copy of Walther Köhler’s Dogmengeschichte) that I came upon at a second-hand booksale in my hometown. This book, it was clear, had been expertly read by its previous owner. The markings left by this most dutiful reader, who essentially created a new history of dogma, are presented here.

The edition is limited to 75 numbered copies and the books are handmade. I printed them myself for color and reproduction accuracy, and bound them by hand using cold glue, a few tools and a lot of patience. It did occur to me at times that the stubborn working methods behind this very simple but highly labor-intensive book were mirroring or even outdoing the activity of the anonymous reader whose marks I was preserving.

See more images here.

The book is priced at € 50,- plus shipping. Order through email or through the webshop. Or pick up a copy at my table at the Small Publishers Fair in London on November 15/16.

Inkjet print, full color. Perfect bound paperback, cover of embossed paper, 14 x 21 cm. 114 pages.



Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

October 29, 2019 at 1:52 pm

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