Elisabeth Tonnard



Whiteout: An atmospheric optical phenomenon in which the observer appears to be engulfed in a uniformly white glow. Neither shadows, horizon, nor clouds are discernible; sense of depth and orientation is lost; only very dark, nearby objects can be seen. Whiteout occurs over an unbroken snow cover and beneath a uniformly overcast sky, when, with the aid of the snow blink effect, the light from the sky is about equal to that from the snow surface. Blowing snow may be an additional cause. (Glossary of Meteorology)

Whiteout: A fluid, usually white, that dries quickly and is applied to printed matter to cover mistakes. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)

This book is based on a combination of the definition of meteorological whiteout and the product of whiteout used to correct texts. Textimages were made by applying whiteout to definitions from the Glossary of Meteorology. The definitions were found by starting with the definition of whiteout (seen above) and applying whiteout to all but the words that are printed bold (those words are referring to other definitions in the glossary). This because in a whiteout “only very dark, nearby objects can be seen”.

After the first definition, the instructions from the glossary are followed; i.e. the next definitions that were looked up were ‘observer’, ‘horizon’, ‘snow cover’, ‘overcast’, ‘snow blink’, ‘light’, ‘snow’, ‘blowing snow’. All of these also had certain words printed bold and referring to further definitions. Again these were then looked up, and whiteout was applied to everything but the bold words.

The effect visually, is that words are floating like objects in a field of white. They are disconnected; nouns without sentences. A flurry of bits of letters surrounds them as in a snowstorm. In the words of the glossary: “sense of depth and orientation is lost”. See more images

First edition: ten numbered copies, 2006. Second edition ten numbered copies, 2008.

Pigment ink on archival paper, handbound. Rochester, NY 2006. 70 pages.

This book is sold out.

The book is included in the collections of Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Bibliothèque Kandinsky (Centre Pompidou), Bodleian Library (special collections at the Weston Library), Columbia University, Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature, John M. Flaxman Library at School of The Art Institute of Chicago (Joan Flasch collection), Kunstbibliothek (Berlin), MoMA Library, National Library of The Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek), and University of the Arts London (Chelsea College of Art and Design).

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

March 17, 2008 at 9:06 pm