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Project Statement


i mean you know is a book to be quietly alone. It also serves as a score for a perfomance. The book/play takes place within a few hours of one day inside the minds of seven characters who co-inhabit the same building. This musical/theatrical setting juxtaposes interior narratives of disparate characers into various arrangements: solo, duo, trio, quartet, sextet, and septet. The characters are: Sasha, the artist; Violone who is confined to a wheelchair and speaks through her violin; Myron the mystic guilt-ridden millionaire; Ace Monroe, a British-born radio talk show host; Little Tracy, the toddler; Angelica, an African-American house painter and mother; and Trombonio who speaks only through his trombone. I began hearing a lo of i mean you knows, kinda likes, and sortas wells when I started teaching art students in 1980, expecially when they were pressed to describe what they thought and why they did what they did in their work. As a student of human consciousness and its relationship to dialogue, I began to realize that these verbal ticks were not at all limited to people in their teens and twenties. My theory: These ticks serve as sonic lily pods while the mind fishes for the word or words that best express the idea being formulated. While some people overuse these phrases (because they have little capacity to express anything clearly with language), most of us employ them more sparingly. My real interest was in exploring those cracks, those synaptic gaps between thoughts, for which 'i mean you know' attempts to bridge. Perhaps i mean you know is a metophor for the human search for meaning (i mean), and the desire to connect with others (you know). Even "kind of like" might derive from an impulse to form similes and allegories that seek transcendent or hidden meaning. Most writers, oral historians, and print journalists clean up spoken language to get the gist of what people are saying. In i mean you know, I was as concerned with the stories as I was those moments of searching---for meaning, for truth, for more of a connection between inner and projected self and with others. To that I end, this work like my 1980 book versations, and much of my work since, attempts to translate the shape of though and speech onto the page, resulting in a (kind of) real time notation. i mean you know dispenses with traditional punctuation (which is designed to expedite time into a compact space). Instead, i mean you know uses space to signify time. Lines are broken significantly as in verse so that a line break or a blank space represents a pause in thought and/or speech. The spaces between words including the silences can be as significant as what is spoken. This typographic approach graphgs the rhythm of thought and speech. It is a celebration of the music of speech. Since all thoughts are not composed into sentences or even linear strings, written language need not always be stuck nto straight lines or squeezed into columns. In i mean you know I explored fields and clusters of thought as well as trains, bursts, spirals, waves and fragments. I also was interested in seeing what two voices occuring simultaneously--or four or seven voices---look like translated onto a single page. What does it look like when one person's voice or thoughts rise above a field of six others? In order to orchestrate as many as seven simulatenous voices on one page but still maintain readability I loosely employed a four column grid superimposed on top of a three column grid, I also used black and gray inks, which helped me differentiate volume and acoustic distance. Each character was typecast into a distinct typographic or calligraphic configuration. (Different typefaces and lettering styles tried out for different roles. Casting was grueling.) It always bothered me, that when you read a theatrical script, you have to keep reading the name of the characters over and over again as you read the dialogue. In i mean you know I simply named the character once at the top and whatever dialogue fell below that name was theirs. In i mean you know, I began distinguishing a text from a sub-text, by using a narrow column on the left side of each page to describe physical actiions and other incidental, descriptive or hypertextual information. Since musical structures were a strong influence, I divided the book into movements (instead of chapters). In the third movement, Sasha (the artist) rebels agains me (the male author/creator of this improbably difficult book/play). When Sasha takes control, the columns break down and a much more lyrical, spontaneous, whimsical structure unfolds. With the help of Joan Lyons and the Visual Studies Workshop this project received a Sponsored Artsits grant from NYSCA that helped pay for printing and binding. Joan encouraged a fluid back and forth with her as a director of the press and with Ed Reed who mad the films and with the printer Tom Sullivan. As co-publisher, VSW also helped me, as independent artist, with the distribution and getting the word out about the book. There have been several theatrical and performance art productions of i mean you know. What was performed more often than the full play was a peice called The Guest Lecture that was based on Sasha, the artist in i mean you know. In that work, I am a self-consumed artist giving a lecture. The changing blank slides cast my shadow large above my head. Every so often I have a panic attack that an atom bomb has landed. I performed this many times including at a 1985 artist book symposium in Boston. i mean you know won an AIGA Best Books of the Year Award (my second), as well as awards from the Society of Typographic Arts and the Type Directors Cub. It has been reproduced in scores of books on typography, design, visial literature, and artists books. Some of my influences I was aware of at the time, others I barely knew existed. Known influences included: The Talmud, the books and scores of John Cage, Dada manifestos and scores, the writings of Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett, the music of Merideth Monk, the theater works of Robert Wilson, cinema verite, and overprinted set-up sheets created by chance via the offset printing process, Influences that I was unaware of at the time include: the typographic poetry of Stephane Mallarme, Ilia Zdanevich and F.T. Marinetti, Dick Higgin's foew(ampersand)oombwhynw and the books of Kenneth Patchen.

i mean you know

Warren Lehrer

title note: [Warren Lehrer]


Warren Lehrer

type: initiating

calligrapher additional calligraphy by Jan Baker
publisher co-published with VSW

born: U.S. citizen

location: New York, New York

birth: 1955/07/22

note: []

Publication Information


production: 00/00/1983

publication history: i mean you know, Warren Lehrer, 1983, published VSW press and earsay, printed at VSw in black and gray inks on acid-free Mohawk Superfine, 9" x 12" x 152 pages, one edition hardcover with dustjacket 250 copies, 1 edition quarter cloth over boards and boxed 700 copies. []

Aesthetic Profile

avant-garde (AAT)
conceptual (AAT)
concrete poetry (AAT)
futurist (AAT)
dada (AAT)
expressionist (AAT)
lettrist (AAT)
minimal (AAT)
multiculturalism (AAT)
neo-avant-garde (AAT)
post-conceptual (AAT)
post-minimal (AAT)
postmodern (AAT)
process (AAT)
systemic (AAT)

language poetry (local)
new expressionism (local)
other Visual Literature
other Performance Score

fiction (AAT)
poetry (AAT)
visual poetry (AAT)
artists' books (LCSH)
book design (LCSH)
concrete poetry (LCSH)
experimental drama (LCSH)
experimental fiction (LCSH)
Play/ Performance

themes: language, communication, though, interior self, exterior self, dialogue, interaction, meaning, connection []

content form:
fiction (AAT)
poetry (AAT)
cut-up (local)
experimental text (local)
music score (local)
narrative (local)

publication tradition:
multiples (AAT)
artists' book (local)
conceptual (local)
small press (local)
visual narrative (local)
visual poetry (local)

inspiration: as described in project statement []

related works: versations, french fries []

other influences: []

community: other [J.Drucker]

note: []

Exhibition Information

exhibition history:

reception history:

Related Documents

manuscript type: texts

location: artist's archive


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