"titok," bookwork by Robbin Silverberg and secret providers, NYC:1996. Ed. of 5.

-Ashes from secret letters, under the keen eye of the eight ball . -Blade runner, is this the road to answers yet to be asked? -Caterpillars have scared many a young girl with their hory stares and whorlly form. Yes, they make me whudder. -Dice: In travel, chances are moments lost, dreamt, or found. -Ear plugs actually stop the sound of memory's screams but only when they are connected to outside music. -Fire can burn secret thoughts forever deep and dark: shall you light it? -Glass shards mean bad luck, or hopes for a united future. - His hair in a bundle...shared power. Just an illusion, like the emperor's new clothes. -I am on the block, before, now and later...light's power to conjoin present and past. - Jostled around, the sweet sexy bumping wakens long dormant secrets. - Keys can open doors but, like a mask, they cannot explain what is behind them. - Looking through the keyhole to find the road out. -Mirrored like a left-handed writer trying to make sense of a right-handed world. -Nocturnal vistas offer the way out. -Over and above any auricular moment: the pop, the celebration, before reform. -Paired in the balance, his/her search is subliminal/probing. -Quit thinking that you can just look around and understand the secret.. -Rose petals dry nicely...and smell so sweetly of memory. -Shells of Flanders: whose infidelity do you bode ill? -Tin tones to the tee. ti tok ti tok ti tok. Listen. -Under water breathing is a youthful fantasy...to be secure and secretive down below. -Visions of travel, whether the wings of Deadelus or a Kerouac vision, both are illusive. -Which cryptic message best describes your wishes? -X-rays can't tell you who wrote that letter, when, or why...or to whom. -Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes... time passes and rarely reveals her secrets. -Zen-like reflections: Brushes were my way of reading you and your secrets; you had already sketched my biography in the chairs where I rest. - plus one, a sshhhhhing bravado.

         "titok" was made specifically for "In The Flow: Alternate Authoring Strategies", with the intention of including material from the participants of the exhibition among others. It is a collaboration with 20 artists, writers & one musician, where each was asked via letter to send, inform, or instruct me about a secret. As the secretist, I worked with their responses to create this artist bookwork.
         "titok" consists of 27 four inch blocks that form a twelve inch larger cube consisting of 3 layers, 9 cubes each in an edition of 5. Some of the boxes are fully closed, some have peepholes, or lucite windows and some are open with additional boxes within. The exterior and interior faces of these blocks are covered with over 200 images reproduced predominantly onto handmade Dobbin Mill paper.

In 1954 I was a twelve-year-old kid. We had returned to Lake Wallenpaupak in the Poconos of Pennsylvania where traditionally we spent our summer vacation. I was ready to try another of my inventions. The year before I had made a sail from a dyed orange sheet, a rotatable rudder, and a mast, all mounted without any permanent attachments in our heavy old 6-passenger rental row boat. It worked like a charm until a strong gust snapped the mast ending my fantasy voyage.
This year I was ready to put my latest idea to the test and make a bundle in the process. I had noticed that fishermen frequently snagged and lost their lures on the rocky bottom of the lake. Those lures were expensive. All I needed was a way to get to the bottom and to retrieve them. Being an avid fan of the TV program "Sea Hunt" starring Lloyd Bridges, it was clear that SCUBA diving equipment was the answer. I always dreamed of owning SCUBA equipment but didn't have the necessary green. However, now, the realization that I could make money diving provided the necessary motivation to build my own UBA
For a source of compressed air, my trusty bicycle pump seemed the logical choice. To get the air underwater, I had to buy a 25' vinyl garden hose. For a regulator, I modified my snorkel by cutting a hole in the side of the tube, inserting one end of the hose, and securing it with some of my father's electrical tape. On the other end, I attached a valve from an old inner tube, again with electrical tape. Presto! My UBA was finished. Total out of pocket cost: $2 for the hose.
As may readily be apparent, my UBA took two people to operate - one to pump while the other was underwater sucking air. Here's how it worked. In about five pumps I had a lung full and then exhaled, blowing air out the ping pong ball valve at the top of the snorkel. During my exhalation, the air being pumped continuously down the hose also vented through the valve. This was necessary since coordination of the pumping with the breathing cycle was too difficult.
A minor inconvenience was that I couldn't look up or the valve opened and the snorkel filled with water. My UBA also had a self-limiting feature - at about 12 feet, the water pressure collapsed the vinyl hose. Its other limitation was the patience of whomever I convinced to stay on shore or in the boat to pump. And the pumper's enthusiasm usually waned quickly. Further, essentially everyone who I convinced to pump for me could not resist the temptation to suddenly stop pumping and watch me come bursting to the surface with a panicked look on my face.
I had much fun with my UBA gathering lost lures and doing a lot of exploring until my mid twenties when I finally was able to afford a full set of SCUBA gear. In taking a SCUBA-DIVING course, I learned that fatal air embolisms could occur in as little as 8 feet of water by taking a full breath of compressed air and coming to the surface suddenly without exhaling. I turned a little pale when I thought about the times I was forced to the surface when my pumper stopped unexpectedly. I guess I was lucky.
I still have my UBA. One of these days, I'll send it to the Smithsonian.

Secret Providers:

    Beattie & Davidson, NYC; Sylvia Benitez, NYC; Yvette Biro, NYC; Andras Borocz, NYC; Agnes Eperjesi, Budapest; Daniel Georges, NYC; Frank Gillette, Long Island; Martin Kubaczek (with the help of Suzuki Toru: Thuringer Wald Co.Ltd.& Kashiwabara Mio), Tokyo; Endre Kukorelly, Budapest; Louise Lawler, NYC; Jean Louis LeBreux, Perce, Quebec; Jennifer Lytton, NYC; Gabriel Martinez, Philadelphia; Warren Niedich, NYC; Laura Parnes, NYC; Geza Perneczky, Koln; Simcha Shirman, Tel Aviv; Wolfgang Staehle, NYC; Paul Stang, Arlington, VA; X-art Foundation, NYC

Whatever
(I)
do at the very moment when
(I)
am writing
(I)
do it as if
(I)
lived in a rhino's body. But how could

be anything and yet
(I)
somehow or not at all
(I)
don't know yet. Or else n
o
pain would hurt this
(I)
that how else could be otherwise named.

    titok is "secret" in Hungarian.": "Secret" often implies an attempt to control the flow of information. It is predicated on the existence of outsiders and insiders. Secret implies that there is a certain complicity in its very existence - an unconscious agreement between secret maker(s) and those that do not know.

    Secret is: 1. something known only to one or a few and kept from others, anything hidden from general knowledge or observation; something not being told 2. A thing undiscovered, unknown or inexplicable 3. That which, when known furnishes an explanation of something before unexplained or inexplicable; an underlying reason; a key. 4. secrets: those parts of the body that modesty requires to be concealed, specifically, the genitals 5. A secret contrivance 6. A piece or suit of armor worn under the clothing; also a skull-cap of steel bars, formerly worn either above or below the camail 7. In the Roman and some other liturgies, a prayer offered in low or inaudible tones by the officiating priest after offertory and before the preface.

When I learned about the shrew, the poor unevolved, benighted shrew, which will keep jumping high in the air at a place in its accustomed path where an obstacle, a rock perhaps, once was but no longer is, well, I wondered about all those places where, though the obstacles have long been removed, one persists either in the jump or in taking the long way round. It seemed such an unnecessary jolt or expenditure of time and energy.

Sight is certainly the most common form of art participation, but with titok, sound, touch, smell, & intuition factor in (I'm still trying to figure out taste). Each block has, for example, an object or material hidden within that makes noise when rattled, giving the book that sensory option. Another aural dimension is a 27 part violin piece called Box Music, framed between Opening Piece & Lullaby, which were composed for the viewing of titok.

    titok is not a linear narrative, since secrets, a priori, cannot be known, or they cease to exist. The images on the blocks function like a maze through which the viewer proceeds, exploring the ideas and feelings suggested about secrets.


"Who are you?"

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.

(shyly) "I - I hardly know, Sir, just at present at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."

(sternly) "What do you mean by that? Explain yourself!"

"I can't explain myself, I am afraid, Sir, because I am not myself, you see."

    There is neither table of contents nor smoking gun to trace the sources of the elements which make up this artist book. Authorship is treated as privilieged information in order to focus the readers' attention on the initial outsider relationship of beholder to content.. My role in creating this object is that of a secretist, a dealer in secrets.

Robbin Ami Silverberg
dobbinmill@aol.com