16 Tons
17 Tons: Memory as practice
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Boom, Irma & Johan Pijnappel

Boom b. 1960, Lochem, NL; lives and works in Amsterdam, NL
Pijnappel b. 1958, Gendt, NL; lives and works in Mumbai, India

Think Book, 1996-1896 Publisher: SHV Holdings, NL. 1996. 22.5 x 17 x 11 cm Thoughts on a Think Book, 2012-1991 Video installation with book, variable dimensions

In 1991 Paul Fentener van Vlissingen, CEO of the coal transport firm SHV, asked the famous Dutch book designer Irma Boom to develop a book project for his company’s shareholders in celebration of its centenary. Founded in Utrecht in 1896, SHV became one of the largest family-owned businesses in the Netherlands. Evolving over the course of the twentieth century, it is now one of Europe’s largest distributors of liquefied petroleum gas. For five years, and practically without restrictions or specifications beyond looking to make a work that would be truly unusual, Boom collaborated with historian Johan Pijnappel to create Think Book, which was anything but a traditional festschrift. Inspired by experimental artistic practices like Robert Filliou’s book Ample Food for Stupid Thought (1965), the 2136-page publication takes readers on a journey through a subjective history of SHV, liberated from any conventional scholarly structure. A massive and closed object produced exclusively for the SHV stakeholders, it is an accumulation of stories and histories, including that of Boom and Pijnappel. More than fifteen years later, the Think Book stands as a remarkable case where graphic design is at the service of the memory of a company, but also granted an extraordinary creative freedom. For this project, Boom and Pijnappel recorded a discussion of their experience with five students from the Rietveld Academy while a camera focused on the book. Questions and stories fill the exhibition hall while hands flip through the object. Archival materials that have gone untouched since finishing Think Book complete the narrative, disclosing both some of the contents of the book along with details of the remarkable history of its commission. MM