Book Review: Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith

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A while back I touched on depression and my ongoing struggle against it. While this is not an update (I’m doing well) this post would probably not exist without it. So, yay depression…?

My girlfriend Heather works in the mental health field, and is often shown items that can help clients work through their issues, whether in a constructive, cathartic, or other way. Recently her boss showed her this book by author, illustrator, and “guerrilla artistKeri Smith. I recognized at once the therapeutic yet playful nature of the book, and its status as conceptual art. “Perfect for my blog!” I cheered.

Wreck This Journal” is not just a title, but an instruction. The entire book is made up of instructions on what to do with the book or individual pages thereof. It is gently transgressive, especially for someone from a family of book lovers like me. Nothing suffers but the book which, being one copy of printing of an edition – the book has been revised and expanded more than once since its first publication in 2007 – is easily replaced. The urge to vent, to throw stuff around, is something we’ve all felt, and this book offers creative ways to let that energy out. It diverts the intention, resets the mind out of depressive channels. I’m looking forward to doing terrible things to this book, reassured that not only is such action allowed, I’m following Smith’s own instructions.

Consider a few of her instructions:
Drip Something Here. (Ink, paint, tea) Close the book to make a print. (Rorschach, anyone? – SP)
Document a Boring Event in Detail
Cover this Page with White Things
Compost this Page. Watch it Deteriorate.
Scratch Using a Sharp Object

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While these are milder than, say, a Yoko One word piece – example above – Smith’s instructions are no less conceptual. Would the finished product, a book smeared, gouged, taped and mailed to one’s self, etc., be an artwork? You can debate that all you wish, and perhaps I will at a later date. The option of disobeying the instructions and making something else of the book is just as valid and, arguably, more creative. All I know is that, as someone who lives with depression, I will enjoy making this journal into a complete and utter mess, just as I am told to do.

You can check out Keri Smith’s blog here, though it hasn’t been updated in a while.

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