Though we wouldn't recommend doing things like setting your bicycle on fire and racing it around the room or lighting off dynamite under sofa cushions as general practice, it does make for some pretty neat photos, as is demonstrated in Phaidon's Roman Signer. The artist, who thinks of himself simply as someone "who makes various things" but, as the book shows, has demonstrated himself equally good at demolition, first started exploding objects in 1975. And then starting asking friends to help him film and photograph the explosion.
Over the years, he has experimented with combustion on varying levels -- mostly homemade, anywhere between a simulated pressure cooker or volcanic explosion with 20 kilos of gunpowder. The creative idea behind his body of work, as Signer explains in the introductory interview with Paula van den Bosch, is about time and boundaries: "The explosive itself is a sculpture in its own right. I mean, say you've got some explosive. And here you've got the fuse. I light the fuse. It burns. It gets closer and closer, quite slowly. Then the moment in the explosion occurs. That's the prototype of a time sculpture for me… A boundary between slow and fast and matter and non-matter." From a Pop Photo perspective, it is neat to explore the psychology of why people like to blow things up, but mostly it is just neat watching people blow things up and taking pictures of it, which makes this in addition to a great artistic overview of the artist's work, a kind of nifty handbook.
(Roman Signer, by Gerhard Mack, Paula Van Den Bosch, Jeremy Millar. Phaidon, $40)
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