Five artists collaborate on experimental book art

Fall Sesnon exhibition explores meaning of identity, documentation, racism, and appearance with multi-media gallery installation


When fully opened, Felicia Rice’s book literally unfolds like an accordion along the length of a 30-foot table.

The product of a seven-year collaboration, DOC/UNDOC (Documentado/Undocumented Ars Shamánica Performática) is a multi-media—and multi-faceted—modern art book that explores the meaning of identity, legal documentation, racism, and appearance.

It’s also the title and focal point of a new exhibition at UC Santa Cruz’s Sesnon Gallery, running October 3 through December 6.

The exhibition features a deluxe edition of Rice’s letterpress book, housed in a hi-tech case that contains a video (by film and digital media professor Gustavo Vazquez), an altar, and a “cabinet of curiosities.”

Opening the case triggers light and interactive sound art by music lecturer Zachary Watkins.

The book also includes performance texts about the politics and personal experience of immigration by writer, performance artist, and MacArthur Fellow, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, plus critical commentary by professor and art historian Jennifer González.

“This is an example of the 21st century artists’ book,” explained Rice.  “We are living in a time when the everyday book’s role is dwindling and, as often happens, the old technology becomes a new art form.”

“In this case, the art piece is interactive in new ways, utilizing contemporary technologies in an unusual context,” she added.

At the Sesnon Gallery, the book stands upright and snakes through the gallery on a specially built table. Its aluminum case is plugged in with headphones and participants can push blinking buttons to hear 48 short tracks—“some descriptive, all provocative,” including soundscapes, poetry, and street recordings.

The video plays simultaneously, and sound fills the room.

Rice came to UC Santa Cruz in 1974 to learn the craft of letterpress printing and the art of bookmaking.

“I began the work that has shaped my life right here at UC Santa Cruz,” Rice noted. “I studied the history of the book and worked closely with pivotal figures of the West Coast book art world--Jack Stauffacher and William Everson.”

In 1977, while still a student, she also founded Moving Parts Press in a garage downtown and began her career as a printer, teacher, literary/fine arts publisher, and book artist.

She received her degree in 1978 from UC Santa Cruz as an independent major in Fine Art Printing.

“After graduating, I taught seminars in book arts out of my studio for 14 years as a lecturer,” said Rice. “And in my 40s, I became an administrator on campus to support my chosen work.”

Rice added that creating and producing a limited edition artists’ book can be extremely labor intensive.

“This is ‘slow art’--developing the concepts is fast, but realizing such a complex project that blends the work of five artists takes time,” said Rice. “Making the 15 prints in each of the 65 books took years as each print went through the press 25 to 30 times--each sheet fed by hand, each sheet unique.”

“The coordination of all the moving parts in this project also took consistent effort over seven years,” she added. “As the publisher, that was my job as well.”


An opening reception for the exhibition takes place on October 15, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Sesnon Gallery. Felicia Rice will also perform a series of monologues about the making of DOC/UNDOC on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at the gallery. For more information about related events, visit the Sesnon Gallery web site or call (831) 459-3606.