As you like it, Do it yourself

Year: 1975

Author: Maurice Roche (1925 - 1997)

Artist: Claude Viallat 1936

Publisher: Génération Plus

As you like it, Do it yourself, title page

In 1977, the Musée National d'Art Moderne organised 'Génération', the first exhibition on the publishing business of Gervais Jassaud (born in 1944), which was displayed in one of the smaller halls at the Centre Pompidou. This exhibition marked the end of a phase for the publisher: one that had been defined by the enthusiastic aftermath of the revolutionary 1960s. Jassaud had been closely involved with movements like TXT, Textruction and Supports/Surfaces, members of which exhibited their work in public spaces such as parks and streets.

Jassaud expounded the idea of collectivity by having young French artists and authors collaborate on art books. The publisher changed course in 1977. From then on, he invited international artists and authors to collaborate with each other, and he developed new ideas about books as objects. He did not call these artists' books, 'livres d'artiste', but 'livres d'artistes', with the plural form of the French word for 'artist'.

Visual poetry

In this early period Jassaud collaborated with authors such as Maurice Roche, whom he saw on a weekly basis around the year 1970. Their friendship transcended the limits of the book world: common interests for instance included cats, love, diseases, music, whiskey, cycling and football. Roche - a pataphysicist like Alfred Jarry -has been categorised as a musician who often used daily news announcements for his lyrics and who embraced every form of expression within a text, including colons, correction marks and other characters. He went to extreme lengths to use typography to generate the meaning of a text, like in his novel Compact, by producing concrete and visual poetry. Nearly all of his work deals with fear of death. It has often been likened to a dance of the dead.

In 1975,Jassaud and Roche collaborated on As you like it, Do it yourself: a text that can and must be compiled by the reader from the elements printed in the book. The pages deliberately lack page numbers, so the reader can determine the order in which they are read. The texts have been printed on one side of the page, while the illustrations in the deluxe edition have been painted on the reverse side. The loose pages (Do it yourself) can be ordered as the reader chooses (As you like it). The illustrations were done by Claude Viallat: original gouaches were included in the deluxe edition (30 copies), which formed a puzzle together. The regular edition (60 copies, of which this is one)only has two printed illustrations, both of which are mirrored on opposite pages. The book is treated as an instrument: the reader may use it to create music, while the author has become an instrument maker, as Roche himself writes in this book: 'It is not the music that allows me to play: it's the instrument'.

Unique copies

Artist Claude Viallat had been involved in the same movements as Gervais Jassaud, like Textruction, for instance. Creating art in the form of books gave him just the limitations he desired: the pre-defined material determined his possibilities, which could then be exploited. Each copy was made to be unique, and Viallat loved to create as many different copies as possible, with variations in colour and with patterns that would change gradually. The distribution of all the different copies in fact dispersed the work of art as a whole, for only the full edition - the total of all printed copies - made it clear what the publisher and the artists aspired to achieve. This approach creates irresolvable problems for individual readers and collectors, who will never be able to obtain every single copy. According to the publisher, the book has not been illustrated: it has instead been 'activated'. He asks his artists to transform the text into a book with a 'plastic intervention'. The publisher would have to go to great lengths to make this possible: it is therefore no wonder that Jassaud (later he published under the name Collectif Génération) preferred to work with a regular printer. For a long time this was Alain Sanchez, who also printed As you like it, do it yourself in June 1975. Unfortunately, Sanchez died unexpectedly in 1988.

Bibliographical description

Description: As you like it, Do it your self / Maurice Roche ; ill. de Claude Viallat. - [Colombes : Génération Plus], 1975. - [34] p. : ill. ; 33 cm. - (Génération plus ; 4)

Printer: Alain Sanchez (Libos, Lot-et-Garonne)

Edition: 90 copies

This copy: Number 64 of 60 (numbered 31-90) on Arches

Bookbinder: Pierre J.M. Thielen

Bibliography: Bénézit 14-200

Shelfmark: KW Koopm A 550


  • Debra Bricker Balken, 'Notes on the publisher as auteur', in: Art journal, 52 (1993) 4 (Winter), p. 70-71
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  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voix et visions. La Collection Koopman et l'Art du Livre français. La Haye, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Bibliothèque nationale des Pays-Bas; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
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