It's not every day you see a book bound in cork and pleather ... or vinyl, cardboard, vellum, paper bags and duct tape, for that matter. But since February 2005, former Carnegie Mellon University art students Chris Kardambikis and Jasdeep Khaira have been sticking, stamping, sewing and silk screening their zine-styled Encyclopedia Destructica art periodical together with as much variation in themes and guest editors as materials.
What started as a dozen copies of fellow students' compiled artwork for Kardambikis' senior project quickly inspired three additional collections and two addenda, together comprising "Volume Atum." To achieve the desired innovative, handmade formats, Kardambikis and Khaira held "binding parties" at which contributors, friends and fans gathered to trade ideas while assembling about 80 copies of each issue. Although a Sprout Seed Award helped production of the second volume, "Volume Bumba," to reach 200 copies per issue, Destructica never swayed from its do-it-yourself production method. "We're trying to find efficient ways to bind really attractive books and get them out in the public," Kardambikis says. "DIY stuff is very Pittsburgh."
The volumes are named after the Egyptian god Atum and the African Bushongo god Bumba, both of whom realized themselves in pre-creation chaos and detached from it to create the world. "Destructica is a place for a primordial dialogue," Kardambikis says. "We're grabbing ideas from sketch books and journals before they become finished pieces."
Inspired by the constantly shifting design and editorial focus of the popular McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, each Destructica issue has a radically different format and theme, uniting the creative energy of multiple artists. "Volume Atum, Issue Three" includes a collection of ambiguous map art; an interview on the subject of zines with the guest editor; and a tiny set of directions to Toronto entitled "Let's Move to Canada Guide." It's all enclosed in a red-and-gold screen-printed folder. Another issue tracks the evolution of artworks-in-progress as they are traded through the mail. Anything is fair game, from realistic pen-and-ink portraits to Greek translations, political cartoons to collages of goats, and silhouettes of scuba divers to long, fold-out surrealist landscapes.
Destructica shares a wide variety of shelves, ranging from the Phantom of the Attic's comic-book shop to Carnegie Mellon's Hunt Library Rare Book Room. Because the physical book can be distributed in a wide range of venues ... including coffee shops, where they were originally left for free ... Kardambikis hopes to "attract people who might not go to galleries on Friday nights." He also describes the book format as a "personal experience." He adds, "It's rewarding to physically hold something rather than downloading it."
Still, Destructica is no stranger to technology and expanding formats. Its Web site is itself a playful artwork, and the fourth and final Volume Bumba issue consists of video and sound work to be released on DVD on Oct. 21-22, when Destructica and fellow small-press periodical Unicorn Mountain will team for a vendor fair, readings and performances at Spinning Plate gallery, in Friendship.
Khaira's dreams include a book-art resource center that would host artist residencies in the current fashion of North Side-based gallery/workshop Artists Image Resource. The creators also plan on making new volumes from different cities and expanding their distribution.
At Destructica's upcoming Vault Release Party, Atum: The Vault, The Collected Volume Atum of Encyclopedia Destructica will offer a special collected edition of all four issues, plus two addenda, that make up the first volume. Performances by musicians involved with Destructica (Ex-Wife, Safety Grenade and Flotilla Way), artwork displays and a preview of the DVD are also scheduled. For many, though, the highlight will be The Vault itself: Despite constant requests, the first three issues of Volume Atum have been long sold out.