Prem Krishnamurthy

Graphic Designer / United States / P!/Project Projects

Prem Krishnamurthy’s Book List

I encountered most of the books on this list while conducting background research for a six-month cycle of exhibitions on copying at P!, my exhibition space. Some, like artist Gareth Long’s Don Quixote remake, are new discoveries. Others, like Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book, are old favorites.

As a designer of exhibitions, books, and identities, I am constantly confronted by the unstable boundaries between original and copy, appropriation and falsification. And as a curator, I try to create situations in which alternate histories and cultural expectations are forced to overlap and negotiate the same space.

For both these roles, I find that embedded, hyper-descriptive texts, such as W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, are indispensable frames of reference. I need them to unsettle me: to make strange a world that can, at times, feel reductive and normative; to offset the designer’s—the human’s—impulse to identify, to categorize, to manipulate in the service of a seamless, intuitive visual experience.

8 books
Orhan Pamuk
Translated by Maureen Freely

The Black Book is a detective story, but it exceeds the genre and becomes many other things as well: a comedy, a caper, a labyrinth, an identity crisis. Each time I read it, I feel that, like the character of Galip, I have been consumed by false leads or, at the very least, the city of Istanbul itself.

Greg Allen

This is the out-of-court oral testimony of Richard Prince, who was accused by the French photographer Patrick Cariou of copying 41 images of Rastafarians and landscapes. Prince’s cross-examination took place for almost seven hours, and his defense is riveting. This is an essential text for navigating contemporary questions of intellectual property, digital copyright, and free expression.

Gareth Long

I can’t think of a “copy” more fittingly perverse than Gareth Long’s Don Quixote (2006). Long generated this text using speech recognition software, which he trained to identify the Don Quixote audiobook narrator’s voice. He played the subsequent recording into a computer and produced this clever doppelgänger. His “Chapter XVI” begins: “regarding what they fail in the ingenious government in the American debut Castle.”

Susan Hapgood
Cornelia Lauf

An instant classic of a catalogue, from the moment it was published—this book takes the fascinating subject of artists' certificates of authenticity and creates a work that is visual, verbal, legal, and conceptual simultaneously.

Adolfo Bioy Casares

Bioy Casares, a contemporary and friend of Jorge Luis Borges, ingeniously employs the replicating—and revisionary—structure of memory to craft a novella as tightly wrought as it is unpredictable. The first edition's illustrations, by Norah Borges (Jorge Luis's sister), alone make the book worth examining.

Italo Calvino

An endlessly permutational book, as well as the most appropriate use of the typeface Buster in print; the first English edition of Invisible Cities makes the font look like a bespoke creation for this very volume.


Marcia Hafif

A recent discovery for me, but one that lingers—a brilliant riff on Ed Ruscha's books of commercial and urban sites, but made domestic and personal in a way that his work evades.

W. G. Sebald

This is the book that I have read most, and most deeply—a densely interwoven work of texts and spectral images that traces multiple geographies of colonialism, manufacturing, and influence. As in much of Sebald’s writing, images of uncertain provenance embed themselves throughout the narrative without captioning or context—curious interlopers that gain their strange authority through precise form and lack of comment.

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