Photobook Review: A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai) by Jeff Wall

98 unbound, lightweight sheets of paper compose A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai), TBW’s limited edition of Jeff Wall’s iconic homonymous photograph. The publication’s design turns the original museum piece into a portable artwork.

In the foreground of both pictures, we see four human figures, two bending trees, and loose sheets of paper flying all around. Only one, main difference catches the eye - at the place of Hokusai's Mount Fuji is the flat landscape of urbanized Vancouver.

Wall’s work revolves around slowness, and things slightly deceiving in the way they look. The photograph, presenting itself as an instantaneous fraction of time, is instead the result of five months of almost cinematic work involving actors, a wind machine, and the seamless montage of one hundred different film negatives with early digital techniques. Quite similarly, TBW's ten-years-in-the-making publication might look like a regular hard-cover book, instead being a clamshell box that houses 98 sheets of paper in a cardboard folder. 

In a PBS interview released last year, Wall says that his work is not to write stories, but to erase them. “It means that the process of picture-making is the exact opposite of narrating”, he explains, “what you’re doing is, you’re stilling the narrative. You’re un-writing it. It’s the viewer that will come back in real time, and rewrite it”. How could this better be represented than through a bunch of paper sheets flying in the air, maybe lost for good, maybe re-found by somebody else, who'd potentially re-assemble them in his own order? 

It goes for the orange folder we see in Wall’s picture, as much as for the TBW one we hold in our hands. Its color and shape recalling the original, the object is sort of suggesting a circle. One that gets, eventually, closed as the conceptual artist’s piece is installed on a wall, with the lightest airflow causing the sheets’ movement. With “just a small portion of the gust of wind that could happen outside”, as Wall says in the video produced for the publication's launch, the scene is necessarily always alive, never frozen - making TBW’s edition a uniquely designed ode to fleetingness.

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All photos © Jeff Wall and TBW Books

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A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai) is published by TBW Books

Edition of 300 + 30 Artist's Proofs

Signed and numbered

Slipcase with clamshell and folder

98 unbound colour plates

35.5 x 30 cm (slipcase)

229 x 377 cm  (assembled)

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Jeff Wall (b. 1946) is a Canadian artist best known for his large-scale back-lit Cibachrome photographs and art history writing. Early in his career, he helped define the Vancouver School. His photographic tableaux often take Vancouver's mixture of natural beauty, urban decay, and postmodern and industrial featurelessness as their backdrop.

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Camilla Marrese (b.1998) is a photographer and designer based between Italy and The Netherlands, about to graduate from Design Academy Eindhoven's MA in Information Design (NL). Her work, often realized in a duo with Gabriele Chiapparini, was exhibited in several festivals and galleries including Fotografia Europea, Kranj Photo Fest, and PhMuseum Lab.

A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)
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A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)

A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)
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A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)

A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)
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A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)

A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)
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A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)

A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)
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A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)

A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)
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A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)

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