The Ambivalents

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Softcover, 52 pp, 5 x 7.5 inches

Inspired by literary precedents such as automatic writing, by the resourcefulness of the bricoleur making do with what is at hand, and by the openness toward chance that all artistic production under severe constraint must necessarily incorporate, Cabinet’s “24-Hour Book” series invites distinguished authors and artists to be incarcerated in an unfamiliar space to complete a project from start to finish within twenty-four hours.

Sally O’Reilly’s The Ambivalents and its companion, Jeff Dolven’s Take Care—the sixth and fifth volumes of the series, respectively—were written in the exact same twenty-four-hour period, with O’Reilly working in a room at the Inner Temple in London and Dolven installed at Cabinet’s gallery space in New York. Both writers were asked to respond to a prompt, which was revealed to them one day in advance. The prompt took the form of a found document—the 1986 catalogue for Braintree Scientific, an American company that manufactures lab products used in experiments on rats and mice. (A pdf of the catalogue is available here; readers may wish to consult it before reading this book.)

O’Reilly’s response to the prompt was to compose dozens of letters to the company in the guise of a wide range of characters, including an artist, a literary critic, a dissatisfied customer, several schoolchildren, and a man who, like the animals on display in the catalogue, is perhaps close to death.

A few sample images from the book are available here.

Purchase The Ambivalents and Take Care together and receive an additional $2 DISCOUNT.