Room Behavior

Review by Christine Landry
"Book maker gets into Rooms"
Uptown, May 28, 1997.

Winnipeg-born author Rob Kovjtz is the first person to admit that his work is difficult to categorize.

"I say that I make books. In a way, that's the best and most simple description of what I do," says Kovitz.

He likens his work to the Artist's Books of the '60s and '70s. The genre consisted of art projects conceived of as books. They were meant to be mass-produced, easily accessible forms of art.

"The book is a really interesting form for this kind of work to be put into. Partly, because there is something magical about the idea of a book. It's out there; it is its own thing," says Kovitz.

His fourth book, Room Behavior, is a collection of previously published text excerpts juxtaposed with photos and images. As the title of the book implies, the subject of Kovitz's latest work is rooms; visually, they vary in style and tone, as do their accompanying texts.

What is distinctive in the work is the thoughtful placement of seemingly incongruous written descriptions with unrelated visual images.

"I don't really have a big idea of what (the book) is supposed to be. I just put it together and hopefully something is interesting," says Kovitz.

Although he was trained as an architect and attuned to the concepts of space and physical environments, Kovitz says the book quickly evolved past being about architectural theory.

"Early on I thought it was going to be an architectural idea about how people's behaviors are determined by their environments," he says.

The concept changed, however, over the two years he spent gathering the literary texts.

“I found it interesting that I was going to non-architectural sources."

Kovitz found his collection was large, compiled from a diverse range of literary sources - James Ellroy, Charles Bukowski, Gertrude Stein.

"The authors I quoted from seemed to need to describe rooms to match the characters or events going on. They colored their rooms."

From this, Kovitz began to view rooms from a new perspective.

"Rooms are characters on their own. So, you have characters that are rooms and characters that are people, brought together in juxtaposition."

With this in mind, Kovitz says he intuitively began to arrange chosen images and excerpts to see what response they evoked both in relation to one another and to the larger theme of room behavior.

"I've thought sometimes it's sort of like editing a film. You have all this material and if you place one scene with another it will affect how you will perceive it," says Kovitz.

For such a simple concept, the result is surprisingly effective. The mere positioning of these eclectic words and images evoke an equally wide range of emotions.

The pieces are at times ironic, bitter, sad and beautiful. By taking both the images and words out of their familiar contexts and using them in complement or contrast, Kovitz jars new associations from the material.

Like the rooms he depicts, the pages of this book arc host to an evocative and thought-provoking life of their own.


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