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Every Page of This Book Is a Slice of Cheese

Denzer's books remind you that books are objects. Also, cheese is fun.
Denzer’s books remind you that books are objects. Also, cheese is fun. Emily Buckler/University of Michigan Library

What would a book look like if it were a work of art? The artists’ books collection at the University of Michigan offers almost a thousand answers: It could be a brown paper chrysalis than unfolds to reveal a small, circular book within, or eight wedge-shaped booklets printed to look like cherry pie and stored together in a clear plastic takeout container.

It could even be made of American cheese.

Last summer, University of Michigan art and design librarian Jamie Lausch Vander Broek acquired 20 Slices—a squat, square volume composed of 20 plastic-wrapped Kraft singles sandwiched between bright yellow covers. “For me, a lot of the purpose of the collection is engaging with people who usually have never seen an artist’s book before,” she explains. “So I have tailored my selections away from subtlety. It’s really important to me that people get excited about the work that I buy, and that it happens quickly.”

On that front, 20 Slices—the work of New York-based artist (and book cover designer) Ben Denzer—has been a home run. According to Vander Broek, it’s sparked more discussion than any other book she’s acquired. It even riled up librarians and cataloguers, she says, who reacted to the purchase on Twitter with comments ranging from “That’s an insult to books” to “I could do that!”

Denzer's books have pages made of Splenda packets (em20 Sweeteners/em) and ketchup packets (em5 Ketchups/em).
Denzer’s books

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