Urgent Museum Notice

Swiss Army Book

Close up of Swiss Army Book

A white book opens like a Swiss army knife; its pages cut to create a sculpture. Opened to the center, pull-out drawers open from the sides, filled with paper-made objects. On the right, a typewriter-like object. On the left, a box with smaller books, including one that is also open.

M. L. Van Nice, Swiss Army Book, 1990; Ink on paper, linen, wood, pen nib, and ribbon, 5 1/2 x 24 1/2 x 11 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum purchase: The Lois Pollard Price Acquisition Fund; © M. L. Van Nice

Swiss Army Book
M. L. Van Nice

Swiss Army Book was inspired by the Swiss army knife, “a tool so ludicrously elaborate, as to include toothpicks, saws, bottle openers, etc.,” muses artist M. L. Van Nice. She constructed a number of tiny folios growing out of the main body of the book to articulate the idea that knowledge derives from previously accumulated wisdom. Through the display of partly burned pages, the artist demonstrates the fragility and vulnerability of books. Van Nice believes that writing is a never-ending process. To facilitate a rewriting of Swiss Army Book, she provides a handcrafted typewriter and an actual pen nib.

The text in this unique artist’s book is rendered in Van Nice’s meticulous calligraphy of illegible signs. The structure and symbolism of Swiss Army Book challenge the viewer on both visceral and intellectual levels.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    M. L. Van Nice
  • Title

    Swiss Army Book
  • Date

  • Medium

    Ink on paper, Linen, Pen nib, Ribbon, Wood
  • Dimensions

    8 1/4 x 20 1/4 x 11 1/2 in. (open)
  • Donor Credit

    Museum purchase: The Lois Pollard Price Acquisition Fund
  • Photo Credit

    © M. L. Van Nice
  • On Display