Mette-Sofie Ambeck born 1973
6 degrees of separation
Published: Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck, Thisted 2000
Edition size: 6
Tate Library’s copy: number 5
6 degrees of separation is a structural book in a circular box that takes as its theme the theory of ‘six degrees of separation’. The theory is that any one person can be shown to be connected to any other person through a chain of acquaintances of no more than five intermediaries.
6 degrees of separation is made of three strips of paper of different widths. Each strip has been folded numerous times to create concertinas. The middle width strip is woven through cuts in the centre of each fold of the widest strip, while the thinnest strip is interleaved with the middle sized strip, so that its troughs sit within the peaks of the folds of the middle-sized strip, creating a tiered structure. Each strip is rubber-stamped with text. As the work is drawn from the box it expands, seeming to burst into life. The flexible work can be manipulated and laid out in different ways. The circular box has a transparent detachable plastic lid and bottom. The lid bears the text ‘6[degree sign]’ in relief. The book is produced in an edition of six copies, each in a different coloured box. Tate Library’s copy is in a green box; other copies have yellow, orange, red, purple or blue boxes.
The text on the lid of the protective box reads: ‘The structure holds the book together whilst also illustrating the theory. No beginning, no end – everyone is connected in whatever direction the reader chooses. The idea for the format was inspired by the diagram of a family tree and the text is of recorded conversations from a trip around the circle Line, London between 2–4 pm,Friday 19th Nov. 1999’. Elsewhere the artist has written:
The fact that the book cannot be closed but needs a container for protection is a deliberate choice to illustrate the idea of infinity and connectivity. The book has no beginning and no end – and the way the text sits on each viewable spread allows the reader to change the order of the text on each reading to become the author themselves.1
The work pushes the boundaries of what may be considered a book. But Tate Library defines artist books simply as items which normally have a number of pages attached to each other in some way, and hence this work with its interwoven structure is considered to be a book.
Danish-born Mette-Sofie Ambeck has a degree in Graphic Design (and animation A/V) and an MA in Communication Design, both from Central St Martins College of Arts and Design, London, and an MSC in IT, Digital Design and Communication, from IT-University in Copenhagen. Her thesis for the latter degree was titled ‘A Comparative Exploration of the Experience of Continuous Reading for Pleasure in Both Traditional and Electronic Books’. In 2012 Ambeck became Festival Organiser for the Doverodde Book Arts Festival and Symposium, a bi-annual event held in Northern Jutland, Denmark.
Technical description (by the artist):
The book is made using 3 strips of Fabriano 200 gsm paper of a 10 metre roll, as the longest strip is 216 cm. The text is hand-printed using a Dormy rubber stamp printing kit with 3 and 4 mm capital letters. Ideally, it should have been letterpress printed but there was no available press which could take paper over 60 cm therefore rubber stamps were chosen as the alternative. The artist carefully interwove the three strips and glued each one to finish the circle. The circular box is made with 350 gsm Colorplan, sponsored by GF Smith and the lid is made from PVC moulded by the artist using a circular MDF sheet and type hand-cut out of thin printing metal. The PVC was heated up and moulded using a vacuum.2