Sometimes when you want something, you have to do it yourself. This is common knowledge to many Pittsburghers. The city has a long history of industrialism, and while our economy may not be based in making the country’s steel anymore, residents of The Iron City are continuing that industrial tradition in smaller, more homegrown ways. The crown jewel of Pittsburgh’s DIY culture is Handmade Arcade, but those with a careful eye can spot a number of other homemade products for sale in shops around the city. The Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District houses a variety of vendors selling their crafts, and Boxheart in Bloomfield sells handmade art objects large and small. And, if you happen to be in one of The Burgh’s coffee shops or small bookstores at the right time, you might be able to find the latest issue of Encyclopedia Destructica.
Encyclopedia Destructica is a Pittsburgh based publisher of hand bound art books and zines. The organization started when a Carnegie Mellon University student named Chris Kardambikis became interested in using zines to promote awareness of the art scene. To this end, he gathered a small group of artists, called themselves Destructicates, and published the first volume of Encyclopedia Destructica, Volume Atum as a university project. The volume was released over time in four issues and two addenda. Each issue was bound by hand in a different manner to best reflect the issues theme and content. The art that filled the volume’s pages ranged from very detailed drawings of wolves and zeppelins to stylized sketches of people and mountains. The books were so popular; the Destructicates couldn’t bind them fast enough and soon ran out materials. Galvanized by the success of Volume Atum, Encyclopedia Destuctica was eager to begin work on a second volume.
For the second volume, Encyclopedia Destructica wanted to expand their project. They wanted to include submissions from a broader range of artists, print more copies, and distribute in more locations. While planning their venture, Encyclopedia Destructica ran into the age old problem of funding. Not wanting to compromise on their vision, but needing the money to make it happen, the Destructicates turned to The Sprout Fund for help. Sprout reviewed Encyclopedia Destructica’s proposal. They recognized the success of Volume Atum. Finally, they considered the strong community aspect of the project like book binding parties to bind the volume’s issues. The parties were open to anyone who wanted to come and taught attendees basic book binding skills. Encyclopedia Destructica received their award and the second volume, Volume Bumba was born.
Volume Bumba was structured similarly to Volume Atum. It had four issues and one addendum, with each issue being bound differently. One major difference was that the fourth issue was actually a DVD compiling video, film, and animation from almost 40 different artists. The focus of the volume as a whole was to look at unfinished sketches and drafts in artists’ notebooks.
Today Encyclopedia Destructica is still operating. They’ve published a third volume, Volume Coatlicue, as well as a few smaller projects. Their current undertaking is a nearly 300 page, full color art book and DVD filled with art writing and film speculating about the sexualities of extraterrestrial life forms. The project, called Strange Attractors: Investigations in Non-Humanoid Extraterrestrial Sexualities, shuns the very common notion of intimate alien relations as occurring between a human and a humanoid alien, instead encouraging its artists to go beyond any notion of gender or sexual orientation. Visit http://www.encyclopediadestructica.com/ to learn more.