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Wht is some debt?

by Paul Chan


"Why is it that so many people have debt? And I don't mean student loans or mortgages."

I have debt, who doesn't? Why is it that so many people have debt? And I don't mean student loans or mortgages. I mean the kind of debt that is impossible to pay back, because these debts do not deal in currency: they deal in the elusive transactions that bind people to things, and things to a network of tendencies that strings together to form a semblance of a common good. Can these debts be forgiven? And what would it mean to forgive a debt that cannot be calculated? Through a layering of texts and images, Wht is some debt? tries—rather unsuccessfully but with gusto—to express the inexpressible nature of debt as the fundamental lack that binds the living to time and to each other.

Wht is ? is a series of handmade books and ebooks by Chan created using a special technique of overprinting images and texts onto existing sheets of book paper to create works that read like nothing else. The series premiered at the 2011 NY Art Book Fair. Each handmade book exists as an edition of one with two artist proofs, and as an ebook with a unique ISBN available on Apple iBooks and Amazon Kindle.


ISBN: 978-1-936440-24-5

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-936440-24-5

80 pages

7" X 8.5"


Paul Chan

Paul Chan is an artist who lives in New York. Chan is the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize in 2014, a biennial award honoring artists who have made a visionary contribution to contemporary art. A surve... more