Harland Miller Death Whats in it for Me Screenprint in colours

Death What’s In It For Me? Harland Miller

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Harland Miller first became critically acclaimed as a writer with the publication of his first novel Slow Down Arthur, Stick to Thirty (2000). Writing and literature has been an integral part of Miller’s practice. He continued to publish shorter novels as well as incorporating language directly into his artworks. In 2001, Miller began producing his Penguin classics works, inspired by the format of the dust jackets of Penguin books. In these iconic works, he appropriates the familiar format and motif of the Penguin title page, exploring the relationship between the abstract, bold background colour and the embedded text, coming up with his own ironic, humorous titles with the likes of Fuck Art Let’s Dance and Death What’s In It For Me?

Miller’s artworks based on dust jackets of Penguin books played a crucial role in kick starting his artistic career. His first inspiration for the series came from when he stumbled upon a box of Penguin books outside a second-hand English bookstore in Paris in 1992. Their dusty, old and damp smell apparently reminded him of Northern England and his hometown of Yorkshire. This is when he experienced a “Eureka!” moment:

“I realised that the design of those classics would throw all the focus on the title of the book, which is exactly what I wanted to do.(…) People are so used to the format already with the text in the middle that you could really say whatever you wanted.”

Death What’s In It For Me? was created in 2011. It takes the familiar format of a Penguin book cover, the title is bold against the coloured, photo realistic background. The cover is worn and rugged, evoking feelings of nostalgia whilst the Penguin logo is instantly recognisable. Miller elaborated on why he thought Penguin went with this logo in the first place, as well as his own choice for it in an interview with The Guardian:

“…And penguins seem to share this “all in it together” trait, with their thousand-strong hug, and they appear to have, or we ascribe to them, characteristics we like to think of as human. “

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