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Re: Book Art Criticism: blank books



Thank you Richard for sharing details of the blank book you made for the
translation of Dante.  It was awe-inspiring.

As I recall the discussion about blank books was if they could be considered
"art."  I'm guessing that the original poster was thinking that all the
decisions about structure and materials should relate and further bring out
the message or story or intent of the "text," however losely we want to
interpret text.  If a book is blank, there is no message and thus nothing to
interpret.  If that is indeed what she meant, then Richard's book was not
really "blank"--or perhaps I should say it was only temporarily blank.  It
was made for a specific text and the theme of that text influenced Richard's
choices of materials and techniques, even inspired him to go learn
techniques he didn't already know.

I make a lot of blank books.  They are used for journals and recipes and
pictures, poems and notebooks.  I love seeing what people do with them, but
I don't know that when I make them.  I just enjoy the interplay of the
papers and the trying different structures and making a harmonious whole
that I hope will inspire people to use them.  I hate it when someone says,
"I got one of your books and I'm afraid to write in it."  I've thought of
putting in a printed insert of "some things to do with a blank book" to get
people's creative juices flowing.

Whether they are "art" is not a question that interests me.  Years ago I was
a teaching assistant in Art 101 at the University of Hawaii.  Duane Preble,
the professor, showed a movie called "We have no art."  As I recall it was
about Bali and the theme was that they did not have a separate thing called
"art" but rather that they tried to integrate what we would call aesthetic
qualities into everything they made and used.

I also had the chance there to be friends with Gregory Bateson.  (The
anthropologist who thought with great depth about systems and coined the
word holistic among other things.)  His musings about aesthetics were
wideranging and complex.  One thing I remember is how he prized diversity.
He likened Western culture to a weed culture--effective and adaptable to
many environments, but choking out the richness and specifity of original
life.  Whatever "beauty" is in general or quality handbound books in
particular, I suspect it comes back to diversity and richness and
"just-rightness" of the item.

Well, Gregory abhorred fuzzy thinking and I fear I am going to fall into it
if I go on any more!

Joyce Jenkins
Petersburg, Alaska

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