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[BKARTS] Open book...
I've been mulling this around since seeing the call for entries for "An Open
Book" and thought I'd toss it out for discussion.
For those that missed the call, the organizers have adopted a creative
approach to the problem of displaying books.
From the prospectus: "...One of the major problems with showing books in an
exhibition is that too often the books are shown under glass, closed up so
that just the cover is exposed or one page of a book is displayed. Think
about how your book is to be displayed. One of the most accessible book
forms is the accordion fold but there are many other forms that can be
displayed so that a book can be seen in its entirety when displayed in a
case or on a pedestal..."
Let me say from the beginning that I applaud the organizers for confronting
this issue and for instigating a discussion on the nature of book arts
It also opens the door to lots of other questions.
One of the things that compells me to make books is the way the element of
time is involved. When you experience a book, there is often a moment(s) of
discovery that occurs in due time, and if the book is particularly
successful, you are compelled to return to that experience over and over
again. Other books rely on the fact that all the visual information can't be
taken in at one sitting and demand long, repeated visits.
The other element that I love about books is their tactile quality. It's a
thrill to see someone pick up your work and move their hands in a way that
shows they're taking in information through their skin that will add to the
The turning of a "page" (which can be interpreted as broadly as possible)
plays into all the above.
In my version of a perfect world, books would be exhibited in a large room
full of comfortable sitting areas and visitors with clean hands and basic
knowledge about how to handle the materials. A place where a market for book
arts could be expanded by socializing people into the richly satisfying
elements of time and touch that separate books from paintings, prints and
sculpture - a place of active participation.
In the real world, this would entail sometimes elaborate and impractical
things like asking artists to submit an extra "exhibition copy", making
facimilies (like the Russian Avant-Garde books at MOMA last year), dealing
with damage and theft, etc. While many exhibits are successfully adopting a
"hands-on" approach, I suspect it's more geared toward lower-priced work.
Another alternative being used is employing a second media in an attempt to
virtually communicate the qualities of the book. At the Bibliocosmos exhibit
at Reed College in Portland this summer, a book that consisted of text that
was watermarked on each page was displayed in a case and an image of an
illuminated page was viewed on an adjacent video monitor.
In attempting to grow the market for book arts within the mainstream gallery
and collector community and with the general public (as opposed to simply
other book artists), do we make things as easy as possible for the viewer,
making touch and time secondary? Would an accordion folded page, printed on
one side, be more suited to being displayed on a wall as a print, the way
Enrique Chagoya presents some of his "codices"? Do we submit work to wear,
tear, theft, etc. to get it into the hands of the potential collector? What
about one-of-a-kind work? Or does an "open book" concept allow for a glimpse
into book arts that will compell viewers to treat their future encounters
with artist's books differently, and entice them to take the time to explore
the work more thoroughly?
I'd be very interested in hearing other people's thoughts.
Mission Creek Press / Pendleton, Oregon
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