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Re: [BKARTS] "Artists' Books" in Literature Departments



Richard,

I like your term Book Art (not Book Arts) rather than Artists' Books.

Perhaps with time and use it will replace 'artists' books' as the
predominant term. I will start using it and encourage others to.

I think your 'rant', though interesting, is perhaps a little out of date. I
don't think many people start the history of Book Art with Ruscha anymore.
No one I know does anyway, and for most the history starts around the time
of Blake, and goes on through most of the people you mentioned and many
others.

Even Clive Phillpot, who you mentioned in your post, does not have the
rather strict and limited view of what makes an artist's book Book Art that
he did when he was in NYC at MoMA in the '70s and '80s. His view has
softened and become much more encompassing.

Although I think Altamira and Lascaux are great artistic works, I don't see
how they fit into the history of the book as artistic medium.

The same with Hiroshige. I get your point on a conceptual  and content
level, when comparing with Ruscha, but as far as I know they were created as
numbered individual (portfolio) prints, not as a book. That's the only way I
have seen them anyway. Where they originally bound as a scroll? I did a
little research and was not able to find any reference on the web of that,
but that doesn't mean it was not so. Maybe for you this is not an important
distinction. But I like the idea of Tokaido as the conceptual forerunner to
Ed Ruscha's "Twentysix Gasoline Stations."

Although I bring this up with a great deal of trepidation, there is also the
perennial and sometimes corrosive argument about whether livres d'artiste
are Book Art or merely illustrated or 'reproductive' coffee table works.
Were they conceived as Book Art --taking into account sequence, rhythm and
series, movement, narrative structure, variations on theme: all the things
that for me make the time-based medium of books such a powerful creative
form? Or is that important? For me it is, but not for all, I am sure.

Most 'livres d'artistes' are not conceived like that, I think, being simply
reproductions of images paired with a page of poetry, using the A-B, A-B,
A-B page-spread formula. I know I am on very dangerous ground here. And of
course there are many wonderful exceptions like Matisse's' Jazz.

I suppose we should and must have a large tent here and allow all to enter.

We can have our own opinions about what is or isn't good in terms of our own
views of what makes a particular work of Book Art successful or remarkable.

> When creating a history of artists' books, let's keep all this in mind.
> Form and Content. There are many types of artists' books, and artists use
> forms from many periods and locations to convey the metaphor of their
> subject.

> There are a lot of questions. To what extent do the structure and materials
> of the book art work influence the perception of the metaphor? How does the
> existence (or absence) of pages influence the continuity of the narrative?

I like this part.

I would add 'intention' to Form and Content as a way of defining 'bookness'.

>There are artists who do books, and there are book artists.

I'm not sure about this distinction -- anymore than there are artists who do
printmaking as well as painting and sculpture --like Kiki Smith or Anselm
Kiefer, vs artists who do only printmaking. Aren't they all just artists?
Why ghettoize?

> But you wanna know an influential name from the 1960's you may never have
> heard of that has led to the forms used by many book artists? Emanuele
> Casamassima. He was the Director of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale when
> the flood came in 1966. He brought in Peter Waters and 120 technicians, and
> that led to sweeping changes in the concepts of conservation, book triage,
> etc. Those changes in how we think about books led to such remarkable
> inventions as Hedi Kyle's "Flag Book," which has become one of the forms
> most used by book artists today.

This is a very interesting comment. I am really curious about how
Casamassima influenced form and/or Hedi Kyle. Could you tell us more about
this? I will admit I am one who did not know his name though I do remember
the great Florentine floods of 1966, which I assume is part of this story.


Phil

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Philip Zimmermann
Border Art Residency
3127 Highway 28  (La Union)
Anthony, NM  88021

land tel. 505.589.3318
cell-mobile: 845.282.2665

pzim@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
or
pzimmermann@xxxxxxxxxx
(only until June 1, 2004)


> I hope Betty Bright and Judith Hoffberg will be presenting papers here!
> It's about time the myths propagated by certain 1980's factions in the
> artists' book world were debunked.
>
> Anyway, I feel a RANT coming on. It's got MAGGOTS and DINOSAUR SHIT written
> all over it and is from the FIRST MAJORITY COSMIC ELDER CONSCIOUSNESS.
>
> I don't get this inclination among American art historians to start the
> history of artists' books at 1960. Those who entered the field after 1980
> or so have been presented with a published body of "history" that has
> become "canonical," to use Molly's apt expression. Of course there were
> predecessors to Ed Ruscha's strips of this and that. And I don't mean
> Jean-Louis Kerouac. As many of us have observed over the decades, famous
> artists tend to get credit for ideas they popularize. And it's not just
> today's society or Book Art.  Listen to J.S. Bach.
>
> If you want to look at the forerunner to Ed Ruscha's "Twentysix Gasoline
> Stations (1963)," look at Ando Hiroshige's "Fifty-three Stations of the
> Tokaido" or "Sixty-nine Stations on the Kiso Highway." Just because it was
> Japan and over 100 years earlier doesn't make Ruscha's the first artist's
> book. Unless, of course, we prefer an American postModern Chauvinist
> interpretation of art history.
>
> Fluxus and Conceptual Art certainly were movements that employed books as
> tools. If "most" critics today believe that the artist's book is an
> "outgrowth" of those movements it's a sad day for art criticism.  Of course
> "most" critics ignored artists' books for so long that some artists feel
> any attention is better than none.
>
> Let's keep in mind the tenets of Fluxus and Conceptual Art, and just
> include in their descendants the artists' books that fit in those genres.
>
> Lucy Lippard got the title right in "The Dematerialization of the Art
> Object." "Artist's books" that document dematerialized conceptualizations
> become oxymoronic if one attributes their material form as being their
> subject. Books just happened to be a cheap and convenient way of presenting
> that information, and existed at that time. But it's not about the book,
> it's about the concept. Nowadays that sort of information is more
> effectively presented and distributed on the internet. And is way more
> cool, since the flow of electrons is closer to being a dematerialized form.
> Fluxus websites are also out there.
>
> Albert M. Fine was the Center for Book Arts Artist in Residence for two
> years in the mid-70's. He was there every day.  The Center's first weekend
> event was a meeting of Ray Johnson's Spam Radio Club.  These were my
> friends in 1974, when I started the CBA. Dick Higgins was there. But they
> did not invent the artist's book. For a historian to dump all book artists
> into the Fluxus category would be an error. These are artist's book
> subcultures.
>
> Tristram Shandy is in the Literature Department. And it's in English! Some
> grad student could do their entire dissertation on artists' books descended
> from Laurence Sterne's 18th C. prototype. And that includes commercially
> successful literary artist's books, like Nick Bantock's "Griffin and
> Sabine."
>
> Rather than stop our timeline with Fluxus, let's go back past Dada -- past
> the 1947 Surrealism catalog with the soft breast that makes art historians
> who don't know Mary Reynolds say Marcel Duchamp just because he did it,
> past Vollard, past the Futurists and Constructivists, and stop for a moment
> in England at the Kelmscott, regarded by some as an abomination, and by
> others as salvation. Then across the channel to Delacroix, and back again
> to William Blake.  Take it all the way back to Lascaux and Altamira.
>
> But you wanna know an influential name from the 1960's you may never have
> heard of that has led to the forms used by many book artists? Emanuele
> Casamassima. He was the Director of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale when
> the flood came in 1966. He brought in Peter Waters and 120 technicians, and
> that led to sweeping changes in the concepts of conservation, book triage,
> etc. Those changes in how we think about books led to such remarkable
> inventions as Hedi Kyle's "Flag Book," which has become one of the forms
> most used by book artists today.
>
> When creating a history of artists' books, let's keep all this in mind.
> Form and Content. There are many types of artists' books, and artists use
> forms from many periods and locations to convey the metaphor of their
> subject. There there are artists who do books, and there are book artists.
>
> There are a lot of questions. To what extent do the structure and materials
> of the book art work influence the perception of the metaphor? How does the
> existence (or absence) of pages influence the continuiity of the narrative?
>
> It's exciting that a(n) MLA session is proposed to include such subjects as
> "visual and tactile experiments in narrative form." The inclusion of
> congnitive theory and visual literature in the study of  modern languages
> makes a lot of sense.
>
> Those book_arts-l members who are interested in these issues may also be
> interested in
> http://interdisciplines.org/
> click on: Issues in Coevolution of Language and Theory of Mind
> You also may want to click on: Workshops on Art and Cognition
>
> These are the people who created
> http://text-e.org/
>
> --
> Richard
> http://minsky.com
> http://www.centerforbookarts.org

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