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Re: [BKARTS] bookart

On Tue, 24 Apr 2007, Margaret Fenney wrote:

Why not simply have the central criterion be that the
artwork makes a significant reference to a book, or to some
material or notional aspect of the Book, or books, so that
through reflection a viewer brings the art into being?

Many artworks are inspired by nature, but we do not call them "treeworks, leafworks, or riverworks" let alone trees, leaves, or rivers.

I don't equate "makes a significant reference to" with "inspired," and I don't think it's reasonable to make that inference. We have called artwork that makes a significant reference to women "feminist" art, and bookart is like feminist art in that it's tough to really say what it is, perhaps because it isn't defined by a technique or style. We also call art that makes a significant reference to landscapes landscape painting, that makes a significant reference to material actuality realism, that makes a significant reference to people, portraits.

An artists' book that aspires to _be_ a book is of little
value, since books already do a great job of being books.

Are you saying that you think hand-crafted bindings constructed by master bookbinders are "of little value?"

I haven't said that at all. I love handmade bindings. In my review of the Guild show at the Grolier Club in _Craft_ I spent most of my word allowance extolling their virtues, and I wish I could have included more and more about them in the review. But handmade bindings to not aspire to be books. They aspire to be bindings. They are not artists' books, they are bindings.

What about letterpress works? Photography books?

Aren't you, in fact, saying that if it is a book, it can not
be an artists book "of value?"  Is this not very close to
"if it is a book, then it can not be an artists' book?"

Yes. Pretty close. If all the artist is doing is making a book, then why not just call it a book? What's gained by calling it an artists' book? It might be a very pretty book, or a funny book, but the qualifying term "artists'" is just a freeloader or else it's publicity. A baker's dozen isn't really a dozen, poetic justice isn't really justice (it's ironic coincidence), and an artists' book isn't really a book. Of course, artists' books can look exactly like books. Ed Ruscha's artists' books, and the kind of books they used to sell on Lispenard Street at "Printed Matter" looked like books, and they seemed to operate like books, but the similarities with actual books were deceptive. They borrowed the book form to make people aware of the conventions of reading, of the habitus that dominated thinking, self-reflection, social relations, civic discourse, the fetishization of the art object and the deference being paid to wealthy white males who controlled the art markets (mostly the same fuc*ers who are waging war against a figure of speech). They mimicked the book form but they weren't books, any more than Pierre Menard's "The Quixote" was actually _DQ._ Artists' books seems a perfect name for them.


It has been said that the use of obscene words is an indication of an inadequate vocabulary. Similarly, I believe that the use
[...]> expounding it with a modicum of respect.


I assure you, Margie or Margaret Fenney, that I meant no disrespect to Marguerite Radhakrishnan, nor was I attempting to show off my inadequate vocabulary, when I called her questions only "semi-absurd." I was echoing the phrase she used in her letter, which she signed, "only semi-absurdly"!



-----Original Message----- From: Book_Arts-L [mailto:BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]On Behalf Of Michael Joseph Sent: Monday, April 23, 2007 2:51 PM To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Subject: Re: [BKARTS] bookart


Some good, , questions! I sympathize with your underlying
frustration with the open-endedness of book. However, is it necessary that
an artists' book be a book?   Anything else would be superfluous. I think if
you can
accept that, the problem of determining what is or isn't a book shrinks in
significance. Of course, you'll still have artists' book makers who might
see a Rodin or Mondrian (or cave painting) as a kind of found artists'
book, and might insist that some painting *is* a book. But that only goes
to show the conceptual fertility of artists' books, once one has made the
phenomenological step.


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