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Re: [BKARTS] bookart



On Wed, 25 Apr 2007, Margaret Fenney wrote:

Artists' books expose the artistic and social norms and
conventions that construct the book as a cultural and historical object,
and they do that, I suggest, by disrupting the way we read.

Even if you insist that an artists book must "expose the [...]" (and I do not), there are numerous ways to explore the book within an existing structure commonly accepted as a book structure, including the codex. There are many attributes of the book and many cultural and historical aspects of books beyond the fact that they are read.

Yes, certainly. There are "numerous ways to explore the book ..." For example, there many beautiful, smart, books that reflect the maker's awareness of book history and book aesthetics, demonstrate historical binding styles or historical typography or marbling, that meditate on ideas, values, innovations, materials in book history for if not the express benefit of then the particular pleasure of book cognoscenti. I know I am being pedantic when I say there are better terms for these books (perhaps bookmakers' books?), than artists' books. And, I concur with your point that reading is part of a complex of experiences--a matrix of significant entities--that are a part of the history and phenomenology of the book. That piece about reading in my argument reflects an observation that the most powerful artists' books I have experienced are ones that disrupt or challenge the very conventional notion that books are for reading. I'm sure many of us have our favorite examples of such books. I myself think of Tim Ely's texts concealed in the binding, Suellen Glashausser's language-like sewing, Marilyn R. Rosenberg's scrawly language and of course Stella Waitzkin's resin objects. But I can point to others that are also powerful. Minsky's _1984_ equipped with a camera and projection medium on the cover makes the point that the book READS you (the reader). The important thing for me is he establishes a discontinuity (which one can interpret a number of ways) with the conventions of the book, specifically having to do with reading. I prefer to say that _1984_ ceases to be a book at the moment one gets the point and begins to explore the object as a symbol (and the realization that it is no longer a book, or let me say for the sake of this exposition, "just" a book, creates additional interpretive consequences). I would say that the functionality of the book is lost in the explosion of meaning, or, the explosion of meaning is triggered by the loss of functionality, the stripping away of the reader's prerogative.

Perhaps you've deleted the part of our exchange where I give my reason:
artists' books make a significant reference to the book, or to books, or
to some material, functional, social, historical trace or idea of the
book, or evoke some memory or association or thought, that brings the art
into existence.

Again, it is possible to "make significant reference to the book" within the constraints of your reason while retaining the structure of a book.

Of course, of course. Who said that artists' books couldn't look like books?

I think you are responding peremptorily to my posts because you perceive
me to be
vitiating categories of objects you hold as sacred.

You are incorrect in your assumption as to what I hold as sacred. I am not attempting to define an artists' book as a work that requires a conventional book structure; I am arguing that a definition that excludes such works is too narrow.

Perhaps we have misread each other, then. In the definition I am offering, nonexclusively, artists' books can of course look like books; but they cannot be books. Books are to be read, to be consumed. Artist's books rely on book-signs to elicit frames of reference constituted as a mode of communication dependent on a collective repository of meanings.

In becoming a sign, the artists' book becomes a formal whole separate from its original worldly goal, closed on itself, repeatable, and existing independently of its object (notwithstanding the fact that it has as an appropriateness condition that its object be present). To an extent that an artists' book is a sign, part of its significatory function is to announce that it is not a book. There are many works that foreground this paradox at the primary level of their signification; in addition to the artists' books I alluded to above--books sewed shut, books with texts that are nonsense words, the artist's private language, unreadable scripts or gestural "words" (e.g. thread, drawn or painted squiggles), there are artists' books made out of radically non-traditional materials such as stone, metal, glass, or non-archival and detrital materials. Ultimately, artists' books are about desire, in the sense that they reflect on the impossibility of consuming the book. They reflect on the lost book, or, reflect on reflecting.

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