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Re: [BKARTS] Narrative book art

See my article "Now the Artists Book Now" on my website ocotilloarts.com (under the "studio goals" tab). I think there are several reasons why you are having difficulties finding examples. First, to theorize your problem, the requirements you list are incompatible in important ways: books (in the sense of printed -- usually long -- narratives) belong to a machine aesthetic whereas art which aspires to uniqueness belongs to the handmade aesthetic. Getting these two to mix is like oil and vinegar in salad dressing -- you have to keep shaking the bottle. (This is the main topic of the article I refer to.) Second, somewhat as a consequence of the first, there aren't very many examples that meet all your criteria -- in fact, I'd much like to see the list that will come out of your research. Third, the economics of it are working against you. The shorter the narrative the more difficult it is to tell any sort of meaningful story, and especially one of any
 moral significance. Writing these things is a specialized talent. But you (the artist) would rather work with a short text. You'd like to get this thing done in your lifetime, you don't want to retreat to industrial methods, and if you did come up with a damned thick square book of 500 pages of difficult writing and difficult art stewed into a critical masterpiece what would you do with it? It's too big to edition, and where is the collector who will pay $10K for the thing, especially since you've been working so hard to get it done you haven't had any time to advertise yourself, make any petit jeux for the galleries, etc. Finally, how many people do you know who can write like Melville and draw like Kathe Kollwitz? These are alll good reasons why the older conception of an artist's book (with the apostrophe) was a commercial item for the carriage trade made by a graphic artist using hijacked poetry.
There are also technical problems integrating text and the visual track to the degree you require, largely having to do with the tyranny of the rectangle imposed by typeset verbiage, and the requirement that the text be legible and easily readable. The easiest solution is calligraphic. Great -- we've already asked for a Melville and a Kollwitz and now we want a Yan Zhenqing? I don't know about you, but I find the prospect of narrative book art really intimidating.
Ocotillo Arts (Tempe AZ)
(PS I apologize for my website, which really needs renovating. Time, time, time... )

From: Jules Siegel <jules@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 4:56:29 PM
Subject: [BKARTS] Narrative book art

I am writing an essay on narrative book art, a term that I thought was 
prominent in our field, until I searched the term "narrative book art." 
I got exactly one hit. Maybe I broke the Internet. Help me out here.

Example #1

"Minsky in Bed" by Richard Minsky
Text and commentary by Richard Minsky. His love life in the style of the 
incunabula, with historiated, inhabited and illuminated initials.

Example #2

"Mad Laughter, Fragments of a Life in Progress"
Text, illustrations, facsimile documents and other visual objects along 
with photographs by the author and others. Scenes from his life and 
family history.

Shared characteristics:

[1] The text, typography and design are the work of a single author, who 
creates or chooses the illustrations and also prints, binds and sells 
the book.

[2] The book is meant to be read and looked at, but the text is main 
conveyor, not the art. The text is not visually obscure.

[3] It tells a story in words and images; it's not a collection of 
isolated pieces. The segments are at least several paragraphs long and 
usually take up multiple pages. If it consists of very small segments, 
such as poetry, they form a narrative.

[4] The layout is integrated with the story or complements it in a 
global way. Richard's book has an antique design that gives his very 
candid and explicit sexual memoir an amusing historical frame. My book 
is laid out like a lavish university press version of a Great Man's 
memoir, complete with documents from his personal papers.


    * What other books like this do you know?

    * Is narrative book art a recognized genre?

    * Do you have any other defining characteristics to add?

    * References and authorities?

    * Other observations or points of interest

Many thanks for any assistance you may be inclined to offer.

JULES SIEGEL Apdo. 1764, 77501-Cancun, Q. Roo, Mexico

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