Bookmarking Book Art – “I placed a jar in Tennessee,/ …”

cropped-bookartsHollie Berry has two brief posts on book art at Book Arts at The Open Press (BA@TOP), a supportive community of book artists in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for whom The Open Press provides access to printmaking, book arts, and letterpress classes, workshops and equipment. Her first post offers as examples of the breadth of book art: Dan EssigSandy WebsterBrian Dettmer and Maddy Rosenberg. A good start, if light on installation book artists (say Alicia Martín).

The Open Press is 225 miles from Elizabethton, TN, where Wallace Stevens wrote “Anecdote of the Jar” in 1918 and which is only 67 miles from Asheville Bookworks in West Asheville, NC, where Landon Godfrey hosts Vandercooked Poetry Nights dispatching listeners into the mountain air clutching poems printed on broadsheets from the resident Vandercook Press, on which the authority Paul Moxon lectured in March this year at The Open Press, 199 miles away by the backroads across the Appalachians.  …”And round it was, upon a hill.”

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Bookmark – Margins and making objects that live forever

Craig Mod modulates on margins here in Medium (18 August 2014).

Text printed on the best paper with no margins or unbalanced margins is vile. Or, if we’re being empathetic, sad. (For no book begins life aspiring to bad margins.) I know that sounds harsh. But a book with poorly set margins is as useful as a hammer with a one inch handle. Sure, you can pound nails, but it ain’t fun. A book with crass margins will never make a reader comfortable. Such a book feels cramped, claustrophobic. It doesn’t draw you in, certainly doesn’t make you want to spend time with the text….

On the other hand, cheap, rough paper with a beautifully set textblock hanging just so on the page makes those in the know, smile (and those who don’t, feel welcome). It says: We may not have had the money to print on better paper, but man, we give a shit. Giving a shit does not require capital, simply attention and humility and diligence. Giving a shit is the best feeling you can imbue craft with. Giving a shit in book design manifests in many ways, but it manifests perhaps most in the margins.

Reiterating his point by analogy, Mod channels the late designer George Nakashima:  “in order to produce a fine piece of furniture, the spirit of the tree must live on. You give it a second life … You can make an object that lives forever, if used properly.

For the fundamentals underlying Mod’s scatologically and poetically emphatic truth, you cannot find much better than Alexander Ross Charchar’s essay on the craft and calculations of “page canons” by Villard de Honnecourt (13th century!) , J.A. Van de Graaf, Raúl Rosarivo and Jan Tschichold:  “The Secret Law of Page Harmony“. Most delightful is Charchar’s dynamic diagram “The Dance of the Four Canons” illustrating the workings of each page canon:

Copyright 2010, Alexander Ross Charchar.

The Further Reading suggested by Charchar and his commenters is excellent, and I would only add Marshall Lee’s Bookmaking. For those who are irritated with the imposition of the print paradigm on the digital reading experience, there is a useful pointer to applying the page canons to website design that will cause a rethink of that irritation and equally make the imposers think harder as well.

For those who care about the book, what it is evolving into and the role that heart, mind and design still play in that process, read Charchar’s”The Secret Law of Page Harmony” –again and again.

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Bookmarking Book Art – Metamorphosis and the MBAE

The Mystery Book Artist of Edinburgh has emerged again – this time from a chrysalis in a cloud of butterflies. The work shown will be auctioned for the benefit of Macmillan Cancer. The Macmillan Art Show will be opened this month by the mystery author Alexander McCall Smith: http://macmillanartshow.org/.

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Bookmarking Book Art — Francisca Prieto

Trained at Central St Martins, Francisca Prieto is a Chilean artist living and working in London where her work has featured in collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery and the British Library among others. From 29 May through 21 June, her solo exhibition Underlined runs at Jagged Art, off Marylebone High Street in London.

Underlined extends — or rather deepens — her series Between Folds, which according to her artist’s statement “explores pages of rare and damaged books or forgotten ephemera, emphasising the beauty and detail of print that would otherwise go unseen.” Prieto’s grounding in typographical design drives Between Folds as is obvious from the letters created from the pages of Grays Anatomy and Bartlett’s British Scenery.Between Folds - Anatomy - Letter M

Between Folds - British Scenery - Letter O

 

Detail of Between Folds/Anatomy

Detail of Between Folds/Anatomy

The precision of the folds in Prieto’s work becomes even more evident in the eight compositions of Underlined, which is fitting as she now delves through source material past the letterforms and down to the line. Look how the folds align and intersect with the lines of the source material in the detail below.

Detail - Composition No. 1 © Francisca Prieto, 2014

Detail – Composition No. 1: A Diagonal Line
© Francisca Prieto, 2014

The source material in this case is The Wanderers Cricket Club Logbook, whose red lines strike vertically down the diagonal, the folds of the work “playing with direction and motion, as the ball of the game dictated each log of play”.  Prieto’s art is not only playful but thought-provoking, the cause of a sudden intake of breath from delight or even shock — what we most seek in our experiences of art. Do you not draw in your breath as you read between the folds and past the title and shape of Composition No. 2: One Horizontal Line to see that it is the line drawn under the life from whose last will and testament Prieto has created this work?

This dialogue between the parts and the whole to which Prieto’s craft and vision continuously draw the eye, heart and mind elevate her work and its audience.

Additional commentary on her work can be found at www.blankproject.co.uk.

 

 

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Bookmarking Book Art – Abigail Thomas

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Micro-Pages, a book arts exhibition curated by Abigail Thomas, toured throughout the UK in 2009 & 2010.

As a participating artist as well as being the curator and project instigator, and having worked in a library/archive for several years, I wanted to explore issues that affect libraries and archives as well as the book art world. Books have it in their nature to be handled; they are intimate objects whose feeling, texture, weight and smell are part of their artistic aura. Glass cases can remove the experience of the work, and you are unable to see it in its entirety, however, having books out also has its disadvantages. Should we treat artists’ books as archival material? This is the point that the project starts from. From the artist’s website.

The form of this exhibition also reflected Thomas’s concern with the book as machine, or reading machine. With microfilm, the reader is cast back into the age of scrolls and paginae, forerunners to the pages of the codex, yet is also suspended between the print codex and and arrival at what Thomas might agree is “an” imagined future escape from the page into the scrolling web.

Only “an” because Reading the Imagined Escape from the Page is Thomas’s live reading event, consisting of a projection, a leaflet/bookwork/handout and her lecture-style commentary. First delivered at the Arnolfini, Bristol in April 2013, the performance echoed and extended Micro-Pages in its collage/collision of visual projection, paper and screen.

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Another instance of an imagined escape from the page can be explored in Thomas’s essay “Bob Brown’s Reading Machine and the Imagined Escape from the Page”published in Artist’s Book Yearbook 2014/15 (Impact Press, ISBN 978-1-906501-07-5). Here’s the author’s abstract:

Bob Brown imagined an escape from the page; the restrictive nature of the form of the ‘antiquated book’ following into new forms of technology and machine reading. This investigation functions as an inquiry into the idea of the reader as machine; in Bob Brown’s printed experiments in optical reading, can we ever escape the page? In writing for the imagined machine, and in using the page and its restrictions Brown was able to imagine these ideas and new ways of reading. Punctuation and page layout were devices used by Bob Brown and the poets involved with The Readies for Bob Brown’s Machine, The Readies, and Words to represent the movement and speed of a new form of reading through an imagined machine. This essay argues that they actually force the reader[s] themselves into becoming the reading machine perhaps without losing their humanity and without the need for the machine itself. The concepts contained within the writing, and the aspects of optical text design, challenges the page and the way we read, within all three books, and allows the machine to come alive within the text itself and so within the reader. From the author’s website.

Thomas’s works and their conceptual challenges to the page reify in a thought-provoking way the more academic explorations in Stoicheff and Taylor’s The Future of the Page. Rich in its consistent conceptualization, her work articulates the loss of the haptic but only seems poised to instantiate or at least insinuate a palpable physicality that would lift her art to new levels.

 

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Bookmarking Book Art – M.L. Van Nice

Plinitude, 1994

Plinitude, 1994                                   [seeds, bones, insect wings, feathers, wood, leather, paper, acrylic]

                  ” ‘In and around and under Pliny’s writing and scholarship lies the natural world,’ writes M.L. Van Nice. This artist favors an intuitive approach to learning rather than Pliny’s structured encyclopedia format. Fascinated with her own inability to read the original text, Van Nice creates an imaginative but unreadable script, drawing elements from the natural world into the artist’s book.”

From Science and the Artist’s Bookan exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.

The Hole of Understanding (detail), 2004, from The Library at Wadi ben Dagh

The Hole of Understanding (detail), 2004, from The Library at Wadi ben Dagh

                  “Imagine coming upon a library where you could actually peer into your favorite books; where a copy of Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had its own rabbit hole for you to gaze into with openings in the shape of hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds. Would it be a real library or a library without structure and logic? M.L. Van Nice’s whimsical installation, The Library at Wadi ben Dagh, is just such a library…. Created by an anonymous character named Woman Doe, the books in The Library at Wadi ben Dagh are classified by recollection, associations, deductive reasoning, and curiosity.

This site-specific installation imaginatively conveys the conceptual weight of such popular titles as James Joyce’s Ulysses, Charles Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass….The library is an entire world unto itself – a private book collection of Woman Doe, who has since departed Wadi Ben Dagh, an imaginary place the artist roughly translates as the “dry gulch that is washed by the mountain.”… Woman Doe has thoughtfully selected each work, reflecting her experience of the world. Therefore, the library does not have structure beyond the personal. As Van Nice explains, the library ‘certainly does not, could not, and would not care to … satisfy a Mr. Dewey. Woman Doe created categories that structure her reality, and maybe ours.’” From Indepth Art News. See also Sheila Wickouski’s “Van Nice is art by the book”, Fredericksburg.com, 5 May 2005.

The installation appeared at the National Museum of Women in the Arts from April 11 to November 6, 2005.

Feast is in the Belly of the Beholder

Feast is in the Belly of the Beholder, 2010

Here is truly found book art.  All the work here was done by bugs.   As Van Nice relates, “I merely recognized the feast, or rather the scene of the feast. I did wonder, however, if they stopped to pause when they got to the entomology section.” From 23 Sandy Gallery.

Font, 2010

Font, 2010

“… Font is [a] trope. Much as we ‘consume’ books; so also we drink, sip, swig and quaff from the font, the fount, the cup of knowledge. These familiar and comfortable allusions seem to me to be oddly similar to the huntsman who honors and emulates his dead catch by eating its heart. We devour what we would choose to know and hence be.” From 23 Sandy Gallery.

Swiss Army Book

Swiss Army Book, 1990

For the artist’s statement, see the Clara database held by the National Museum of Women Artists.

 

 

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Bookmark – Phoenix in an Elegy for Paper?

fahrenheit-451In another elegy for paper, Mark Fox in Designers & Books leaps from the famous conversation between Ray Bradbury’s characters Professor Faber and Fireman Montag in Fahrenheit 451 that begins, “Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean?” to Jaron Lanier’s assertion that the remix culture is responsible for “the digital flattening of expression into a global mush.” Fox sets this against Professor Faber’s elaboration of what he means by “quality”: 

To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more ‘literary’ you are. That’s my definition, anyway. Telling detailFresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.

Consider, however, this conversation between the artists Stefan Saalfeld and Gerhard Mantz published in the February 2013 issue of the Lumas Gallery Magazine, “The Liberation of Art“:

Saalfeld – … I’m interested in the changes that take place over time. In nature, the old sits alongside the new. There are always tensions, and injuries.

Mantz – That is exactly what characterises your images. This breaking apart and breaking through as if the colours were peeling off to reveal fragments of completely different pictures behind.

Saalfeld – Gaps appear through these breaks and dislocations. This allows something different to emerge from the image. There is always an unexplained story behind the story, another version. I no longer believe in a single, individual image.

Here is a healthy “anxiety of influence” that overcomes qualms about tradition, builds upon it and, yes, perhaps devours it as if it were seed corn. Its analogs in book publishing can be found in the work of Tom Abba, Duncan Speakman and others associated with WeAreCircumstance or in the works of Jonathan Safran Foer and others published by Visual Editions, all of which represent an intersection of narrative and the plastic visual arts.

Paper is not dead, digital is not still-born, creativity is a phoenix.

These Pages Fall Like AshThese Pages Fall Like Ash, Tom Abba

Short Films for YouShort Films for You, Tom Abba, Els Viaene, Reinout Hiel and Yoko Ishiguro

Foer2Tree of Codes, Jonathan Safran Foer

Composition-1Composition No. 1, Marc Saporta

WhereYouAreWhere You Are, Visual Editions

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