The artist describes Eight Points to Eternity, created from a medical dictionary, as a “Continuous eight pointed star”. The description seems unnecessary. “Continuous” — yes, well, the title is “points to Eternity,” and the viewer can grasp that the bindings are linked in a circle. It rather over-explains the pun of the title (an 8 on its side is the symbol for — points to — eternity).
Bookworks can be over-titled and over-explained. Equally often, artists swing the other way, entitling works “Untitled” or simply giving them a number. The latter has the advantage of making the work stand on its own and, equally, forcing the viewer to stand on his or her own before the art object, and perhaps giving up.
“Altered books,” “bookwork” or “book art” — whether as mere craft or meaningful art — almost inevitably carry the freight of the original work’s content, structure and paratextual apparatus as well as their own “meaning.” Some bookworks may be a kind of ekphrasis in reverse. Rather than text playing off a work of art, the bookwork plays off the original book. The tunnel book showing cut-out characters or a collage of elements from the actual content of the altered book is the most evident example of this inverse ekphrasis.
Here, with Eight Points to Eternity, the artist strains a bit for an ekphrastic connection when she explains how the “medical freight” of the dictionary fits into the meaning of her bookwork:
Where do our modern medical ideas truly come from, and how much of it can we attribute to the past?
Buckley fares better with her bookwork entitled Good Intentions, in which she has excised the content from an old edition of Ogden Nash’s poetry and left only certain lines. The work reminds me of Ros Rixon‘s How we understand sculpture, a title that stems from the original book’s being a book about sculpture. Good Intentions and How we understand sculpture are subtle and conspire with the subject matter of the raw material with which Buckley and Rixon have worked.
Buckley, Kat. “It Will Arise from the Ashes, or Exploring the Aesthetics of Postmodern Ruin Photography in Detroit“. Kritikos, Volume 13, Winter 2016/2017. A brilliant essay that strangely resonates with many works of book art such as Phil Zimmermann’s Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene (2017). See also Kate Flint’s essay “The Aesthetics of Book Destruction“, which mentions Ros Rixon.