Bookmarking Book Art – Amaranth Borsuk

borsuk-abra

Created for the November 2016 issue of The Bellingham Review, “Abra: The Kinetic Page” is a polymorphic tour de force – online prose poem, video, review of and homage to an installation at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, WA, in 2014 and a promotion of the artists’ book Abra: The Living Book by Kate Durbin, Amaranth Borsuk and Ian Hatcher, published in 2014.

From where did such work spring?  From a project called “Expanded Artists’ Books: Envisioning the Future of the Book”.

Inspired by the advent of the iPad in 2009 and a symposium held in 2011 with Bob Stein, Director of the Institute for the Future of the Book, Steve Woodall, then Director of Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper Arts, secured funding for that project from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2012. That same year in a Tate Britain workshop, Woodall explained the intent of the project:

In its first phase, our project takes existing artist books and creates iPad applications that both represent and contextualise them. The apps will be made available as free downloads. With the many millions of portable devices running on the iOS platform, the reasoning goes that an under-distributed and too-obscure art form can gain wider reach and achieve greater public awareness. We will soon expand to include Android and other platforms, but we expect to stay within the ‘walled garden’ world of the app, as opposed to the open range of a purely browser-based platform – we feel that the smoother functionality and higher-quality user experience of the app work well with the expanded practices of authorship and craft engagement that define artist books.

In the project’s second phase we shall commission media artists to create born-digital artist book/apps, which will then be reverse engineered as physical books, or created in parallel with them. Owing to the creative countercharge it represents, we find this to be an extremely interesting phase of the project from a research standpoint.

It is the dialogue between the physical books and their digital avatars that provides a great part of the value of this project. … it is in the artist’s studio, whether that be an electronic workstation or a more traditional book art studio, where the dialogue will play out in the creative process. Artists will explore ways in which expression can take both virtual and physical manifestations, examining the advantages of each and how the interplay between the two can be leveraged to provide a comprehensive and powerful expression. – Steve Woodall, “Artists, Writers and the Future of the Book”, Transforming Artist Books Project, 2012.

Abra was funded by a grant from the project, and with Abra, Borsuk, Durbin and Hatcher have manifestly “embodied” the sponsor’s intent as will become clear as you read. But pause first on Borsuk’s Bellingham Review piece.

Borsuk is an inspired writer, a gifted conceptual and haptic artist. “Abra: The Kinetic Page” starts as a reflection on experiencing Ann Hamilton’s installation the common SENSE with its exploration and celebration of “touch”:

As I walked through the upper galleries, where newsprint images of the undersides of birds and small animals fluttered in the HVAC breeze, I thought about the way the exhibit invited us to read space. Hamilton’s juxtapositions, like the lines of a poem, rely on the visitor to bridge the between with their body. We provide the spark that leaps across the enjambed line where the tale of Cock Robin meets a downy hide.

I’ve strayed from what I wanted to tell you because Hamilton’s work requires it. It is, as she says, a form of attention she seeks to share with her audience—she creates installations as spaces animated by the viewer. She sets up the conditions for an experience or interaction, and then withdraws, trusting the reader / viewer / visitor to make meaning. To limn the contours of the work with their own gentle touch.

[Now note here how she pivots to experiencing Abra.] 

As I trace my finger along Abra’s cover, whose title is also the incipit, silently voiced by the reader, which activates the text, I’m invoking not only the magic word that brings things to pass as they are spoken, I’m invoking Hamilton, whose “handseeing” videos of the late 90s and early 2000s turn the fingertip into an eye, uniting reading and writing in a gesture that links dactyl and stylus, through the digital that fits like pen in glove.

Whether read on screen or heard in the video, Borsuk’s words and sentences are tactile. Listen:

borsuk-abra
Click on the image above for the video “Abra: The Kinetic Page” by Amaranth Borsuk

“Abra: The Kinetic Page” explores and celebrates the “fundamental relationship between the eye, the brain, and, critically, the hand” as Woodall hoped. It is a work of art as much as Abra itself.

If its artistry were not enough, The Bellingham Review piece takes things a bit further than might have been expected from the “Expanded Artists’ Book” project. Interestingly, The Bellingham Review piece also addresses changes in the value chain that hybrid books and hybrid book art must confront. As originally set out by Harvard’s Michael Porter, the value chain is the “set of activities that a firm operating in a specific industry performs in order to deliver a valuable product or service for the market.” Marketing is one of those key activities in the set.  In The Bellingham Reviewan online and print literary magazine, Borsuk has found not only a platform for marketing Abra, but a platform from which to offer a complementary work of art in the form of a video. An example of “art for art’s sake” that finally makes sense to the business school.

The example does not end there.  Reflecting in the Tate Britain workshop on the “Expanded Artist Book” project, Woodall remarked on “digitally trained designers … being drawn back to the fundamental relationship between the eye, the brain, and, critically, the hand, … photographers … combining digital processes with nineteenth-century ‘alternative’ techniques. … [and] … the enthusiasm most contemporary graphic designers have for letterpress printing.” Web skills, videographics and the YouTube/Vimeo channels are just as remarkably important, which is clear not only from the Abra siteThe Bellingham Review piece but from this shorter directly promotional video:

Abra: A Living Text Video editing by Louis Mayo: http://www.viewbility.com Shot by Nathan Evers at the Digital Future Lab, University of Washington, Bothell: http://www.bothell.washington.edu/dig... Music: Graham Bole, "We Are One": http://grahambole.bandcamp.com/releases
Abra: A Living Text
Video editing by Louis Mayo 
Shot by Nathan Evers at the Digital Future Lab, University of Washington, Bothell 
Music: Graham Bole, “We Are One”

Woodall did wonder whether the project’s prompting a dialogue of the physical and digital would have implications for practical matters such as distribution. While Abra has a paperback version as an entry in the traditional channels to market, that offers little insight into such implications — not like the insight realized by the combination of website, promotional video and The Bellingham Review piece.

In fact, from a perspective of craft and product, the experience promised by the videos and website is completely available only if you download the app and have a copy of the limited edition of the artists’ book. Constructed by Amy Rabas, the artists’ book allows you to insert an iPad in the back of the book creating a continuous touch-screen interface. This interactivity with the reader is one more aspect of the work that realizes perhaps more than was expected from the “Expanded Artists’ Book” project.

The book’s simple, mysterious foil-stamped cover. Created by book artist Amy Rabas. Courtesy of the authors.
The book’s simple, mysterious foil-stamped cover. Created by book artist Amy Rabas.
Courtesy of the artists.
The laser-cut openings coalesce into a pinhole that begins to reveal the iPad below.
The laser-cut openings coalesce into a pinhole that begins to reveal the iPad below.
Courtesy of the artists.
Readers can begin to interact with the iPad, on which the book’s text is mutating on its own.
Readers can begin to interact with the iPad, on which the book’s text is mutating on its own.
Courtesy of the artists.
At the end of the book, the iPad is revealed, and the reader can make Abra their own using the menu at the top of the screen to “Mutate,” “Erase,” “Graft,” “Prune,” and cast an unpredictable “Cadabra” spell.
At the end of the book, the iPad is revealed, and the reader can make Abra their own using the menu at the top of the screen to “Mutate,” “Erase,” “Graft,” “Prune,” and cast an unpredictable “Cadabra” spell.
Courtesy of the artists.

Another participant in the Tate Britain project was Johanna Drucker. Her comments on one of Borsuk’s earlier works – Between Page and Screen written with Brad Bouse – are relevant to this interactive aspect of Abra as well.  First, a description of the book:

Between Page and Screen chronicles a love affair between two characters, P and S. The book has no words, only inscrutable black and white geometric patterns that, when coupled with a webcam, conjure the written word. Reflected on screen, the reader sees him or herself with open book in hand, language springing alive and shape-shifting with each turn of the page.

The story unfolds through a playful and cryptic exchange of letters between P and S as they struggle to define their relationship. Rich with innuendo, anagrams, etymological and sonic affinities between words, Between Page and Screen revels in language and the act of reading.

Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse Between the Page and Screen (2012) Now available from SpringGun Press: http://www.springgunpress.com/between...
Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse
Between Page and Screen (2012)
Now available from SpringGun Press 

Drucker relates this interactivity between print and digital to “play with the condition of bounded-ness”:

The finitude of a bound codex quite literally defines its limits in analogue form. Even though the reference field of the work is broad, gesturing outward to the world of lived and imagined phenomena that comprise a shared realm of cultural knowledge, the book’s dimensions remain linked to its physical form. But where is such a book located in the spatial-temporal realms of networked environments? And when is a work produced? … Borsuk and Bouse’s depends on a linked connection between quick response (QR) codes on pages and files stored online. The capacity to conjure stored material that projects itself in augmented screens onto the perceived world further erodes the boundaries of interior/exterior edge and periphery that were traditionally defining features of an aesthetic work.

With its poems mutating on the iPad screen, Abra challenges the play with boundedness beyond the effect Drucker described in 2012. In its digital challenge to boundedness, Abra has much in common with Visual Editions’ reimagining of Marc Saporta’s Composition No. 1  in an app format. The original work was published by Le Seuil in 1962 and translated by Richard Howard for Simon & Schuster the next year.

Marc Saporta Composition No. 1 Translated by Richard Howard Visual Editions (2011)
Marc Saporta
Composition No. 1
Translated by Richard Howard
Redesigned and reissued by Visual Editions (2011)
Marc Saporta Composition No. 1 (2011) Introduction by T.L. Uglow, Google Creative Lab Diagrams by Salvador Plascencia Designed by Universal Everything
Composition No. 1 (the app)
Marc Saporta, Composition No. 1 
Diagrams by Salvador Plascencia, Designed by Universal Everything (2011)
Introduction by T.L. Uglow, Google Creative Lab (2011) Marc Saporta Composition No. 1
Introduction by T.L. Uglow, Google Creative Lab and YouTube (2011)

The unboundedness of Abra also has echoes in Field, the book, visual art and installation all in one produced by Johannes Heldén about the same time as Abra and The Bellingham Review piece. Field‘s interactivity, however, relies on a floor touchscreen of 20 square meters, one effect of which is to remove words from pages projected on a screen and another to animate a series of sculptural mutations of the Eurasian Jackdaw. The ephemerality of an installation combined with the effective of personal interactivity intensifies the challenge and play of unboundedness.

Field (2015) Produced, and premiered, at HUMlab, Umeå University Johannes Heldén
Johannes Heldén
Field (2015)
Produced and premiered at HUMlab, Umeå University

Which brings us full circle to the installation-inspired “Abra: The Kinetic Page” and the last aspect of Abra: The Living Text that carries it beyond the expectations of the “Expanded Artists’ Book”. The work began as a collaborative book-length poem between Borsuk and Durbin.  Writing separately using a series of constraints, then weaving their words together and editing them side by side, the authors found a new voice emerging from the conjoined poem, that of ABRA herself. To give a body to that voice, they created a series of conjoined costumes, each an avatar reflecting various aspects of the poems.

Abra Woodnymph
Abra Woodnymph
Courtesy of the artists.

When I hear sad tales of “The End of Books“, I think of these artists and authors and the distances between them – Borsuk in Washington State, Durbin in southern California, Hatcher in New York, Hamilton in Ohio, Rabas and Woodall in Illinois and Heldén in Sweden. Then I look at the distance between my finger and screen, between my hand and the copy of Borsuk’s Between Page and Screen lying on the table here.  Those sad tales fade before the palpable vibrancy of book art and the transformative effect of the digital.

 

Bookmark – HYPNOCAROMACHIA _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9

 

from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, 1499 University of Glasgow
from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, 1499
University of Glasgow

Last year 2015 was the 500th anniversary of the death of Aldus Manutius, publisher of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili -“Poliphilo’s Dream of Strife with Love” -(1499). To mark the start of the second half millennium of the evolving book, we have an untitled online work as erudite, vulgar and almost bewildering appearing on Reddit (“the front page of the internet”):

[WP] Dreams are a manifestation of your desires whether they are overt, subconscious, or otherwise. Tell me of the man who does not dream.by DJ_Incognito in WritingPrompts

[–]_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 [score hidden] 3 hours ago

V.O. SCRIPT:

Rachel does not dream. Rachel does not sleep. Rachel does not wake.

Rachel feels! All the time!

Rachel Head has a direct sense feed with Reinhardt Emotive FPS Blending™ for stunning clarity and total sensory presence. With the entire cultural library at her fingertips, Rachel can put herself into any scenario and create precision mixes at speed-of-mind.

And so it goes for entry after entry – a melange of characters and voices, whose utterances are attached as responses to postings in Reddit and coalesce into a sci-fi horror story that you might only find if you were a voracious Renaissance Reddit reader or clicked on the author’s name or if you were to come across The Interface Serieswhere other Reddit users have collected and annotated the entries.

“Interface” comes from the author’s recurrent theme of “flesh interface”:

TIL that after flights were grounded on 9/11, one plane was allowed to fly. It carried anti-venom from San Diego to Florida to save the life of a snake keeper suffering from a deadly taipan bite. The only other taipan anti-venom was in New York. by KidLando in todayilearned

[–]_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 70 points 5 days ago*

Of all the children who had been returned from the portals, only one survived in the long term, though we didn’t even realize it until years later. She had been stolen (or rescued) from us by a rogue technician shortly after return and was thus lost to us for many years. We finally found her in Estonia and kidnapped her from her adoptive family in the middle of the night. She was seven when we lost her and thirteen when we found her again.

We did a preliminary interview, and she seemed normal in every respect. Mind you, this was a girl who entered a massive, possibly alien, biological device called a flesh interface, disappeared from existence for several minutes, then returned incased in an amniotic sac, attached to a placenta via umbilical cord with enough LSD in her bloodstream to turn all of Utah in one massive orgy. Naturally, we expected some sort of mental changes, especially since every child who returned from the portals had showed signs of mental aberration. Then again, every other child had died shortly after return, so she was clearly something special.

So “flesh” prompts the suggested title Hypnocaromachia – “Dream of Strife with Flesh”, which is not nearly as improvisational as the Netflix-style jump cuts from the Reddit postings that the author uses to spark each new entry. “Tell me of the man who does not dream”? How about Rachel who “feels! All the time!”

Like the identity of the author of Hypnerotomachia, the identity of the author of Hypnocaromachia (_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9) is a mystery.  Unlike the profusely and beautifully illustrated book of 1499, Hypnocaromachia is pure text.  I suppose that, in lieu, it arrives in gobbets of those seemingly non-sequitur responses to other postings on Reddit surrounded by advertising eye candy. It would have been as if the weekly serializations of Dickens’ Hard Times in Household Words (1854) had been inserted at the end of an article in The Age in Melbourne one week, tacked on to another in Harper’s Weekly in New York the next, popped into The Illustrated London News the next, and so on.

Hardtimes_serial_cover

 

440px-The_Age_first_edition,_Melbourne_Museum

545191742.0.l

Illustrated_London_News_-_front_page_-_first_edition

But there was no publishing technology available for such sowing, reaping or garnering then. Will Reddit be around 162 years from now? If so, we may be reading it (or interfacing with it) from our “hygiene beds” according to _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9.

I built a World Map dining room table. by Zending in DIY

[–]_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 83 points 2 days ago

Consider this case:

A woman. 28 years old. Lives in a bed-rack apartment block in Alabama. She has engaged in heavy feed use since childhood, spending 70 to 80% of her free time connected. At age 16 she finds global success as mix guide, netting her a considerable sum of money. One day, when she is 19 years old, she connects to her feed. She does not disconnect again for 9 years.

9 years of continuous feed. 9 years without any direct human contact. 9 years alone in a hygiene bed. Dreaming.

Meanwhile, her feed is a veritable flurry of digital contact: mixes, life stories, role swaps, rooms, hunts, avatar makers, empathy games, sex play, and on and on. For a while, her mix tours sell well, and she enjoys her celebrity. But over the years, tastes changes, and her income falls. Try as she might, she cannot revive her popularity. She tries sortieing, tutoring, crowd matching, whatever will make her money. But the competition in these markets is harsh, and she has significant debts to several promotion companies. Her money runs out. She manages to credit bounce for a while, but the writing is on the wall: she must disconnect.

More on this cross between William Gibson and Philip K. Dick can be found here in The Guardian and previously online at Motherboard.

Bookmarking Book Art – Helen Douglas, Podcast by Bookbinding Now

On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of Weproductions, Brandon Graham interviewed by Helen Douglas in 2011.  The podcast provided by Bookbinding Now is available here and is a companion piece to Journal of Artist Books, No. 30.

Douglas’s comments on the concertina or leporello form reveal the impact of Proust and Chinese scrolls on her use of it, which is particularly evident in the two-sided concertina In Mexico: in the Garden of Edward James, discussed here.

Helen Douglas, In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James, 2014 (reviewed in Der Tagesspeigel)
Helen Douglas, In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James, 2014 (reviewed in Der Tagesspeigel)

Bookmarking Book Art – The Arion Press, Andrew Hoyem

Anthony Bourdain, the American chef and television personality, has a series called Raw Craft on YouTube in which The Balvenie Distillery funds his visits and interviews to celebrate craftsmen and craftswomen. The fifth in the series takes Bourdain

to meet with Andrew Hoyem, master typographer and printer of Arion Press. One of the last of its kind, Arion Press has only a handful of members on its staff, all fellow craftsmen dedicated to this age old process. Each works meticulously to create the books in multiple parts, from the typecasters, to the proofreaders, to the printers and the bookbinders. All of these hands build a work of art through a process that must be seen to be believed, and can only, truly, be described as magic.

To enjoy images of the Arion Press edition as well as The Folio Society edition of Moby Dick (with illustrations by Rockwell Kent), see Nick Long’s excellent piece in “Ephemeral Pursuits“, 2013.

Bookmark – “Book Sleuthing” with Leah Price

Leah Price – Harvard professor and author – has more than a bit of fun in her online course called “Book SleuthingBook Sleuthing” in the EdX massive online open course (MOOC).

Price’s imagination overcomes the clunky Mirador tech and screen nav and comes wonderfully close to making the digital experience a haptic one.

Bookmarking Book Art – Ida Gerhardt

In front of a canal-side bookstore in Delft is this invitation to sit, read and be. 
In front of a canal-side bookstore in Delft is this invitation to sit, read and be.

Ida Gerhardt (1905-1997, Dutch). A well-loved poet of the last century.

In English the title is somewhere between “inalienable” and “freehold”, and the poem begins

This will not be taken from us: reading

Breathlessly the page turning,

Far away, far from the everyday.

Bookmark – Iain Pears, Arcadia. The Future of Narrative?

Arcadia, Iain Pears
Arcadia, Iain Pears

In “The Scholarly Kitchen“, Joseph Esposito writes: “I suspect that the multiple narratives of Pears’s fiction will someday find an analogue in expository writing that enables intersections of one theme or thread with another, which would provide, as it were, a new form of discovery.”

Perhaps that “analogue” is already here for the scholarly article in Elsevier’s “Article of the Future” and Wiley’s “Anywhere Article“. In scholarly expository writing, the intersections are often those of “conversations” among articles, for which the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) has performed and continues to perform an innovatory spark. Consider the activity and ten aims of the Linked Content Coalition.

All of this has been a long time coming. The DOI has its roots in the Handle System, whose roots weave back beyond the Web to the Internet Protocol (IP) itself. Esposito notes Iain Pears’s print antecedents in the experimental ’60s fiction of John Barth and the creator of Scheherazade, and he could have added the 1987 digital precursor Afternoon, A Story by Michael Joyce.

A long time coming, and to the kids in the backseat reading Pears’s Arcadia on their iPads, “No, we’re not there yet … keep reading!”

Bookmarking Book Art – Michael Mandiberg

Michael Mandiberg, Print Wikipedia, 2015 Exhibition "From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!" by the Denny Gallery, 261 Broome Street in New York City, 18 June through 11 July, 2015.
Michael Mandiberg, Print Wikipedia, 2015
Exhibition “From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!” by the Denny Gallery, 261 Broome Street in New York City, 18 June through 11 July, 2015.

Print Wikipedia is a both a utilitarian visualization of the largest accumulation of human knowledge and a poetic gesture towards the futility of the scale of big data. Mandiberg has written software that parses the entirety of the English-language Wikipedia database and programmatically lays out thousands of volumes, complete with covers, and then uploads them for print-on-demand. Built on what is likely the largest appropriation ever made, it is also a work of found poetry that draws attention to the sheer size of the encyclopedia’s content and the impossibility of rendering Wikipedia as a material object in fixed form: Once a volume is printed it is already out of date. The work is also a reflection on the actual transparency or completeness of knowledge containers and history. (Denny Gallery)

Mandiberg  echoes a conceptual framework initiated by John F. Simon, Jr. and his “Every Icon” in 1996-97.  Every Icon is a grid of 32 x 32 empty squares underpinned by a Java applet that explores successively every combination of black and white squares that could occur within the confines of that grid. Changing from light to dark and back again, the black or white boxes “hop” progressively to the right. Over time (say a trillion years), the grid will will populate itself with shapes. Simon’s algorithmically driven “artist’s proof” speaks to the ephemerality, futility and power of art, which is the unavoidable, underlying theme of “Every Icon” and, for that matter, any instance of installation or performance art.

As Simon puts it,

While Every Icon is resolved conceptually, it is unresolvable in practice.
In some ways the theoretical possibilities outdistance
the time scales of both evolution and imagination.
It posits a representational system where computational
promise is intricately linked to extraordinary duration and momentary sensation.

In Mandiberg’s case – whether it is the complete  set or a print-on-demand segment – the realized print element of the Print Wikipedia demonstrates the work’s unresolvability in practice. Even if I hold out hope that the “art” (the algorithmic techne/craft) of Print Wikipedia lasts long, any artifact “resolved” by Print Wikipedia will always be out of date until the “final moment” of Wikipedia (whatever that might look like). Warning: the links from previous reviews of Every Icon are often dead, which is doubly ironic: the technical community always speaks of “links resolving to a resource”, so with those dead links, there is a further, unintended “unresolvability”.

Mandiberg’s work also echoes the conceptual framework initiated by Paul Soulellis and Library of the Printed Web. Like the volumes in Mandiberg’s Printed Wikipedia, those in the LotPW are created by print on demand.

“Special Collection” (2009), by Benjamin Shaykin. Photo by the Library of the Printed Web.
Special Collection (2009), by Benjamin Shaykin. Photo by the Library of the Printed Web.

In Soulellis’ words,

Library of the Printed Web is a collection of works by artists who use screen capture, image grab, site scrape and search query to create printed matter from content found on the web. LotPW includes self-published artists’ books, photo books, texts and other print works gathered around the casual concept of “search, compile and publish“.

The content in Benjamin Shaykin’s Special Collection consists of found pages in which a scanner’s hand was accidentally captured by the Google scanning system during the Google Book Project . This is truly “manually” found content. The content of Mandiberg’s work is algorithmically “found content” on a massive scale. While it may be that Print Wikipedia represents the “futility of the scale of big data”, I prefer the irrational hope that its print element, however tied to the digital, and the physical book art of the LotPW secure the consolation of “ars longa, vita brevis”.

Bookmarking Book Art – Large-Scale Installations, Update 20170609

The Parthenon of Books, 1983/2017
Marta Minujín
Kassel, Germany

In her note in BookRiot, Nikki Steele takes Brian Dettmer’s  TED talk remark that books are created to relate to our human scale and builds on it elegantly, if all too briefly, by bringing together the installation works “Literature versus Traffic”, “Scanner”, “Book Cell”, “Singularity”, “Biographies” and “Contemporaries”. She’s not the first to provide a Pinterest– or Flickr-style burst of “ooh, look at this”, but unlike her predecessors, she makes the point worth pondering: this art that is not on a human scale evokes wonder and awe.

This challenges and expands on Dettmer’s point that people are disturbed by book art because we think of the book as a body, a living thing. As John Milton said, “As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself”. That was in the context of book licensing laws that led to the confiscation and destruction of unlicensed books. Still, Milton would probably react as angrily to individual works of book art, and he might view the installations as if they were on the scale of the massacre of the Waldensians in the Piedmont.

Dettmer’s justification of book art that books “also have the potential to continue to grow and to continue to become new things”, that “books really are alive”, leaves us still squirming on the hook when Steele asks, “what happens when artists explode the scale and take books much, much larger?”. If you think cutting up or destroying a book is sacrilegious, what is your reaction to the 10,000 splayed in the streets of Melbourne by Luzinterruptus or the equal number cast by Alicia Martín into frozen defenestrations in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain or the even greater number in Marta Minujín’s The Parthenon of Books, installed for documenta in Kassel, Germany?

Miltonic eruption? Or Steele-ish delight, awe and love of the art?

Let’s raise the stakes and confusion. What if the books used in the single-volume work and installations were the Koran, the Bible or the Torah? Art and ethics are rarely happy bedfellows. Is there such a thing as “responsible art” that does not run afoul of the principle of the creative spirit or the integrity of art? Is art wholly without cultural, ethical or social contextual obligations?

This is why I like book art. It provokes just by coming into being. Its existence and appreciation are hard won.

Links on large-scale book art installations:

Tom Bendtsen

Melissa Jay Craig

Julie Dodd

Flux Foundation

Thilo Folkerts and Rodney Latourelle

Brian Goggin

Rune Guneriussen

Samuel Levi Jones

Anselm Kiefer

Matej Krén

Anouk Kruithof

Lacuna (Bay Area Book Festival and Flux)

Miler Lagos

Luzinterruptus

Alicia Martín

Marta Minujin

Math Monahan

Jan Reymond Rosace

Mike Stilkey

Rintala Eggertsson Architects

Rusty Squid

Liu Wei

Vita Wells

Wendy Williams

Bookmark on Reading “Actual Books”

The seasonal flu among expositors of the future of the book and the future of reading is upon us. No sooner does one town cryer sneeze about the latest reading device or software than a town de-cryer follows heralding the superiority of reading print – or vice versa.

Sure enough, here is the Guardian today: “Whisper it quietly, the book is back … and here’s the man leading the revival“. That would be James Daunt, CEO of the UK bookstore chain Waterstone’s, who has used a Russian oligarch’s money to bring the chain to breakeven.

And without a hint of irony, here’s the online-only .Mic demonstrating that variant strains can cross generations and oceans as well as media: “Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books“.  That would be the oft-repeated Norwegian study of two groups of 10th graders, one of which – the print readers – comprehends and retains more than its ebook-reading counterpart.

There are plenty of days remaining before the year’s close for the digital riposte surely on its way to envelop us.  In the meantime, here is a combined and fortified reading list from Christmas bloggings past:

Reading List

Association for Psychological Science (2010, August 30).  Eye movements reveal readers’ wandering minds.  ScienceDaily. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Bookmark for “A Brief History of Reading” (and a Revisit of “The Future of Reading?”). BooksOnBooks. Posted February 13, 2013.

British Association for the Advancement of Science (2007, September 11). Reading Process Is Surprisingly Different Than Previously Thought, Technology Shows. ScienceDaily. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Dehaene, Stanislas. Reading in the Brain. New York: Viking, 2009.

Florida State University (2012, February 14). How Do Children Learn to Read Silently?. ScienceDaily. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Hill, Bill. The Magic of Reading. 1999.

Jabr, Ferris. The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus ScreensScientific American. April 11, 2013.  Accessed 14 April 2013:

Kozlowski, Michael. Amazon Unleashes Immersion Reading and Whispersync for Voice. GoodEReader. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Mangen, Anne, et al. Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research. 58 (2013) 61-68.

Mangen, Anne, et al. Evolution of reading in the age of digitisationISCH COST Action IS1404. Updated May 6, 2014. Accessed December 14, 2014.

Mangen, Anne, and Velay, Jean-Luc. Cognitive implications of new media. The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media. Edited by Marie-Laure Ryan, Lori Emerson and Benjamin J. Robertson. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

O’Callaghan, Tiffany. Reading on screens is different – does it matter? New Scientist. October 30, 2014.

Rollins, H.A. Jr., Hendricks, R.  Processing of words presented simultaneously to eye and ear.  J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 1980 Feb; 6(1): 99-109. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Vinall-Cox, JoanMoving From Paper to E-Book Reading.  eLearn Magazine. March 2012.  Accessed September 8, 2012.

Walker Reading Technologies, Inc. LiveInk® (four papers:  jaltcalljournal, National Educational Computing Conference, Reading Online and IEEE International Professional Computing Conference).