Books On Books Collection – Sean Kernan

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Copyright 1999, Sean Kernan, Inc.

The Secret Books is a dialogue between the photography of Sean Kernan and the writings of Jorge Luis Borges.  It contains tritone photographs, short stories, poems and quotations as well as an essay by the artist.   Kernan explains how the dialogue began:

“There was an old book out on a table. I went to put it away, but instead I just opened it and gazed. I looked at the way the sharp metal type cut into the paper, at the blooms of foxing in the margins. I smelled its slight odor of papery rot, caught Latin words here and there and made out that they said something about the spirit and devotion. I stood there for the longest time. The book had stilled me.

On an impulse, I went to the closet where I keep a compost heap of props and got four black stones from a Japanese river. I set them out carefully in a line across the pages of the book. And suddenly it looked to me like…a poem. Or a kind of poem, at least. Maybe a Haiku or something by one of the Imagists, something that didn’t narrate or argue but just placed a few simple things before you and invited you to complete the work. This book with its stones was a pure image, the kind that can move from one mind to another and root there in some mysterious panspermic process. Joining things that didn’t logically go together–Latin meditations and Japanese rivers, black stones and creamy paper–broke apart some notion of what these things should say and set my imagination free to work. I had always wanted my photography to do this, and now I saw this wonderful composition open on the table before me.

I took a picture of this poem. And that was the beginning of these books.

After a while there were enough of them to suggest that they might themselves make a book, and indeed had to be a book. So I began to think about what might be necessary to make this happen. Perhaps it needed the armature of a text, but what that text might be and how it might work to unite the whole wasn’t clear. Then a designer friend, Lana Rigsby, saw the pictures and said they reminded her of Borges.

Of course! …

The Secret Books doesn’t attempt to illustrate Borges, and it doesn’t aspire to be a collaboration–as an artist I couldn’t hold his coat. I have simply found some instances in which he speaks directly about books and have put them with my images of books to make a kind of sequence, or perhaps a dialogue. And navigating thus under the star of Borges, I look at this book–words and images, side by side on the table before me–and find myself looking down dark, unfamiliar paths across the plane of the world with a rising sense, both exciting and ominous, that everything is about to change.”

The Secret Books was published in 1999 by Leete Island Books to coincide with the centennial of Borges’ birth and, by happenstance, with the start of the long journey to the EPUB standard.  The month before The Secret Books appeared the Open eBook Forum (now the IDPF) released the Open eBook Publication Structure (OEBPS) version 1.0.  A coincidence Borges would have relished.

English: The poem El apice of the Argentinian ...
English: The poem El apice of the Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges on a wall of the building at the Groenhovenstraat 18, Leiden, The Netherlands. Nederlands: Het gedicht El apice (De top) van de Argentijnse dichter Jorge Luis Borges op een muur van het gebouw aan de Groenhovenstraat 18 in Leiden, Nederland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Further Reading

Hanna Piotrowska (Dyrcz)“, Books On Books Collection, 13 December 2019. In particular, see Twórca/The Maker.

Bookmarking Book Art – Guy Laramée

The form of the book, the book as technological artifact, each of the book arts (design and layout, typography, illustration, papermaking, imposition, printing, binding, preservation and restoration) and even the book as an objet d’art attract memes —  ideas, gestures, behaviors, methods, devices and practices that have spread from clay to scroll, from scroll to book, from book to ebook and perhaps from ebook to “cloud book.”

As we try to preserve – with clay counters in clay containers, with 0’s and 1’s stored on floating disks in tablets – we have assumed we are progressing.

Guy Laramée is a book artist,  a subversive book artist.   His “artist statement” articulates the meme of erosion, entropy and the dissolution of culture and knowledge — what he calls the “cloud of unknowing.”

Copyright © Guy Laramee.

Artist Statement

The erosion of cultures – and of “culture” as a whole – is the theme that runs through the last 25 years of my artistic practice. Cultures emerge, become obsolete, and are replaced by new ones. With the vanishing of cultures, some people are displaced and destroyed. We are currently told that the paper book is bound to die. The library, as a place, is finished. One might ask so what? Do we really believe that “new technologies” will change anything concerning our existential dilemma, our human condition? And even if we could change the content of all the books on earth, would this change anything in relation to the domination of analytical knowledge over intuitive knowledge? What is it in ourselves that insists on grabbing, on casting the flow of experience into concepts?

When I was younger, I was very upset with the ideologies of progress. I wanted to destroy them by showing that we are still primitives. I had the profound intuition that as a species, we had not evolved that much. Now I see that our belief in progress stems from our fascination with the content of consciousness. Despite appearances, our current obsession for changing the forms in which we access culture is but a manifestation of this fascination.

My work, in 3D as well as in painting, originates from the very idea that ultimate knowledge could very well be an erosion instead of an accumulation. The title of one of my pieces is “ All Ideas Look Alike”. Contemporary art seems to have forgotten that there is an exterior to the intellect. I want to examine thinking, not only “what” we think, but “that” we think. 

So I carve landscapes out of books and I paint romantic landscapes. Mountains of disused knowledge return to what they really are: mountains. They erode a bit more and they become hills. Then they flatten and become fields where apparently nothing is happening. Piles of obsolete encyclopedias return to that which does not need to say anything, that which simply IS. Fogs and clouds erase everything we know, everything we think we are.

After 30 years of practice, the only thing I still wish my art to do is this: to project us into this thick “cloud of unknowing.”

ADIEU Guy Laramée Copyright 2013
ADIEU (2013)
Guy Laramée

Is that the book’s evolutionary destination – in the “cloud”?

Further reading

http://sculpting.wonderhowto.com/news/artist-carves-old-books-into-beautifully-painted-landscapes-0175708/?_scpsug=crawled_46008_f4679e90-cedb-11e6-bd01-f01fafd7b417#_scpsug=crawled_46008_f4679e90-cedb-11e6-bd01-f01fafd7b417

http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2017/05/magnificent-new-carved-book-landscapes-and-architecture-by-guy-laramee/

“Guy Laramée’s (previously) new series Onde Elles Moran (Where They Live) captures the mystique of the native birds of the Brazilian region Serra do Corvo Branco (Range of the White Raven) through both portrait and carved landscape.”

http://wp.me/p2AYQg-wg

http://wp.me/p2AYQg-rE

http://wp.me/p2AYQg-eO

http://wp.me/p2AYQg-rH

Mihai, Cristian.  “Showcase: Guy Laramée“, Irevuo, 31 March 2018.

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