Bookmarking Book Art – … in medias res … Barbara Tetenbaum

… in medias res … in the midst of things … Nel mezzo del caminn di nostra vita …

Tetenbaum My Antonia
Mining My Ántonia; Excerpts, Drawings, and a Map
Barbara Tetenbaum, 2012.
   A portfolio containing five automatic drawings/etchings, a book of excerpted text from the novel, a pull-out map, and a fragment from the 2010 installation at Reed College. The book is bound as a soft-cover pamphlet using reproduction fabrics from the late 1800s. The portfolio is cloth-covered binder’s board and features a wood frame to house and display the prints.

I asked Barbara Tetenbaum if we could base this interview on her selection of a book she owns and may or may not have read. Perhaps sounding like a card magician, I instructed:

Go to any row or stack of books (or file folder of books; yes, ebooks would count) in your home or workplace. Select the title that is in the middle. Please note the author, title, year of publication, publisher and ISBN, if available. Now, turn to the middle of the title selected and choose any element (paragraph, image, footnote and sentence footnoted, bit of dialogue, etc.). Please note the page number or other means of identifying the element’s location.

And here is the result of this “deliberated” selection of the book, of this bit of ordered randomness or random order in finding our point of departure for our interview.

                                Collaborative Form: Studies in the Relations of the Arts                                                                             by Thomas Jensen Hines, 1991.                                                             Kent State University Press, ISBN 0-87338-417-2, p. 84.

Hines, Collaborative Form, in Barbara Tetenbaum’s studio

BoB: Where was Hines’ book when you selected it?  What are the objects immediately on either side of the book when it’s on the shelf? As you take the book from its place, what are your physical sensations? As you open it to its midpoint, what do you hear, smell or see about it or around it?

BT: I took the book from my living room, the main bookshelf that houses my main books-about-art library. I chose the middle shelf and the middle book.


Here are the first four books to the left of the book in contiguous order:

Buchgestaltung by Albert Kapr; Schrift und Schreiben by Hildegard Korger; Zweite Enzyklopaedie von Tlön catalog produced by Peter Malutzki and Ines V. Ketelhodt;  Livres d’Artistes/Livres-Objets (Artist Books/Book Objects) catalog organized by NRA Shakespeare International.

Here are the first four books to the right in contiguous order:

Deep Storage: Collecting, Storing and Archiving in Art edited by Ingrid Schaffner, Matthias Winzen et al.; Paper Before Print;The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World by Jonathan Bloom; By His Own Labor: The Biography of Dard Hunter by Cathleen Baker; Pass Auf! Hier Kommt Grosz: Bilder Rhythmen und Gesange 1915-1918 by W. Herzfelde and H. Marquardt.

When I took the book out, I had these feelings: trepidation – on what was inside;  pride – that I had found it years ago and knew to acquire it;  charm – that it so reflects what I’m working on at the moment;  slight disgust – at its ugly dust jacket; and curiosity – to read and discover what I had been missing all these years since purchasing it.

The book smelled academic. Like a book that is published for a very narrow audience and is rarely opened, but produced with a certain level of quality that is better than a mass-market paperback for instance.

And to say something about the adjacent books on the shelf:  I was surprised how many of them had German content! These books represent people I have met, places I’ve been. For instance, the Hildegard Korger book was a gift from her after I spent a semester in Leipzig. She had been so very suspicious of me as an American, so shortly after the Wall had come down, very odd to speak with, but in the end she saw that I was trying to do something positive for the school and the students. She gave me this book and told me we could say “Du”. It was an important moment for me. And Peter and Ines’s encyclopedia is one of my favorite projects of the last decade or so. I admire them so much and can’t begin to imagine what it takes to make the work they make. I know them well, but they are super heroes for me. That book on paper is smart and continues to prove that the development of book culture is primarily a political process.

BoB: You say you had forgotten you bought this book. Having taken it from its place, have you recalled the circumstances of the book’s purchase? What were you doing when you decided to buy it? What prompted the purchase?

BT: I bought it possibly 10 years ago. I found it in Powell’s “Literary Criticism” section, which is a place I go to when I am not being productive in the studio and feel like reading some smart book will inspire me to be a better/smarter artist. I often buy books in this way that I don’t get around to reading. Or maybe I read a bit and find that it actually triggers an idea that was sitting dormant. In this case, I think it did. I was working a lot between music and visual books then. I was interested in the languages that these arts have developed individually and how these languages can be learned and used by other disciplines. This book for me is a bit dry as I like books that get to the point without exploring example after example. I’m often bored by the examples used by these theoreticians and would prefer them to get to the point! (that’s me in general).

BoB: As an artist whose work has an intimate relationship to “the book,” could you describe the effect this has on you when you are reading books in general?

BT: Reading/handling books can lead to many possible reactions! First off, I’m very aware of their physical body: the weight in my hands, the feel of the cover, of the paper, how well the book opens and the pages ‘drape’, the smell to a certain extent. I notice if the layout is of good quality, that the text is easy to read for my eyes, that this is an object that will help me spend time with its contents and not annoy me. I think we are all this way, though maybe not so conscious. Because I am both a book artist and a teacher, I’m always noticing/looking for books that add to the discussion about the dynamic nature of the book. So I may become interested in a book because it shows something that I want my students to think about, or that will inspire me to utilize a particular ‘move’ in a future project. So books themselves contain the evidence/proof of the vitality of the book structure and book organization.

I’m also very interested in the presumed ‘authority’ that books convey. I think this was my opening into the book arts back in 1979: to challenge this presumption. I still am!

BoB: Turning the question on its head, when the act of creating a work rather than the act of reading is in flight, how do books feed your working process?

BT: When I’m working on a project, books are everywhere, on all surfaces. [In the] photo of my new kittens hanging out on my kitchen table [you can] see all the books that I was referencing as I worked this week on a new quick Cather project (creating a visual score for My Ántonia). Books are either direct source material, or they are reminders of a standard of design, or palette of colors, or format, or mix of materials, etc., that I want to influence this particular project. Buzz Spector gave an interesting talk a year or so ago on the artist’s library relationship to their studio practice. I like this image of the fluid interaction between the studio and the library.

BoB: As might be expected with a university press book, the Hines text is dry, but it came to life a bit for me when I noticed how it touches on two key themes in your life and work. In particular, the collaborative form in which two or more artists work together on a joint creation and the collaborative form in which an artist works the elements of two or more arts into a solo creation. Now you have taken this several steps beyond what Hines writes of.  Not only do you work in mixed media but you collaborate with contemporaries (like Julie Chen) and with past authors and artists (like Willa Cather).

Most often we think of the literary or pictorial artist as creating in solitude. If asked for outstanding examples of artistic collaboration, don’t we most often turn to music? Picking one or more of your contemporary collaborations, can you tell me how that kind of collaboration works with what so many think of as the solitary creative process?

BT:  Hmmm….’solitary creative process’ is definitely an aspect of being an artist and for me personally it is the most bizarre part of my time making work. I am a fairly social being and my imagination is mostly ignited by the world/ideas/people around me. But yes, there are those times when it’s just your own struggle to get through the place you’ve brought yourself to. I love rereading Georges Perec’s essay “The Parachute Jump” just to be reminded of the absolute fear that one can experience in the studio, not knowing where to go, but knowing that you brought yourself to this point and the only thing you can do is throw yourself into the void.

Maybe collaboration for me is to partly feel the impetus from outside myself. So this is an energy thing. I am really great at answering to the needs of others. If I collaborate, then there’s another person to help drive the projects. Otherwise I can spin in on my projects for a long time.

I have a highly reactive mind. So even having a very brief interaction with another artist can trigger a direction to take. So to sum up this part of the question: collaboration is a way to get outside of myself and bring impetus into moments of fear and stagnation.

But the other side of collaboration, the bringing together of otherwise distinct, separate disciplines, is something I must thrive off of. I have always loved collage. Max Ernst said that there’s a spark that comes from bringing together seemingly unrelated things. So collaboration contains a lot of potential ‘sparking’! I like to create things that show something new to the world. Collaboration offers a means to discover new territory. A Reed College professor brought her literature class to see my Cather installation last year, and we also looked at the book project I’d just finished. She said that having an artist show a way of seeing a novel opened up otherwise uncharted ways of looking at a piece of literature. Literary scholars have long discussed “My Ántonia”, but here was new information. So this aspect of working outside, but slightly parallel to one’s discipline, can be exciting.

A third reason I like to collaborate with certain people is because I admire them so much, that this is the closest way I can get to walking in their shoes. I’m not normally a collaborator who is all about showing MY imagery in the work, but rather one who is always thinking “What would Julie do?” These questions help me work in ways that I don’t usually. And maybe collaborating with a dead author is the ultimate homage and selfish way to make a connection…??!!! I only say that, but don’t think this was my impetus for making work with Cather’s text, whom I had never read before then.

BoB: You have described how you listened for days to Willa Cather’s work being read aloud when preparing for Mining My Ántonia. And Ute Schneider in her essay “Turning the Page” writes of the “sound world” of your work Black Ice and Rain.  And you mentioned that when you bought Collaborative Form you were “working a lot between music and visual books.” How important is sound to your work? What do you hear as the work progresses? Or when it is finished, what do you hear and hope your audience hears when experiencing the work?

BT:  … I never thought about this, but there is definitely a rhythm to my books (well, anyone’s books, really). I know intuitively when this rhythm is ‘right’. We know what it means to sit through a symphony, or a sonata, or a rock song. We know that there will be certain refrains, changes in texture, returning themes. I think we all make books with this kind of sense. I can’t say that there’s any real sound going through my head, but its more knowing that something is right. Not just based on aesthetics, but more on rhythm.

I did teach a class in NYC a few years ago in which we examined musical notation as inspiration for mark-making, and looked at musical form as inspiration for the organization of the parts of the book, so I definitely am in tune (sorry) with this other discipline. And I am a musician, too.

BoB: As you described taking Hines’ Collaborative Form from the shelf, you spoke of the “drape” of the page, the weight in your “hands,” and the “feel” of the cover and paper. That strange but apt word “haptic” (from the Greek ἅπτω = ‘I fasten onto, I touch’) comes to mind. It often comes up in critiques of the digital revolution we have been, and are, living. The digital revolution challenges almost everything physical around us – especially the book. You are something of a “biblioclast,” too, in your challenging “the presumed ‘authority’ that books convey,” no? Many of the digerati, the “born digital first” or the “born-again” digital first are proclaiming that the social network effect and the inevitable demise of print on paper mark a fundamental challenge to the authority of the book and its form. Is that digital challenge to the book’s authority different from what you have in mind?

BT:  I think my journey with the book, being at first iconoclastic, could be explained as a way of making friends/healing a wound from childhood. I grew up with intelligent scientific parents who luckily loved music and art. I was kind of the black sheep, the one who didn’t get the good grades, who smoked pot, ran with the wild crowd, got in trouble. My siblings were achievers. My brother got perfect scores on 2 of his SATs and went to M.I.T. So the book and text and school-learning became an easy target for my early youthful endeavors. What I didn’t expect was that I would do a 180 degree turn and become so enamored of books and the printed word, and have become fairly missionary about the future-of-the-book. I have been inspired and influenced by Gary Frost who points to the fact that learning IS a haptic phenomenon. When we remove the physicality of knowledge, we are in danger of losing levels of understanding. Also, I am worried about the survival of so much digital information. Paper, even acidic paper, can still survive wars, floods, fires, neglect, political change. So I’ve become pretty militant about the survival of the paper-based book. It is still the most accessible object for the widest amount of readers.

BoB: The kittens in your photo suggest a world “a-borning” in your life. On what will you fasten or touch next in your art?

Kittens in the middle of things
Kittens in the middle of things

BT:  Ahhh, the kittens. It’s just nice to come home to these living creatures who are so interactive and of course very very cute.  They won’t be the subject of my art, but rather a distraction from the studio.

Like the conversation that Willa Cather relates to begin My Ántonia, this one concludes too soon for me.  By some ordered randomness — as in pulling the book that happens to rest in the middle of the shelf and finding our way from it to the things around us — I will find myself in Portland or in a gallery somewhere and suddenly hear that generosity of spirit, and our conversation will resume.

Further reading and listening relating to Barbara Tetenbaum and her art:

Donaghy, Michael. “Black Ice and Rain.” [Read by the late poet, the poem incorporated in Tetenbaum’s limited edition artwork Black Ice and Rain.]

Black Ice and Rain
                        Black Ice and Rain, 2002.                                                 Designed, letterpress printed & bound                               in a limited edition of 50 by Barbara Tetenbaum                   with assistance from Maki Yamashita and Clare Carpenter. The type is handset Meridien; the paper, Hahnemühle Ingres; the interleaved collages were made using an abaca paper handmade by Katie MacGregor of Whiting, Maine.

Li, Ruth. “Revelatory Words and Images: William Blake and
the Artist’s Book.” 2013. Honor’s Thesis, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA.

Schneider, Ute. “Turning the Page,” Half-Life: 25 Years of Books. Tetenbaum, Barbara, and Triangular Press. 2005. Triangular Press. Portland, OR.

                          Half-Life: 25 Years of Books                             Barbara Tetenbaum and Triangular Press, 2005.

Tetenbaum, Barbara. Interview with Claudia Hamilton about early book arts influences, and what inspires her work. Podcast series, Book Arts Program, University of Alabama, accessed 6 February 2014:

Tetenbaum, Barbara.  A Close Read: The Cather Projects.  Triangular Press.  Portland, Oregon. 2012.

A Close Read:  The Cather Projects Barbara Tetenbaum
A Close Read: The Cather Projects
Barbara Tetenbaum and Triangular Press, 2012.

Bookmarking Book Art – Update to “Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art”

Brian Dettmer's TED talk
Brian Dettmer’s TED talk

Watch Brian Dettmer’s delightful TED talk here. More about his work and his contemporaries follows:

Three book artists previously featured here at BooksOnBooks — Doug Beube, Brian Dettmer and Guy Laramée — were showcased in this exhibition curated by Karen Ann Myers at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston, South Carolina.  Two other artists — Long-Bin Chen and Francesca Pastine — complete the show.  The exhibition ran from 23 May through 6 July 2013. 

Increasingly, contemporary artists have been exploring the interplay among the function, structure, and format of books. Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art brings together the work of five mixed-media artists from around the world who, using books as a point of departure, sculpt, scrape, bend, and carve to create astonishing compositions. Doug Beube, Long-Bin Chen, Brian Dettmer, Guy Laramée, and Francesca Pastine transform various types of literature and/or printed books through sculptural intervention. Despite the individual and exclusive perspective of each artist, there are remarkable connections in the themes and ideas they respectively mourn and celebrate. The fascinating range of examples, as diverse as books themselves, offers eloquent proof that—despite or because of the advance of digital media for sources of information—the book’s legacy as a carrier of ideas and communication is being expanded today.

via Rebound – The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art.

Bookmarking Book Art — “Out of Print: Altered Books”, A Virtual Exhibition

In November 2012, the Bakersfield Museum of Art exhibited “Out of Print: Altered Books“, the book as a sculptural object. Ten contemporary artists, some of whose works have been bookmarked here, participated:   Doug Beube, Alex Queral, Jacqueline Rush Lee, Mike Stilkey, Jim Rosenau, Guy Laramee, Cara Barer, Robert The, Brian Dettmer and Mary Ellen Bartley.

Featured Image: Jacqueline Rush Lee, Anthologia, 2008, altered book

Behind each name is a link to each book artist’s site or gallery bio.  Consider it a virtual exhibition, but check out the dates of the real-world exhibitions announced on many of the sites.

A PPPS to Bookmarking “imposition” – the craft of learning by doing

Wynken de Worde’s printer’s device.

Under the blog name “Wynken de Worde,” Sarah Werner  writes about books, early modern culture, and those of us who may be postmodern readers — when she is not preparing the syllabus for her course at the Folger Shakespeare Library.   Wynken (not related to Blynken or Nod) was the primary assistant to William Caxton the first printer of English-language books — Malory’s Morte d’Arthur,  Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and The Golden Legend.

If Sarah Werner channels Wynken de Worde in her classroom as well as she does through her website, her students are to be envied.  She makes what she writes tangible, palpable, haptic. Three brief examples, the last of which prompts this bookmark:

Imposition is “the arranging of pages in a chase [a steel or iron frame for holding them tightly for the letterpress] in a particular sequence . . .  so that when folded the printed pages will be in consecutive order.”  Glaister, Encyclopedia of the Book (2001).  But the earliest books did not have page numbers, so how were old Bill and Wynk to know which to place where?   Here’s Werner:

Lerner’s newsbook ready for folding.

Above is a numbered example of the same newsbook that I used as an image in my last post. The red numbers are page numbers: folded in the right way, you’d get an 8-page booklet in the order indicated. But if you look closely, you’ll see that the actual news sheet doesn’t have page numbers. Instead, there are signatures: at the bottom of the first page is a tiny, blotted “L”; at the bottom of the 5th page is a tiny “L3″ (the “L2″ has been cut off at some point when the page was trimmed). These are signature marks that count off by leaves. What’s a leaf, you ask? It’s a physical unit of paper: when you turn the page in a book, you are actually turning a leaf of paper. Early modern printers would have thought in terms of sheets and leaves, not pages, when they were figuring out how to print a work. Depending on the imposition (how the text is laid out on the sheet), you could end up with different numbers of leaves: 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, 16, 24.  A quarto imposition results in a sheet of paper being turned into 4 leaves; there are 2 pages to each leaf (a recto side and a verso side), so there are 8 pages in all. The blue letters and numbers show the signatures. One thing that throws off beginners is understanding how recto and verso relate to each other.  They do not mean right and left but front and back.

Providing a downloadable PDF with which to follow along, Werner walks the reader through the exercise and proves her point:  “it’s a handy way to understand and demonstrate to others the general principle of early modern format: multiple pages are printed onto a single sheet in the correct order so that when folded, they appear sequentially.”

The second example of the pedagogically palpable or the palpably pedagogic comes in the same posting:

“When you’re done, you can try folding it into a tiny little pressman’s cap, following the instructions that appear in this lovely piece, “The Newspaper Man is Defunct,” from The Cape Cod today.”

That bit of fun was two years ago.  The brilliance is undiminished today; if anything it’s brighter.   For this year’s course, Werner is handing out her syllabus in unpaginated quarto format.  To figure out the syllabus, the students have to fold the imposition correctly!  Try it yourself and grasp the meaning of the “book arts.”

Ah, the books arts.  Imposition.  The dying arts?  You need look no further than the end of your Proboscis to see that that is not true.   Proboscis is a London-based non-profit studio that commissions and facilitates new works and publications, some of which can be found in the DIFFUSION library.

DIFFUSION ebooks are hybrid digital/material publications. They bring together the “tactile pleasures of tangible objects with the ease of sharing via digital media.” Shareable paper books, free to download as PDFs, print and make up,  DIFFUSION eBooks “can be shared electronically or as material objects – scanned, photocopied, emailed or posted. The eBooks bridge analogue and digital media by taking the reader away from the computer screen and engaging them with the handmade.”

And just a bit further along the continuum is Francisca Prieto, also in London. Inspired by the serio-comical poet Nicanor Parra’s “antipoems,”  Prieto offers up The ANTIBOOK.


The reader must fold the pages of the book (20.5 x 10.5cm) to form the icosahedron (15 x 17 x 19cm) in order to read Parra’s antipoems in order.

Whether Prieto’s ANTIBOOK or the DIFFUSION ebooks are book, art, both or neither, they and Wynken de Worde make us think with our hands as well as our minds about what can be done with the form and concept of the book.  And that makes the concept of imposition worth a bookmark.

PS: “Books On Books” acknowledges David Pearson‘s Books as History (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, 2008 and 2011), p. 75, for the inspiration of the wording of the conclusion here.

PPS: Another opportunity to learn by doing can be found at the end of a short and witty book called A Dodo at Oxford: An Unreliable Account of a Student and His Pet Dodo. Under the guise of explaining, presenting and annotating a diary found in a charity shop, Philip Atkins and Michael Johnson deliver a history of the book. Appendix 7 provides the offer to engage in imposition.

PPPS (6 January 2021): Weeks into a third Corona virus lockdown, another contribution for learning imposition by doing has appeared. Appropriately this time in the Quarantine Public Library started by Katie Garth and Tracy Honn in May 2020. It comes from Barb Tetenbaum; check out the download and instruction video here.

Untitled Tetenbaum imposition

Barbara Tetenbaum
Chemistry stencils (Prague, 1993); colored pencils (Madison, WI, 1975); and press-on letters from the model train industry are combined with a 100-year old Encyclopedia Brittanica page.

Bookmarking Book Art – A Maze of Books for the Cultural Olympiad

Exhibition at the Southbank Centre, London. August 2012.

This maze of 250,000 books has been installed on The Clore Ballroom in the Royal Festival Hall in London.   Oxfam loaned 150,000 of them.   When the exhibition is taken down, the books will be returned to Oxfam along with the other 100,000 donated by UK publishers.  The books will go to Oxfam’s used books stores to raise funds for Oxfam projects. Inspired by the stories of Jorge Luis Borges, the maze was created by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo, in collaboration with production company HungryMan.

Hear more here.  See more here.  Thanks to Michael Lieberman at Book Patrol for drawing this pile of books on books to our attention.

Film © Marcos Saboya / Gualter Pupo / Hungryman Projects 2012

Bookmarking Book Art — Center for Book Arts: Support our Artists in Residence!

Even the “book arts” are having to go back to the future, sort of, to survive.

In the Renaissance, the arts and manuscripts were supported by the patronage of the rich and powerful, intent on securing fame, honor or redemption by association with lasting works.

Miniature of king Edgar presenting a charter (probably the New Minster Charter) to Christ in Majesty, watched by the Virgin and St Peter, from The New Minster Charter, England (Winchester, New Minster), c. 966, Cotton Vespasian A. viii, f. 2v
– See more at:

Along comes the democratizing printing press, and eventually (a very long eventually), patronage is replaced by secured copyright and a working market.   Now the democratizing Web has arrived, and content, including art, should be free, so we are told or simply shown by the taking.  Is that the future of the book?

The book arts (and book art) are worth a bookmark in the evolution of the book.  They hark back to the brilliant works of art like those exhibited earlier this year from the British Library’s collection of medieval and Renaissance illuminated codices collected by the kings and queens of England over 800 years.

A wedding present for Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI. The Shrewsbury Book is one of the most remarkable manuscripts in the Old Royal library. It was a gift to Margaret of Anjou from John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. Margaret is shown with her husband Henry VI. The Shrewsbury Book, Rouen, 1444–45. (C) British Library Board (Royal 15 E. vi, ff. 2v)

In the BL’s ‘Turning the Pages™’ system and ebook versions, we see how the affordances of the web and ebooks can enhance our experience of those works.

Medieval Bestiary, from the British Library

In a previous post,  we looked at the Center for the Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago‘s offering awards of “two $10,000 commissions for new artworks for the iPad [which] will have physical counterparts that intersect, modulate, or inform the digital components of the artwork.”  From print to digital in one case, from digital to print in the other.  The book, its arts and its art as an object have been and will be the focal point of cultural investment.

The work of Brian Dettmer, gracing the cover of  Christine Antaya’s edited volume Book Art: Iconic Sculptures and Installations Made from Books (Die Gestalten Verlag, 2011), embodies why this is so.  Dettmer’s book art declares that despite or because of our crossing the digital divide, the book’s legacy as a carrier of ideas and communication remains secure in the creative realm.    Take a look.

These are the kind of artists as well as masters and mistresses of the book arts that the Center for Book Arts in New York seeks to support.

Crowdsourced funding won’t provide contributors with lasting fame by association, although there are rewards in the form of invitations to openings and Artists’ Talks as well as a small letter-press printed gift.  Here’s hoping that those who value the arts and books (digital and print) for their own sake will dig into their pockets.

Watch, listen and think about it.

The Future of the Past: Bookmarking a forthcoming title

Tom Abba and Baldur Bjarnason are writing a book — about “books, electronic textuality and materiality and is a manifesto of sorts.”

Some of it slips out intentionally in Abba’s blog.  He comments on Touchpress’s app of Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” Flipboard’s setting of design trends and Visual Editions’ app version of Marc Saporta’s “Composition No. 1.”   Here’s hoping that they also address Agrippa (a book of the dead), the work of art created by novelist William Gibson, artist Dennis Ashbaugh and publisher Kevin Begos Jr. in 1992.   That’s right, futurists, 20 years ago.

Expanded Artists’ Books: Envisioning the Future of the Book

Here’s a twist, or is it?

The Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago issued a call for proposals yesterday (19 July) for projects that “provide concept(s) of how the digital work may be transformed into a physical book object – ….”

The premise behind the “award of two $10,000 commissions for new artworks for the iPad [which] will have physical counterparts that intersect, modulate, or inform the digital components of the artwork” is:

“Artists’ books claim all aspects of the book (format, typography, structure, etc.) as potentially expressive.  As immersive hybrid experiences for the reader/viewer, these works expand the limits of what we traditionally think of as a book. Simultaneously, we consider that tablet-based mobile platforms are emerging as a dynamic arena for investigation of the notion of the book. Expanded Artists’ Books utilize the rich capabilities of the tablet platform to imagine new forms that a book might take, such as exploring how interactivity challenges the traditional closure of text or the performance of time.”

William Gibson’s novels leap to mind as examples of predictive fiction (fairly uncannily when you compare Google’s VR glasses to the Ono-Sendai Cyberspace Deck that allows characters in the Sprawl trilogy to enter and navigate “Cyberspace [that] consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. … A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.” (Gibson 69)

So why not predictive book art to envision the future of the book?