Books On Books Collection – Cristina Balbiano d’Aramengo

Alphabet Flag Book (2010)

Alphabet Flag Book (2010)
Cristina Balbiano d’Aramengo (photos by Federico Novaro)
Flag book. H207 x W176 mm, 14 panels, 28 flags. Edition of 20. Acquired from the artist, 21 July 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

In part, the Alphabet Flag Book is a case of web-found art. In 2008 Federico Novaro initiated a blog of editorial news and reviews. Like a chapter in an illuminated manuscript, each article opens with the enlarged image of a letter or punctuation mark taken from Novaro’s photo of the cover of the book being reviewed. Friend of Novaro, Balbiano d’Aramengo proposed the flag book structure and then found that there were enough images for an edition of twenty unique copies.

For each copy, the artist could have followed an alphabetical order with each row of characters reading left to right. Or a boustrophedon order with A-G reading left to right in the top row, H-N reading right to left in the second row, and so on as the ox plows. Of course, the artist’s eye for harmonies of color and shape when selecting from the found images has a role in choosing the order of content. But then there is the need to fill the 27th and 28th flags. The availability of punctuation marks in the found images solves that constraint. In fact, the front and back covers embrace them. The symmetry of the marks on the covers is even enhanced by the precision of the belly band that holds the book closed. So what order will the covers reveal?

The artist has been kind enough to provide the following behind-the-scenes photos of the process.

Photos: Courtesy of Cristina Balbiano d’Aramengo.

Despite the alphabetical sorting process to assemble the content for each copy, the result is far from alphabetical.

To have followed a left-to-right order or boustrophedon order would not have embraced how a flag book’s structure breaks up the traditional codex pages vertically and horizontally no matter the angle of view. The explosion of non-alphabetical color and shapes inside the orderly covers is a bit like the chaos of the internet behind that simple rectangular search button between the clamshell covers of a laptop.

Further Reading

The Art of Reading in a ‘Post-Text Future’“. Bookmarking Book Art. 21 February 2018.

Hedi Kyle’s The Art of the Fold: How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures (2018)“. Bookmarking Book Art. 24 September 2018.

Flanders, Judith. 2021. A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order. London: Picador.