Books On Books Collection – The Poetics of Reason (2020)

The Poetics of Reason (2020)
Text: Éric Lapierre, Ambra Fabi and Giovanni Piovene, Mariabruna Fabrizzi and Fosco Lucarelli, Sébastien Marot, and Laurent Esmilaire and Tristan Chadney. Design: Marco Balesteros
Five-volume set of perfect bound paperbacks in bellyband; laminated display letters on front cover, tinted fore-edges. H212 x W130 mm, 712 pages. Acquired from Small Projects, S.A., 19 February 2020.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

“The Poetics of Reason” was the title and theme for the fifth Lisbon Architecture Triennale in 2019 (the first was in 2007). Awarded the ADG Laus 2020 Golden Prize in the category of editorial graphic design, this work stands well with Bruno Munari’s three small 1960’s books on the square, circle and triangle, now available in a single volume, and calls to mind several works testifying to the relationship between architecture and book art. In the first of the five volumes, Éric Lapierre even interweaves with his text on architectural rationality illustrations from book artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher, Sol Lewitt and Ed Ruscha — all without comment, in itself conveying their implicit relevance. His similar display of a page from Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard — that progenitor of modern and post-modern book art — speaks to the role that space — les blancs, as Mallarmé calls it — plays in these adjacent communities.

136 pages

The second volume, by Ambra Fabi and Giovanni Piovene, draws in Leon Battista Alberti, of course, whose columns ornament works by Mari Eckstein Gower, Helen Malone and many other book artists.

136 pages

Drawing on Gaston Bachelard and Juhani Pallasmaa as it does, the third volume, by Mariabruna Fabrizzi and Fosco Lucarelli, calls to mind the work of Olafur Eliasson and Marian Macken here in the Books On Books Collection and elsewhere. Anyone familiar with Richard Niessen’s The Typographic Palace of Masonry will appreciate Fabrizzi and Fosco’s exploration of where architecture, imagination and memory intersect.

136 pages

In the lengthiest of the five volumes, Sébastien Marot takes us into the territory of urban architecture and the anthropocene, also occupied by book artists Sarah Bryant, Emily Speed, Philip Zimmermann and many others.

216 pages

The last and shortest volume, put together by Laurent Esmilaire and Tristan Chadney, consists mostly of photos that may remind the viewer of Irma Boom’s Elements of Architecture, with Rem Koolhaas, or Strip, with Kees Christiaanse — especially in conjunction with the tinted fore edges.

88 pages

Referenced below, Pedro Vada’s review of the Triennale and the five separate sites across which it occurred in Portugal provides more insight into the five volumes themselves. Marco Ballesteros LETRA website provides additional images of the five volumes’ design.

Further Reading

Architecture“. 12 November 2018. Books On Books Collection.

SOCKS Studio, an extraordinary website run by Fabrizzi and Lucarelli.

Beaumont, Eleanor. 16 January 2019. “Interview with Irma Boom“, The Architectural Review.

Munari, Bruno. 2015. Bruno Munari: Square Circle Triangle. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Vada, Pedro. 24 July 2019. “Details about Lisbon Triennale 2019“. ArchDaily. Accessed 17 August 2021.

Books On Books Collection – Anouk Kruithof

Universal Tongue (2021)

Universal Tongue (2021)
Anouk Kruithof
Paperback with fore-edge printing. H100 × W170 × D75 mm, 2008 pages. Edition of 500. Acquired from Art Paper Editions, 15 May 2008.
First two photos: Courtesy and permission of the artist. Third photo: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

If ever a book danced, it is this one. It is a tango between Anouk Kruithof‘s images and Jurgen Maelfeyt‘s design. It is a global line dance with a team of 50 researchers from across the globe. It is a rave, sourced from 8800 online dance videos. It is a still point in motion against Kruithof’s choreographed four-hour eight-channel video version.

Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Video displayed with permission of the artist.

Video displayed with permission of the artist.

From the artist’s and publisher’s description: This book shows how dance can be a way of knowing about the world. It is by no means exclusive, final, or academic. It is a statement. Organized in alphabetical order by the first letter of each dance style, it confirms the horizontality of Universal Tongue, by erasing typical categories of the world order, such as country, continent, or culture. Instead, it points us towards a more inclusive world with a limitless exchange—a world where simply everyone is a dancer.

Universal Tongue also neatly uses the vertical surfaces of the codex. The bottom-edge printing of name and title calls to mind Around the Corner by Ximena Pérez Grobet. The fore-edge effect of the full-page bleeds calls to mind Irma Boom’s Strip (2003). Both techniques evoke the book form’s ability to embrace. As the physical and haptic constant alongside the digital sourcing, production and video installation, Universal Tongue as book shows that traditional dance and the book remain undiminished in cultural relevance.

AUTOMAGIC (2016)

AUTOMAGIC (2016)
Anouk Kruithof
Transparent acrylic box holding 10 booklets without covers. Box: H235 x W173 x D53 mm; Booklets: H228 x W170 mm each; 768 pages. Edition of 1000. Acquired from the artist, 14 April 2017.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Unlike Universal Tongue, which is based on found images, AUTOMAGIC is drawn from a database of images created (and still being created) by Kruithof herself over the years. With a skill in book artistry as much as photographic artistry, she has curated, edited and montaged the images into nine differently colored booklets, bound by a transparent acrylic shell. As with Universal Tongue, the work is a collaboration, this time with Piera Wolf, the Zurich half of W-E Studio, on the design, and Iñaki Domingo, photographer and professor at the Istituto Europeo di Design, on the text. Domingo’s interview of Kruithof for the book provides the content for a tenth booklet. It is the purple one, edges color sprayed, bound with exposed purple thread and placed like a colophon looking back over the other differently colored nine “chapters” as Kruithof calls them. Laid out in order, the ten front covers spell out “AUTOMAGIC”. The way the individual letters lap over to the back edge of the next cover nods toward the unity the artist intends as well as the metaphorical unity residing in their database source and acrylic box binding.

The tenth booklet lies open under the other nine spelling out the work’s title; its purple cover can be seen in last position in the acrylic box underneath.

AUTOMAGIC is the first work by Kruithof to come into the Books On Books Collection. Its color and bright materiality continually urge taking it down from the shelf and selecting one of the nine “individual chapters” of this long visual work to re-read (re-see). There is, however, a rhythm to the whole work, so they are best read in pairs or trios.

Chapter A (blue), below left, starts the nine-part work with underwater photos and Kruithof’s signature montages on glossy paper.

Chapter U (orange), below right, shifts to portraiture on plain paper, with montages created by laser-printing photos on top of photos, and interspersed with photos of the blank side of the montages with the edge of the picture frame showing. This movement between the portraits and blanks gives Chapter U an easily detectable inner rhythm, all the better appreciated in its contrast with the preceding and following chapters.

Left: from Chapter A (blue). Right: from Chapter U (orange) front and back.

Chapter T (aqua) shifts back to nature, but a “visually psychedelic” one as Kruithof puts it, achieved with layering photos and editing in Photoshop. It also shifts back to a glossier paper like Chapter A, but the paper is thinner and so saturated with ink that the pages must be carefully separated, slowing down the reader/viewer’s movement through the booklet.

Moving into black and white, Chapter O (black) turns more to human forms and activities, depicted in a mix of straight photos, sometimes layered and some re-photographed analogue photo montages, all printed on the heavier glossy paper used for Chapter A.

Chapter T (aqua), Chapter O (black)

Chapters M (lavender) and A (green) move back into color on plain paper. They are two of the thicker booklets. Both are a blend of the human and nature, both have frequent carefully constructed arrangements of evidence of human impact on nature, with Chapter A building this theme more intensively.

Chapter M (lavender), Chapter A (green)

Chapter G (white) has a frenetic almost violent quality in its images and their manipulation. It alternates images of objects (broken windows, destroyed brick walls, melted candles, a partly erased blackboard) with those of humans contorted by awkward poses, layered photos or editing. While the chapter has shifted back to the thicker glossy paper of Chapter A (blue) and Chapter O (black) and has picked up the black and white rhythm of Chapter O, a burst of melted colored candles interrupts that BW rhythm half-way through before letting it return. This frenetic Chapter G feels like a build-up to a distraught Chapter I (red).

Chapter G (white)

Chapter I (red) juxtaposes self-portraits of distress (on matte paper) with images of a hurricane’s aftermath (on glossy paper). The even division between subjects and type of paper individualizes this chapter and drives home the alternating rhythms of the work as a whole.

Chapter I (red)

Chapter C (yellow) consists of “re-photographed analog photomontages of mausolea and images of color smoke bombs in abstract architectural settings”. If the previous eight chapters have expressed a sense of being in the world, this one expresses a sense of exiting it — a sense that is complicated by the fictive enhancement of the brightly colored Mexican mausolea and the fictive smokescreen attempt to impose a ritual and architectural structure on that exit.

Chapter C (yellow)

Pixel Stress (2013)

Pixel Stress (2013)
Anouk Kruithof
Softcover booklet stapled, enclosed in a set of 15 single-fold folios held together with an elastic cloth band. H320 x W200 mm, 100 pages. Acquired from RVB, 12 June 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Remove the elastic cloth band and the 15 folios of glossy prints (H320 x W407 mm) folded in half start to slip and slide. At the center of the inmost folio lies a stapled booklet. The booklet’s front cover serves as the title page, its back cover explains the event that yielded this book.

Single-fold folios slipping apart, front and back covers of the booklet enclosed by the glossy folios.

The booklet’s photos and montage pull the reader into the event — busy New Yorkers brushing by and hurrying away, or stopped in their tracks, intrigued and lingering, heads shaking, edging away or absorbed and brightening, then walking off with their prize. Selected comments on the day complete the scenario.

Only the folio that forms the front and back cover presents a complete version of one of the prizes that a New Yorker might have taken away. The print is a detail enlarged from the thumbnail image “WOMAN_IN_STRESS.JPG”, reproduced on the back of the print.

Clockwise: Front of the folio that is the front and back cover of the book. Back of the folio.
Upper right of the book’s “inside back cover” showing the jpeg.

All of the other prizes are transformed in the book into beautifully aligned verso and recto pages. Thus the recto page of the glossy white-on-black grid in this double-page spread below is a bundle of single-fold, gathered folios. The least nudge shifts the bundle to the right exposing the underlying folio: half white-on-black grid, half umber-to-gold enlarged detail of the image “STRUGGLING-WITH-STRESS.JPG”, which appears on the reverse of the enlargement.


Fifty-two color photographs and photo-montages make up the content of Pixel Stress. Glorious as they are in their photographic language, it is the language of the book, spoken fluently by Kruithof and her collaborator Rémi Faucheux of RVB, that makes Pixel Stress a work of art.

Becoming Blue (2009)

Becoming Blue (2009)
Anouk Kruithof
Paperback, sewn. H275 x W205 mm, 102 pages. Limited edition of 750. Acquired from the artist, 12 June 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Being the product of a design house (Kummer & Herrman) and photo book publisher (Revolver Publishing), Becoming Blue seems more a showcase of photography rather than of book artistry. It nevertheless reflects Kruithof’s playful investigation of color, creative interaction with strangers (hers is the extra hand, head of hair or shape peeking out from behind the subjects) and love of the quirky and awkward.

Ephemera

Newsprint

The Daily Exhaustion (2010)
Anouk Kruithof
Tabloid format newspaper. H275 x W195 mm, 48 pages. Edition of 5000. Acquired from the artist, 12 June 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

A clever contribution to the Dutch self-portrait tradition. Kruithof reworks some of these photos in AUTOMAGIC.

NYC Typext (2013)
A2 poster, bw offset print on yellow paper, folded twice to A4.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

NYC Typext is associated with the solo exhibition “Every thing is wave” held in September and October 2013 at the Boetzelaer I Nispen Gallery in Amsterdam.

#EVIDENCE (2015)
A2 poster, full color newspaper print on recycled paper, folded twice to A4.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

#EVIDENCE is associated with the solo exhibition of the same name held from October through November at the Boetzelaer I Nispen Gallery in Amsterdam.

Poster-Set (2008-12)

Five posters. Edition of 50. Acquired from the artist, 12 June 2021. Photos of the works: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Fragmented Entity (2012)
Double-sided A2 associated with the solo exhibition of the same name held at the Boetzelaer I Nispen Gallery in London.

Front of poster and details from upper left and lower right.

Back of poster.

Untitled (I’ve taken too many photos / I’ve never taken a photo) (2012)
Double-sided A2 poster, color, first shown at Tour le Templiers, Hyeres, France.

Pictured above with Kruithof is Harrison Medina, who responded to the artist’s ad that read “Did you never make a photo in your life?” Kruithof wanted to engage someone with as little experience of photography as possible to co-edit a selection of photos from her archive. The result was an installation, a book and this poster, on the back of which is printed excerpts from conversations during the editing process.

Back of poster.

Off the Wall (2011)
A3 poster associated with the publication Happy Birthday to You.

Kruithof took photos of walls in mental health institutions then reduced them to color swatches or individual bricks in an unstable wall. Two years before, she had explored another set of color-combined metaphors.

Enclosed content chatting away in the colour invisibility (2009)
One-sided A2 Poster, color, on the occasion of the solo exhibition at the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien.

This sculpture consists of approximately 3500 used book obtained from bookshops or a recycling dump and then dyed. The constructed wall is rigged to collapse at some point during the installation, which has taken place in several venues. 

Anonymous Poster (2008)
500 x 500 mm.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

This photo montage reflects the Kruithof’s early mastery of this element in the language of photography. As can be seen from Universal Tongue, AUTOMAGIC and Pixel Stress in particular, her working of this language, her engagement with friends and strangers, her crossing of borders in geography, media and format, and her fusion of all that into book art are what make her work distinctive.

Further Reading (and Viewing)

Large-Scale Book Art Installations (updated 20180307)”. 27 July 2017. Bookmarking Book Art.

Large-Scale Installations (updated 20190909)”. 21 April 2015. Bookmarking Book Art.

Videos

¡Aguas! (FOAM, 2017-18)

Subconscious Traveling (MoMA, 2016)

Artober (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2015)

Lecture (California College of the Arts, 2014)

Charlotte Köhler Prijs (Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, 2014)

Ruhe Performance (Autocenter Berlin, 2012)

Enclosed Content Chatting Away in Colour Invisibility (Kruithof, 2010)

Books On Books Collection – Klaus Groh and Hermann Havekost

Artists’ Books / Künstlerbücher Buchobjekte
Livres d’Artistes / Libri Oggetti (1986)

Artists’ Books / Künstlerbücher Buchobjeckte / Livres d’Artistes / Libri Oggetti (1986)
Klaus Groh, Hermann Havekost, Christiane Dierks and Anke Schröder
Four-way bound book. 204 x 204 mm (closed), 420 x 420 mm (open), 1440 pages. Edition of 1000, of which this is #461. Acquired from Christian Hesse Auktionen, 7 June 2021.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Richard Kostelanetz writes of an essential distinction that separates the imaginative from the conventional book:

In the latter, syntactically familiar sentences are set in rectangular blocks of uniform type …, and these are then ‘designed’ into pages that look like each other (and like pages we have previously seen). An imaginative book, by definition, attempts to realize something else with syntax, with format, with pages, with covers, with size, with shape, with sequence, with structure, with bnding — with any or all of these elements, ideally reflecting the needs and suggestions of the particular book. Most books are primarily about something outside themselves; most book-art books are primarily about themselves. P. 48.

This catalogue of the exhibition organized by the late Hermann Havekost at Oldenburg University in 1986 qualifies as imaginative on nearly every one of those criteria. To boot, it is about itself as well as about something outside itself.

The ambidextrous book appeared the same year as The Book Made Art, edited by Jeffrey Abt and designed by Buzz Spector. The size of the Oldenburg catalogue dwarfs that of The Book Made Art, is more globally representative (especially of Central and Eastern Europe), and has more of a textual, Fluxus feel to it. Nevertheless, the catalogue’s German and Italian titles, several of its selections and its very production and performance chime with the sculptural, book-object tenor that Spector achieved with his design and Abt with his selections for The Book Made Art.

Among the Oldenburg exhibition’s artists and their works clearly addressing the book as object are

Denise Aubertin Journal impubliable (1984), a work of altered, torn, collaged-over pages

Stathis Chrissicopulos The Rainbow’s Book (1982), an acrylic block shaped like a book

Sheril Cunning Summer Rain (1984), a codex of pages of gampi and abaca with mica particles, bearing watermarks of a rain storm

Elisabetta Gut Libro-incabbiato (1981), a bamboo bird cage with a miniature Italian-German dictionary inside

J.H. Kocman Paper-re-making book No. 057 (1982), a book made handmade paper sheets made from seven books that were ground to pulp in water

Martin Peulen Untitled (c. 1984), a matchbox labelled “Martin Peulen Caution Book!” and holding a stapled book (H20 x W200 mm)

Adam Rzepecki Untitled (1984), a book with a saw stuck halfway through

Franz E. Walther Stoffbuch 2 Zwei (1969), a book of blank fabric pages, closed with cloth straps and resembling a folded straitjacket.

However broadly representative of book art in the 1980s and star-studded (Roberta Allen, Barton L. Beneš, Mirella Bentivoglio, Agnes Denes, Robert Filliou, Dick Higgins, Dennis Oppenheim and Tibor Papp to mention a handful), the Oldenburg catalogue’s chief claim to a place in the Collection remains its status of “catalogue as book art”, a claim to “book art” that rests on its four-fold binding structure. In this, it is similar to The Book Made Art (1986) with its trim and trompe l’oeil vitrine pages; or Irma Boom’s The Architecture of the Book (2013), a catalogue miniaturisé; or Odd Volumes (2014) with its more “traditional” dos-à-dos binding.

These “interrogations” of the book’s structure serve to excite the appetite for even more complex, self-reflexive acrobatics with exhibitions of book art. Which institution of book art will spring for this six-fold structure?

Sixfold dos-à-dos binding
Photos: István Borbás/National Library of Sweden

Further Reading

An Online Annotation of “The Book Made Art”‘. 8 May 2020. Bookmarking Book Art.

Kwakkel, Erik. 2014. “Six books, one binding.” Accessed 30 June 2021.

Liberty, Megan N. 23 March 2021. “Art Books, Artist Books, and the Exhibition Catalogue as a Space for Intervention“. Center for Book Arts, Events. Accessed 30 June 2021. (Recorded here.)

Books On Books Collection – Olafur Eliasson

Your House (2006)

Your House (2006)
Olafur Eliasson
Hardback handbound with 454 laser cut leaves. H273 × W432 × D114 mm. Edition of 225, of which this is #210. Acquired from Carolina Nitsch Contemporary Art, August 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection, displayed with permission of the artist.

Your House is a laser-cut model of Olafur Eliasson’s residence in Copenhagen at a scale of 1:85, which means that each page equates to a 220 mm section of the actual house. How do you read a work like this — physically? At the 22″ mark in the video below, the pages fall in a cascade like a flipbook, but for the most part, their size, accumulated bulk and weight — and delicacy — defy that handling. They must be turned slowly and carefully. Your House heeds the task of the arts as posed by the architect Juhani Pallasmaa, “in our age of speed, …to defend the comprehensibility of time, its experiential plasticity, tactility and slowness” (The Embodied Image, p. 78).

Your House (2014)
Studio Olafur Eliasson

As you move from Your House‘s entrance to its exit, the outlines of walls, floors, stairs, doors, domes, windows, fireplaces and bookcases tremble in the air. Is this what Gaston Bachelard calls “the material imagination”? What Juhani Pallasmaa calls “the embodied image”?

Video: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Studio Olafur Eliasson.

Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Studio Olafur Eliasson.

There is something meditative about reading Your House properly. The cautious repetitive turning of pages can induce a daydream of inhabiting the space revealed. At some point in turning the pages, the empty shapes begin to become “your house”. Perhaps you see yourself moving through its spaces, and imagined furnishings occupying its rooms.

Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Studio Olafur Eliasson.

Or perhaps as in the sequence above — the end of one room (or chapter or part) and the start of another — you become a ghost — with all the work’s past and future readers — passing through the walls.

Video: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Studio Olafur Eliasson.

In The Poetics of Space, Bachelard writes of poetic time and prosodic time. The one is vertical, a spot in time, a frozen moment; the other is horizontal, a narrative, a continuity. But they are not mutually exclusive. Your House is a site where poetic and prosodic time occupy the same space. More than that, it is a site where temporality, as Eliasson puts it, “becomes something you perform by involving yourself physically over time” and thereby you become, “in the end, the createur” (“Not how, but why!”, p. 108).

Contact is Content (2014)

Contact is Content (2014)
Olafur Eliasson
Casebound, cloth mesh-covered board. H345 x W310 x D50 mm, 416 pages. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Like Your House, this work requires a slow, careful interaction in which viewing becomes learning the language of Eliasson’s images, discovering its syntax and exploring its rhymes and rhythms — reading the content presented with it. Unlike Your House, which focuses on contact with one source of content, Contact is Content draws on multiple sources: photographs Eliasson took in Iceland between 1986 and 2013 as well as images from his other projects and artworks. Over 80 different series make up the content of this work. The overwhelming number of round images — artificial and natural — in Contact is Content might suggest that Eliasson is completely sold on Bachelard’s pronouncement in The Poetics of Space that all being is round. But Eliasson’s world is spikier.

Within Contact is Content, images converse with one another — over near and far subjects, over aerial and ground level perspectives, over contrasting textures, over colors and their absence or presence, over artifice and nature

Often the conversations are reverse echoes: the reflective surface of blocks of ice echoes that of basalt.

The echo of near and far becomes a theme in itself: black-and-white aerial views of landscapes elide into black-and-white close-ups.

The absence and presence of color also emerges as a theme in its own right that interweaves with that of “near and far”: waterfalls without color vs waterfalls with the barest hint of color; close-ups of rocky terrain without color vs those dotted with intensely green or blue flora.

Some reverse echoes are the artificial conversing with nature: a gallery room containing a construction pumping water upwards over four levels echoes an Icelandic waterfall; or shorescapes under fog echo human outlines swallowed up in gallery rooms flooded with color-lit mists. Down to up; outside to inside; black-and-white to color; nature to artifice. And back.

Some of these artifice/nature echoes are compressed into one image: a brightly half-painted stick of driftwood echoes the multiple color wheels used to punctuate the stretches of landscape images.

Other echoes occur within the span of artifice (whole color wheels echoed by sliced black ones) before colliding with nature (a piece of driftwood impaled by a glass triangle) and then jumping back to artifice (round mirrors bisected at floor and wall and cascading upwards to be bisected by wall and ceiling).

Some echoes occur across dozens and dozens of pages. Still others occur in the single turn of a page.

These are but a few of the themes that Eliasson weaves into a narrative with his images, artworks and projects. Every encounter with this book as container seems to reveal a new theme.

Contact (2014)

Contact (2014)
Olafur Eliasson
Front and back covers and center spread of exhibition catalogue in paperback. Designed by Irma Boom. Acquired from Artbooksonline.eu, 27 September 2020. Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Studio Olafur Eliasson.

Contact interprets the eponymous site-specific exhibition, commissioned by the Fondation Louis Vuitton and held in its Frank Gehry-designed building, 17 December 2014 through 23 February 2015. Here is the artist’s statement on Contact:

being in contact is the opposite of being disconnected. to be in contact is to be aware of the consequences that your actions have in and on the world. contact is about experience rather than consumption. to be in contact is to be in touch with the good things in life as well as with the difficult things in life. contact can be a greeting, a smile, the feeling of another person’s hand in your hand. contact is not a picture, it is not a representation; it is about your ability to reach out, connect, and perhaps even put yourself in another person’s place. for me, contact is where inclusion begins. contact is the highest luxury of all. olafur eliasson

Contact is also between page and page. Eliasson and Irma Boom, “the queen of books”, have worked together on several works. Boom’s mastery of the full bleed, double-page spread and gutter is the perfect match for this volume that brings the virtual into contact with the material.

Contact is also between paper and ink, between black and white as well as between dark and light when the book’s fluorescent title glows in a darkened room. The cover’s fluorescent ink, however, is not integral enough with the rest of the book to rise above an amusing touch; whereas contact between black and white extends to the division of the book into black and white halves.

In the first half of the book, photographs on entirely black paper present a codex-experience of the exhibition. In the second half of the book, drawings take the viewer behind the scenes of the exhibition’s design and, retrospectively, train the eye to read the book as exhibition.

This incorporation of design drawings draws attention to time, and Contact is very much about our perception of time. In her book Binding Space: The Book as Spatial Practice, Marian Macken refers to “the tenses of the book”. Especially when presented in a book, architectural plan drawings “are not fixed in their sequence, but instead may be read and interpreted as existing within a range of times, such as the time of their making, of the present of the reader, the future they may refer to, and the contextual moment of apprehension” (p. 157). In the case of this “book of the exhibition”, published to coincide with the exhibition, the plan drawings and photographs exist in the exhibition’s past and present. For an exhibition attendee, they exist as a reminder of a personal past performance of contact with the exhibition. For attendees and non-attendees, they bring the exhibition’s past and future together in the present in a performance of contact guided by the architecture of the book.

How appropriate it is that, in her essay in the book’s white section, Caroline A. Jones writes, “Personally, I will not have seen the installations that the present text accompanies” — as is/will be the case for many of us experiencing Contact only in its book form. Jones’ essay is entitled “Event Horizon: Olafur Eliasson’s Raumexperimente”, which confirms that contact is not only about perception of time, but of space as well. While Jones teases out how the exhibition will play/plays/played with the astrophysical conundrum, she cites a comment from Eliasson in conversation that captures a simpler view: “There is a tradition of the horizon as a boundary between the known and unknown. But as you approach, it fades in, or comes into your experience. You can think of it as a space” (p. 133).

Space — which brings up the awkward point of the setting in which the exhibition occurred. Since the Renaissance, imagination in art and science has sat sometimes uneasily, sometimes too easily with wealth and privilege. There may be nothing democratic in Eliasson’s expensive, spectacular art, but Contact’s fusion of science, art, nature (Earth-bound and cosmic) and social connectedness contrasts pointedly and paradoxically with its setting in the opulent property of a global luxury brand — “the blandishments of follies and bling” as Jones puts it. As Eliasson’s artist statement asserts: “contact is about experience rather than consumption….is where inclusion begins….is the highest luxury of all”. But without the Fondation’s patronage, the experience of Contact in situ or even in these artfully designed pages would be denied.

Somewhat less reconcilable is the statement “contact is not a picture,… is not a representation”. Placing contact with art (a picture, a representation) in opposition to contact through human touch and empathy is not quite right. Just as Your House resonates with the perspective of the physicist/philosopher/humanist Bachelard, for whom the image is language, so too does the language of Contact as exhibition, images, objects, book — and experience. We cannot have contact without it.

Studio Olafur Eliasson. 2015. Olafur Eliasson, Contact, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris 2014 – 2015.

Further Reading, Looking & Listening

Architecture“, Bookmarking Book Art, 12 November 2019.

Bachelard, Gaston, M. Jolas, and Etienne Gilson. 1964. The poetics of space. Boston: Beacon Press.

Chavasse, Paule. Interviewer. 1959. “Gaston Bachelard – Entretien : La poétique de l’espace.” Radiodiffusion Française (RDF). 1959. Accessed 8 February 2021.

Denis, Claire. 2016. Contact by Olafur Eliasson. Video. 8 March 2016. Accessed 7 February 2021.

Eliasson, Olafur. 2009. “Not how, but why!” in Concrete Design Book on Implicit Performance. Eds. Siebe Bake and Billy Nolan. Brussels: FEBELCEM.

Fondation Louis Vuitton. 2015. Contact – Olafur Eliasson. Video. 13 January 2015. Accessed 7 February 2021.

Jones, Caroline A. 2014. “Event Horizon: Olafur Eliasson’s Raumexperimente”, pp. 132-37, in Contact. Paris: Flammarion.

Marian Macken. 2018. Binding Space: The Book as Spatial Practice. London and New York: Routledge.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2016. “Matter, Hapticity and Time Material Imagination and the Voice of Matter.” Building Material, no. 20: 171-89. Accessed February 8, 2021.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2011. The embodied image: imagination and imagery in architecture. Chichester: J. Wiley & Sons.

Razzall, Katie. 2013. “Celebrating books… with pages made of glass“, Channel 4 News, 20 September 2013. Accessed 3 November 2020.

Bookmarking Book Art – Irma Boom on the future of the book

Fore-edge of Shelia Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor  by Nina Stritzler–levin and Arthur C. Danto
(Yale University Press, 2006)
Designed by Irma Boom

“AM: How would you sketch the future of the book?

IB: The book has a great future. In the statement in my little red book [Irma Boom: The Architecture of the Book] I talk about the renaissance of the book. It is already happening now. … 

At a recent event, Massimo Vignelli claimed ‘The book is dead’. …

I was shocked when Massimo repeated that sentence, I read it everywhere. But the printed book does not need any defender. It has survived 600 years or so. The way information spreads depends on the inventions of that time; paintings have survived, photos, and the book is another form.

Anne Miltenburg, “Reputations: Irma Boom“, Eye Magazine (Summer 2014). From