Bookmarking Book Art — Large-Scale Book Art Installations (updated 20180307)

Enclosed Content Chatting Away In The Colour Invisibility, Anouk Kruithof, 2009

Anouk Kruithof’s massive wall of colored books echoes two leitmotivs in book art — the installation and the presumed disappearance of the book in the onslaught of digital media. Reminiscent of pixels on the computer screen, the work is entitled Enclosed Content Chatting Away In The Colour Invisibility and consists of over 3,500 books rescued from the recycling dump and whose arrangement varies with each installation.  Kruithof has stated that she seeks to “invent new things out of fragments of the past.’

Biografias, Alicia Martín,
2005, site specific installation, Casa de America, Madrid

Alicia Martín’s installation, called Biografias, has appeared in Madrid, The Hague, Cordoba, Linz and Valencia.   The torrent of defenestrated books is made of over 5,000 titles fixed to a wire frame.  

Alicia Martin “absorbed” by her work

Matej Kren is another book installation artist, whose thoughtful, towering installations have been featured in Prague and numerous other cities in this hemisphere.

Book Cell, Matej Kren, 2006, Centro de Arte Moderna – Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal

Although Brian Goggin does not use actual books as his material, his works in bronze, polycarbonate, steel and LED prompt reflections on books, language, the transmission of ideas, permanence and impermanence.

Speechless, Brian Goggin, 2008-2009
Bronze, site-specific installation
Lafayette Library, Lafayette, California

Looking back to the late 19th century, you will find that Myanmar can lay claim to the world’s largest book.

Atthakatha Slabs, Sandamuni (1867/1913)
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
Dhammapada Page 1/4, Kuthodaw (1868)
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

For other large-scale book art installations and why they might be enjoyable, take a look here.


Bookmarking Book Art – Large-Scale Installations, Update 20190909

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

Vivianna Checchia

William Cordova

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


Alicia Martín

Jorge Méndez Blake

Marta Minujin

Math Monahan

Prabhakar Pachpute

Jan Reymond Rosace

Mike Stilkey

Rintala Eggertsson Architects

Johnny Rodgers

Rusty Squid

Liu Wei

Vita Wells

Wendy Williams

Bookmarking Book Art — Julie Dodd (2013), updated (2017)

Can’t See the Trees for the Forest, Julie Dodd
© a-n The Artists Information Company. All rights reserved.

“Can’t See the Trees for the Forest” by Julie Dodd is an installation of book pages cut in the shape of trees and suspended from the ceiling.  The installation last appeared at the Bridewell in Liverpool. The oak trees in the back rank are clean and clearly readable while the firs in the front rank obscuring them are blackened.  Dodd’s art is art with a green message, protesting the replacement of England’s native trees with non-native quick-growing species.

“The process of installing this work was more important than the finished piece to me.  The indigenous trees although similar in shape, colour and content are all individual whilst the addition of the invasive fir trees obscuring the view left me wanting to tear them down to reveal the beauty behind.”  “Can’t See the Trees for the Forest,” Julie Dodd

Since the installation above in 2013, Dodd has mounted installations at the CODA Museum in Apeldoorn, the Beeldentuin Achter de Westduinen in Ouddoorp and the Liverpool Book Art Exhibition.

Out of Palms Way © Julie K. Dodd
Out of Palms Way
© Julie K. Dodd

On her site, Dodd writes of “Out of Palms Way”:

The clearing of large areas of forest, plantations and peat land in Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa is having a detrimental impact on our planet. This is happening in order to sustain the demand for the production of palm oil and is causing terrible environmental damage.

Coral Colony © Julie K. Dodd
Coral Colony
© Julie K. Dodd

“Coral Colony”, stripped back to basic shapes in paper and stripped of color in bleached paper, demonstrates the loss that is occurring in coral beds around the world as pollution and rising sea temperatures caused by climate change kill off the algae that gives the coral its hues.

Fungal Spores © Julie K. Dodd
Fungal Spores
© Julie K. Dodd
Fungal Spores © Julie K. Dodd
Fungal Spores
© Julie K. Dodd

Dodd writes:

The fungal spores series is an ever changing project that sees new spores develop from the last through experimentation with different ways of rolling paper from old books.

 The project started after throwing away some books that hadn’t been stored properly over the winter in my studio which had left the books with that damp old book smell. Which led to researching images of fungal spores under the microscope.  

The destruction of the book will eventually produce many spores of various shapes and size to form a large installation.

“Fungal Spores” and the work depicted here place Dodd squarely in the tradition of environmental book art by artists such as Lucy Lippard, Basia Irland, Hans Haacke, Doug Beube, Ann Marie Kennedy, Maggie Puckett and Do Myoung Kim.