Bookmarking Book Art — Large-Scale Book Art Installations

tumblr_mp4ihggjQv1r7l28fo3_1280
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.’

aliciamartinbiographies2
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.

bookcell-lead01
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

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

 

Bookmarking Book Art – Large-Scale Installations, Update 20170609

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

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

Luzinterruptus

Alicia Martín

Marta Minujin

Math Monahan

Jan Reymond Rosace

Mike Stilkey

Rintala Eggertsson Architects

Rusty Squid

Liu Wei

Vita Wells

Wendy Williams

Bookmarking Book Art – Vita Wells, Updated 11 February 2014

Wells %22Flights of Mind%22From 3 February to 20 March 2014, Vita Wells (born Béa Welsh Weicker) has a new “Flights of Mind” installation. A year ago, she had placed an installation of the “Flights of Mind” at the Berkeley Central Library, the first being in 2012 at the Oakopolis Gallery in Oakland, California.

Wells Flights of Mind BerkeleyFollowing the Berkeley installation, the following was posted on BooksOnBooks:

Appropriately, this latest installation was for the “11th Annual Authors Dinner,” sponsored by the Berkeley Public Library Foundation.  Soaring forty feet above the patrons’ heads were hundreds of altered discarded books, their covers spread into wingspans, their pages folded into rounded bird bellies and each book suspended on cables from the ceiling at varying pitches,  yaws and distances from one another.   They are no longer there, nor at the Oakopolis.  By the installation’s name, they should now exist only in the mind, but the artist provides an extensive online “installation” with numerous pictures and videos, an essay on her intent and a detailed description of the installation’s physical characteristics.

It is delightful to have access to the online version, and we may fool ourselves into thinking of it as virtual.  Even the digital is subject to forensics.  Still, although Wells may well take down the online installation, or its URL may be hijacked or fall into 404-dom, it is not temporary in the sense that its instances in Berkeley and Oakland were.  So does its presence challenge the integrity of those temporary installations?

Almost a century ago now, Yeats wrote of the swans’ “bell-beat” of wings overhead at Coole, and that poem entered the world of lasting works of art.  It has its many physical instantiations in books the world over.  It lives in recordings.  It lives on the Web.  It lives in countless minds ready to recite it.  Of course, the books will rot, the recordings and sites decay, the minds fall into silence.  Yet in the presence of thought become art, soaring overhead, we dare to dream of persistence even in the face of such imperfections as Wells’ “worn, frayed, … beat-up and patched” birdbooks or the challenge of the age of digital reproduction to the integrity of art.

… now they drift on the still water

Mysterious, beautiful;

Among what rushes will they build,

By what lake’s edge or pool

Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day

To find they have flown away?

Vita Wells’ art feeds the dream.

Related publication

Tracey Taylor, “Berkeley artist Vita Wells makes books fly at main library”, Berkeleyside, 11 February 2013, accessed 11 February 2014: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/02/11/berkeley-artist-vita-wells-makes-books-fly-at-main-library/