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.’
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.
Matej Kren is another book installation artist, whose thoughtful, towering installations have been featured in Prague and numerous other cities in this hemisphere.
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.
For other large-scale book art installations and why they might be enjoyable, take a look here.
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.