The Artist Book, dislocated // David LeGault
I've spent the better part of the past week putting together a ten-page book. It's only a book in the traditional sense: it has two covers, a basic binding, a few pages.
But beyond that, things become complicated--this project is a mix of text, image, and nontraditional media (candle wax, fine papers, a string of film pulled from a VHS cassette).
The project is for a course in Artist's Books: a work of art projected through the book medium. The class is taught by some of the faculty at a local resource, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.
The class has been a nice break from the other book I'm working on: instead of drafting text I spend my time working a paper cutter, cutting book board and making cloth for binding. I sew through countless sheets of paper, creating art out of thread instead of words. In the past few months I've learned the basics of stab-binding, dos-equis, and French bindings that weave pages together like a tapestry.
In any case, I'm constantly fascinated with the ways these projects open up the definition of the book. Take, for example, Tom Phillips' A Humument, created by altering an earlier text. Essentially, Phillips went through W.H. Mallock's A Human Document and covered up most of the text, creating a brand new narrative out of the already existing one. Here, we see the book as a kind of found text, rather than one purely generated by the author.
I've been thinking of how we can take the artist book form as a model for the more traditional form. I think of the rising popularity of the E-reader, how it transforms the book from artifact into nothing but text. I'm against this practice for a number of reasons (I like the feel of paper in my hands, the portability and resilience of a non-electronic form). What I like about the artist book is that it must exist as an object. How can we apply this to our more traditional text?
A few ideas come to mind, mostly in terms of typography/design. I think graphic elements (like those seen in A Humument) can bring additional meaning to a text. I think of more mainstream examples like Danielewski's House of Leaves that use design to a significant, non-gimmicky effect. Maybe this is what we should all be striving for.