« ON THE SUBJECT OF DESIGN TRANSPARENCY IN MATERIAL BOOKS | Main | DESIGN STUDIO »

ON ALTERED BOOKS (BRIEFLY)

Altered books are books that use the form and content of an existing, published book as a starting point and springboard towards a message of another kind. This could be either in opposition to, in support of the content that the book already contains—or—it could use the content to create a new kind of content altogether. However, no matter which approach the artist uses, the content and form that exists becomes the foundation and an integral part of the new content, whatever that may be. As Johanna Drucker says in The Century of Artist’s Books,

“The convention of the book is both its constrained meanings... and the space of new work... But working on an existing book is not quite the same as either of these—it is not a replication of conventional form and it is not a completely new statement within the existing vocabulary of forms. The transformed book is an intervention... All of these practices of working onto or into an existing work are interventions into the social order, and the text of the world as it is already written? (109).

In short, working with altered books allows one to investigate not only the form of the most common book—the codex—by deconstructing it and restructuring it, but altered books are also a kind of postmodern re-examination of the state of the book. The destruction of the book is widely seen as sacrilege, and it is often equivalent with the destruction of knowledge and free thought. But in a publishing world where thought seems to be second to profit and mass appeal, altered books call the viewer / reader to question what it is they are really buying and reading.