At The London Book Fair today at Whitechapel Art Gallery, the excitement I feel is similar to entering a haberdashery or DIY store. The difference here is that the ideas of others cause a spark, instead of raw materials.
On the hunt for inspiration for my own art books and current project YES, the first book that caught my attention uses code that at first glance appeared to be hieroglyphics. It was a small, oblong flip book by Nicole Polonsky, each page containing 1 of the 32 fourettés (a movement in classical ballet) from Swan Lake. This language captures and records movement as the marks repeat beautifully throughout.
Upstairs in the Cafe, not leaving much space for cakes and cappuccinos, is Unbinding the book. Creative Studio Jotta and indie publishing platform blurb put a call out some months ago for artists to be part of this project. Here we see the results, books form installations with sound, interaction and lie on grains of sand. Books become objects to be heard, touched and shared, as the blurb states ‘Unbinding the Book considers the way in which text and image can invoke narrative, whilst bringing to life the materiality, form and physicality of books.’
Using a Kindle for the first time this year I missed the object of the book. Moving through the pages helps referencing and exploring the terrain as I get wrapped in the text. The physical experience of reading was playfully encouraged. Sharing the reading experience on a seesaw with a member of the team on Callum Copley’s The Man of the Crowd the pages of the book between us were orientated in both directions so we could read as we played. It sparked a conversation between us about play and other interventions encouraging people to be more involved. So we did share, but didn’t get around to reading the text!
The books becoming art objects remind us how precious they are. Tools to share knowledge that were much rarer than they are now. My mother hates seeing books on the floor- as she sees them as highly valued and to be respected. Not on the floor but on the airwaves Magz Hall aims to bring together the technologies of radios and publishing. A book is read on a certain frequency and you must be tuned in to hear the sound waves. The reading is of a spiritual text that sees technology ‘as a spiritually charged force’; the value of the content of the book surpassing its physical form.
On top of plinths books by Laura Jouan sit in boxes of different coloured sands that in turn form layers. The books are made of acetate sheets which enable letters and words to appear and disappear through the material of the pages. Books contain either text or arrows which move across the page reminding us of the physical act of reading; the movement of our hands and eyes as we travel through the text. The first letters I see are MO, the first word I think is ‘movement’. Instead, the word monument appears. A word that states historical importance, to retain and share knowledge and thoughts. These physical objects ‘books’ are monuments to our time, a material form that has recorded, celebrated, argued, debated culture, knowledge and the good and bad of humanity. I will certainly think again before placing one on the floor.
Nicole Polonsky is shown by KALEID editions.
There are events throughout the weekend for children and adults, find out more about the programme here
Images courtesy of blurb