English 430: Literature & the Visual Arts

December 15, 2009

A Great Century of Art

Filed under: Uncategorized — mpoverly @ 5:15 pm

Johanna Drucker in The Century of Artists’ Books does not want to define just yet what an artists book is but rather to explore what it is not. I think this is a good thing because to fully define a thing automatically limits it and as we have just seen in our class a book takes many shapes and sizes, styles and intentions. So if “the artist book is created as an original work of art”(2). And it incorporates sister arts like painting, sculpture and writing it stands to reason that the book form would be an excellent choice for the artist…after all “the book is a highly malleable, versatile form of expression” (9)
What is of particular interest to me is how the artists continually find new outlets in order to express themselves. Once society can get them into a box of defined elements the artist will push that limitation every time. As artists do not necessarily create for monetary reward (big secret!) but because of an artistic drive to express or as Drucker says “the desire to make a voice heard, or a vision available, fuels artist’s books”(7). How exciting then that this unique genre, the artist book, has avoided a definition for so long!
So why would the artist choose the book format? As we have discussed in class the book is (I think this is how Dr. Hatfield put it) “a folded compact space to keep stuff.” So it stands to reason that this work of art can go with the artist to various places and situations for inspiration which I think would make it all the more desirable as a format. It also makes it a more easily accessed form to enjoy as the viewer.
Drucker also believes that this “artist book” must have a reason for choosing the book format to express its purpose, “some conviction, some soul, some reason to be and to be a book in order to succeed” (10-11). I wonder what “succeed” means here if in fact the artist is not expecting monetary reward and we don’t have a full definition for it to fall short of doing something. I suppose what I am getting at is that to me a book a place for a dialogue to ensue between the artist and the reader. The kind of book the reader picks up is up to the reader. Certainly if it is ‘good’ it will find an audience.
What I love most is that this thing called the “artist book” has turned the standardized way we look at a book and its purpose on its ear. That there is no “founding father “who beget whole traditions through their influence…”for this art form, is exciting (11). Even more so because the sky is the limit on what can be done with this medium, again as we saw in class from one simple exercise to make a book proved.
It is important to note that Drucker qualifies the artist book as something that is not merely a vehicle for reproduction (9). She goes on to discuss the importance of the entire concept as it fits into the form of the book. How the concept is all inclusive of the many elements that give it “book-ness”. I suppose that is why it will always lean in my opinion in the direction of art!

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