The following text and images are from Chronicle's Art Made From Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed, compiled by Laura Heyenga.It is out now. The following excerpt is from the preface, written by Brian Dettmer.
There has been a long tradition of art about the book, of art representing books, of artists’ books, and even altered books; however, in the last five years I have noticed a huge rise in practicing artists and a more interested audience. Most of this book work has emerged as a result of, or a response to, the rise of the Internet and the fact that the role of books has dramatically changed in our current information ecology. Many nonfiction books, specifically reference books, have lost their original function. But I don’t think books will ever die. I think it is the perfect form for many of our ideas and stories. The traditional novel, most fiction, large monographs, art, design, and various other genres of text and image are best in book form because of the quality available in print—the tactility, the functionality, durability, and the authority of the object.
Some books may no longer be as vital as they once were, but like painting at the beginning of our last century, it won’t be replaced or even demoted in our cultural hierarchy by a newer form. When photography and high-speed printing became commonplace, people feared and prophesized about the end of painting. But instead of suffocating painting, printing and photography freed painting from its pedestrian responsibilities and allowed it to evolve into newer, more modern directions. The history of modern art, led by the new freedoms of painting, wouldn’t be the same without these newer technologies for communication. The same is happening now with the book in the digital age. We have an excess of old material we no longer use and an emergence of new ideas about the book. By altering the book, we can explore the meanings of the material and the idea of the book as a symbol for knowledge. We can explore questions about the history and the future of books and the impact of new technology. We can contemplate and illustrate ideas about literature and information technology.
It is not about nostalgia. It is about the richness of its history and the beauty of its form, though more often it goes far beyond this. The infinite ways a book can be explored with our minds and our tools has just begun. We are at an exciting and pivotal moment in the way we record and receive our information. The form of the book, a symbol for ideas, information, and literature, may be the most relevant signi-fier and richest material we can work with today. We need to take advantage of this moment and respect the history of the book while contemplating its future in the face of shifts to digital technology.
The book is technology. The book is a machine. The book is food. The book is a body. It is a vast pool we need to dive into.