Today… today I started my MFA program… 6 intense weeks of classes and rehearsals seven days a week. I’ve been told it’ll challenge me and we will all cry, but today on my first day I was awed and exhilarated. Why?
I learned something that changed my whole being. Call me naive, or uncultured, but today I learned that a book didn’t have to have any words. Heck, a book didn’t even need to have pages!
In my directing for choreographers class today we met in the Special Collections section of the UWM library. “Can you read a book without text?” we were asked. “No.” “Why not? It still has a story to tell, the blank pages, the binding, the smell.” The list went on. Then the fun came. We were introduced to Artist Books.
I’m not going to say anything about Artist Books, just look at some of the collection UWM has. Maybe you already know what an Artist Book is, maybe you are like me and will learn today. But I hope you enjoy these amazing books!
“But that’s not a book!” you are all saying. And my professor would ask you, “Why not?”
Here are some things from the Inter-web that describes Artist Books.
WARNING: Artist’s books should come with a warning label. Once you know what they are, be warned, you have the burden of trying to explain them to others.
Essentially, artist’s books are contemporary art. If they are art, then they must be made by artists. If they resemble books at times, then they might be defined as books, or publications, made by artists. But what if they are made by philosophers or writers?
Another way to explain artist’s books is by elimination, that is, by stating what they are not:
They are not children’s books
They are not sketch books.
They are not diaries.
They are not blank books.
They are not exhibition catalogs.
They are not reproductions of a body of an artist’s work.
They are not art books(a common misnomer).
However, they may parody or play with any of the above, as well as all other standard categories such as novels, self-help books, non-fiction, cookbooks, operating manuals, manifestos, travel guides, essays, etc. Artist’s books function in the same way as contemporary art: as an expression of someone’s creativity, often with social commentary, but sometimes in a purely abstract way, in absence of words or recognizable imagery.
Artists’ books have employed a wide range of forms, including scrolls, fold-outs, concertinas or loose items contained in a box as well as bound printed sheet. Artists have been active in printing and book production for centuries, but the artist’s book is primarily a late 20th-century form.
“Artists’ books are books or book-like objects over the final appearance of which an artist has had a high degree of control; where the book is intended as a work of art in itself.” Stephen Bury
Thanks to today I have a new outlook on books, art, and everything in between. I know I’ll make an artist book of my own! Maybe that can be a summer project for all of you! What would your Artist Book be?