Book Sculpture

Writing is one of the fine arts. It is subjective and intimately crafted by a person or people working as a team. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1455 and revolutionized the written word. For the past 500 +/- years, book have been created in a bound, printed, and uniform shape. We’re now at the verge of another revolution of the written word. Digital books are gaining popularity and market share. The devices upon which they’re read are becoming more economical. This revolution allows books to become more flexible and less “sacred”. Books don’t have to be inviolate. Artists are able to express opinions, not only in printed word upon the page, but through the manipulation of bound books.

I do not think that digitizing stories heralds the end of the paper book. In fact, it opens up new possibilities and a wider discussion of the role of books in society. Will books become more interactive? Will reading become a greater social activity than it is now? What are the benefits to paper books? To ebooks? Is there an inherently sensual appeal to reading? (Ereader devices mimic the printed book by being flat and rectangular objects that must be held.)

Artists in all mediums are grappling with these ideas and other implications of the Digital Age. Striking examples can be found in altered book art and sculpture.

Here are some examples of book art.

Free the Soul
by Dawn Coleman
White Cat
by Mike Stilkey
by Gigi Alvare

Altered book art takes many different forms. Artists might use books as a canvas for painting, or cut pages into intricate designs. Sometimes the pages of a book are shaved and cut into forms. Other times the book might be left intact but displayed in a specific manner Book pages might be dyed or distorted by water. The diversity in book art is astounding and as varied as the genres of fiction.

Another way that the written word is manipulated is sculptures made out of books. I think this is different from book art by the scale of the endeavor. I believe altered book art is that which focuses attention on a single or small collection of books. However the artist manipulates it, the viewer’s attention should be drawn to a discrete object or focus. On the other hand, book sculptures use multiple book in a way that the art is first experienced as a whole before the viewer focuses upon what it is made out of. For example, the Prague Municipal Library has a famous art installation made out of books, light, and mirrors. It looks like a narrow tower that rises to the ceiling. It even has an opening into which you can lean. The mirrors inside the structure make it appear to be endlessly tall and deep. This would be interesting enough, but is also constructed out of books used like bricks! This is especially wonderful because of it’s setting in a library. Here are some more examples of book sculpture.

Cascade of Books
by Alicia Martin (?)
Good as Gold
by Donald Lipski
by Matej Kren

I think it’s wonderful how people are using and owning books in such a way. Just as some language is spoken by the body, this “discussion” about the future of books is taking place through artistic design and viewers’ impressions.

About shortlibrarian

I am a woman working in the Twin Cities as a programming Librarian.
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2 Responses to Book Sculpture

  1. Linda says:


  2. Pingback: 2010 in Review | Short Librarian's Blog

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