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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Recycled Library: Altered Books

Print is dead! Long live print! These artists have carved into books, metaphorically and literally.
By Lauren Carroll Harris
June 03, 2012
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Recycled Library: Altered Books

Print is dead! Long live print! These artists have carved into books, metaphorically and literally.
By Lauren Carroll Harris
June 03, 2012
  shares

Print is dead! Long live print! Depending on your viewpoint, Recycled Library: Altered Books is either a commemoration of the book, or a celebration of its durable refusal to be superseded by iPads and smartphones. As paper mills give way to hard drives and server farms, the end of books may or may not be upon us. But, either way, the pixel's challenge to the page makes a foreboding backdrop to this museum-like collection of second-hand books modified by artists.

In this show the printed page replaces the canvas. Some of the seventeen artists sculpt the contours of tiered paper into tiny map-like mountains, others hammer pages together. All see the book as an aesthetic object valued for its look and feel, as much as its written content. The result is a concrete dialogue between the worlds of art and literature, and a timely exploration of the relevance of the written word.

Patrick Pound creates something out of almost nothing with Ex Libris (1998), a large-scale wall collage of mostly blank first and last leaves of books. Archie Moore does the unthinkable and carves into the book — the bible itself — to hide a miniature, folded arc within the tome, in Maltheism (2007). Both works carry a common motif from the show: a sense of creation and renewal of the original books, rather than destruction.

Liz Jeneid's Book for a Journey (2002) is concerned with multiculturalism. The artist has the following quote, attributed to Sarah Blandon, inscribed on her pages: "…a dialogic encounter of two cultures does not necessarily result in merging or mixing. Each retains its own unity and open totality, but they are mutually enriched." The same can be said for this show's combination of literary texts and contemporary art. The visual weight of hardback spines and written letterforms seems to imbue these works with automatic significance, and so the pieces appear to become more than the sum of their parts. Of course, what this show is really missing is the addictive smell that usually consumes me in libraries. But arty, nerdy bibliophiles will enjoy this historical collection of work nonetheless.

For hardcore art and literature geeks, there are free volunteer-led tours of Recycled Library on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11.30am. Or children of the 90s can make a day of it on Thursday June 14 and catch a free screening of The Neverending Story 3 at noon as well (yessss!).


Image: Schach #1 (circle) / Schach #2 (triangle) / Schach #3 (square) by Alex Selenitsch (2006)

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