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Re: Book Art vs. Book Arts



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I was wondering if applying the term Art (large and bold) doesn't
automatically provincialize the book arts, inasmuch as it imposes
evaluative criteria that are foreign to it. Some bookart objects are or
aspire to be Art, in the sense they use the vocabulary of the book in some
performative way, or they contribute to some ongoing discourse relevant to
art history, but many, and perhaps most, are not. They reflect a concern
with virtuosity, with preserving or recovering traditional techniques,
with interpreting the meanings of ancient and 'exotic' book work, with
creating beauty, or being playful or expressing a love of form, or
commemorating personal loss. From the perspective of art history, their
preoccupation with craft or repetition or retinal appeal may seem
provincial, or backward, or minor, but, just the same, the preoccupations
of western Art might seem provincial, likewise. It's possible that the art
of the Khmer or the Igbo or the Lakota or you name it would seem to have
more in common with the latest offering of the guild of bookworkers than
with Goldin or Beuys or Warhol or DeKooning. Not because their work is
'bad', but because of the often noted insularity of modern western art,
particularly with its historical valorizations, and because, when one
centers oneself according to one set of normative beliefs and attitudes,
other beliefs and attitudes are liable to seem provincial. I am not
arguing that Western art *is* provincial, or that there aren't some
recognizable existential reflections common to tribal art and the art
products of the West. I am arguing I guess that one risks being
ethnocentric by exclusively equating power or meaning with Art, or by
borrowing the determinative intellectual structures of Art history as a
standard of measurement or explanation. It may be that book workers whose
creations are beautiful and deeply moving, and who learn to collaborate
and communicate with others through book work, who perpetuate craft and
culture, might be doing something equal to (or better than) art.

Of course, the problem then arises that by dismissing the evaluative
schema of art, one relativizes book arts, so that there is no longer
available an appeal to rational, objective, criteria. By privileging the
criteria of a particular 'craft', one loses the ability to judge between
it and other craft objects. In a sense, the book arts are poised between
the Scylla of The Book and the Charybdis of Art.





Michael joseph


On Thu, 23 Aug 2001, Richard Minsky wrote:
> list.
>
> This is a distinction that is important to the consideration of the
> work as Art. I refer to The Book Art Movement, and to an exhibition of
> Book Art.  A few years ago I asked the CBA's then Executive Director
> Peter Smith to propose to the Board that the organization drop the
> final "s" and become The Center for Book Art. His view was that The
> Center for Book Arts has classes and workshops in the crafts of
> bookmaking, as well as presenting exhibitions of Book Art, and there
> the plural form is appropriate. That is a reasonable argument.
>
> The website for the exhibition Judith announced does not use the phrase Book
> Art, but says "This is an exhibit of  one-of-a-kind-artist-made books...."
>
> I am curious what other listmembers think about this.
>
> 1. Does the term "Book Arts" provincialize our work?
> 2. Does it limit the recognition or consideration of the work?
> 3. Does it impose a low financial value on the work, compared to other art
> forms?
> 4. Is "Book Art" any better? Is a phrase like "one-of-a-kind-artist-made books"
> a better solution, even though it is awkward?
> 5. Do we need a concept like "Book Art Movement" to position the field?  Is it
> in fact a movement?
> 6. If so, is Ulises Carrion's _The New Art of Making Books_ the Manifesto? If
> not that, then what?
> 7. Is it just my point of view as a geezer, or has anyone else noticed that a
> lot of "Book Arts" stuff being done today looks like it came from a Hallmark
> Gift Shoppe? Does this indicate the popularization of the field among the Mall
> crowd? Is it due to the recent plethora of Bookbinding "craft project" books?
>
> --
>
>  Richard
>  http://www.minsky.com
>  http://www.centerforbookarts.org
>
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