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Re: [BKARTS] Stella Waitzkin Website (fwd)

Thanks, Richard. I'm far from certain of these ideas and gratefully
appreciate your constructive criticism. Thank you for correcting my
misspelling and mispunctuation. I apologize to you and to the list for
being so sloppy. As someone brought up in the New Criticism, who studied
with Tom Tanselle, who read Robert Graves and Laura Riding's "Survey of
Modernist Poetry" with unbounded admiration, I do believe that punctuation
is of profound importance. However, in this case, I do think, comma or no
comma, that Danto's construction implies a progression, and that the
phrase "but rendered unusable, and turned into art" might be read to imply
a "therefore" as in "but rendered unusable, and THEREFORE turned into
art," without doing violence to the mechanics of language. I think that if
we understand Hegel's aufheben in the sense Danto does -- to preserve, to
negate, to transcend -- mine is a very possible reading. There is no
transcendence without negation.

I sincerely appreciate your concession, the question of whether Danto
intended to say that messing up the book's functionality is determinative
can be uncoupled from the idea that messing up the book's functionality
can be determinative and is an important, indeed a central, gesture in
Waitzkin's work. I agree with you that Waitzkin is "pre-eminent in book
art and an inspirational leader in the field," and that is one reason why
her negation of the book is worth deliberating over.

By the way, I'm using a very conventional definition of book, in part
because I am tending to believe that artists' books work as art when they
resonate against a clear collective sense of what a book is. An
abstraction succeeds when it refers to something that exists independently
of the artist's imagination, and when it doesn't, it dissolves into

As you know, Rutgers has purchased and solicited donations of many
artists' books that do not fit the conventional description, and I tend to
believe, that it is precisely the significatory function or how the
'nonbookness' of "artists' books" works that makes them interesting. If
"artists' books" were books, well, we would have no need of them, since we
already have books that function spectacularly well as books.

I guess I think that if we were going to argue for the status of artists
books as decorative arts it would make sense to establishing as a
criterion, as someone in the Bone Folder did recently, the question, "how
does this project work as a book?" But, I think, at least from a fine arts
perspective, the more interesting question is how does the work *not* work
as a book. Or, how does this "book" disrupt the functionality of the book,
or defer its desirability as a book, to achieve its unique signficatory

Of course, in many instances, the significatory function of an artists
books is to signify some physical or conceptual element of the book or its
socio-cultural context. BUt that does not lessen the reality that what
they are signifying is not what they are, that is, they may be signifying
"book" but they are not functioning as a book.

Ah, more later. Lest I be locked in the library and the artists books on
my office shelves exact their revenge...


> Thanks, Mike, for pointing to Stella's website.  The photos of her
> work and her apartment should be seen by every book artist.
> You wrote " Waitzkin was not a book-artist."
> Not only do I consider Stella Waitzkin to BE a book artist, I
> consider her pre-eminent in book art, an inspirational leader in the
> field, and a primary source of ideas that have been incorporated by a
> wide range of practitioners. She was one of the first artists
> exhibited at The Center for Book Arts in the 1970's, and was included
> in the landmark 1990 exhibition "Book Arts in the USA."
> She called herself "a bookie" and considered her works to be
> bookwork. She called them books. For example, read her artist
> statement for that catalog:
> http://www.centerforbookarts.org/newsite/exhibits/archive/fullview.asp?showID=81&catalogpage=54
>   Arthur Danto's text is a worthy read. It didn't strike me as
> particularly analytical, but more like fan mail:
> http://stellawaitzkin.com/texts/danto.html
> Your commentary on it is also a fun read, but I must disagree with
> your interpretation of his sentence, which I have corrected below,
> adding the punctuation your quotation had removed, and correcting the
> spelling of "unusable." His punctuation is important in establishing meaning:
> "The books were embalmed, but rendered unusable, and turned into art"
> You suggest that he means "the act of rendering a book unusuable
> (sic) turns it into art."  That is neither stated nor implied.  The
> fact that Stella turned the books into art is not conditional on her
> rendering them unusable, nor is the state of being "unusable" either
> a necessary or sufficient condition to be art in that syntax.
> The further significations you assert from that interpretation are
> not supported by the text. The statement "that an object cannot
> simultaneously be a book and a work of art" is not a valid inference.
> A reasonable paraphrase of his comment is that she made the books
> into a sculpture, that in doing so they became unusable as texts, and
> the resulting object he considers to be a work of art. There is no
> contrapositive or implied notion that would suggest a book that is
> usable cannot be a work of art.
> --
> Richard
> http://minsky.com
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