15 Mar 2021 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

How has the pandemic changed the experience of the haptic in your book art practice?

“In some way I view this whole Global Pandemic as a vessel for democracy. Accessibility and Plurality. When we see the letters POD we think Print On Demand, but now I just think Publish On Demand. So many people generate works and copies of the work that are to be left behind building cities of forgotten books. 

PublishOD is a relevant space to be considered. A space not yet fully understood. How many trees? How many books? Are we supposed to reserve forests for future books? Print and publish what is necessary and what is going to be used?” – Juan Pablo Ayala

“What does the haptic experience mean to a book artist? For a medium that is based in object/object interaction, quite possibly everything. With the only option to connect with people today being the internet, creating and experiencing the haptic proves to be a challenge. While challenging, it is not one that should not be ignored. Computers, the internet, and the digital world offer ample opportunity to explore how books can exist in a synthetic world. We should take this chance to explore this reality, and not have to wait for new technology to free the digital medium.”  – Joey Gage

We are currently reading Glenn Adamson’s Thinking Through Craft. In his book, Adamson introduces examples of art/work to illustrate and provoke thought about the delineation and relationship between craft and art. Though he does not include book art as one of the disciplines, the discussion is applicable. During the pandemic, we share book models digitally on Zoom. This has forced us to translate the experience of our craft verbally. Ironically, the digital barrier has emphasized our understanding and awareness of materiality and skill. It has provided a different perspective as book artists. Craft and art join in the print studio and bindery, shared materials, smell of ink, conversation, music, and community. With the pandemic, this has been sharply curtailed, and given us time to appreciate what is on pause. – Joni B Bissell 

Adamson, Glenn. Thinking Through Craft. 2007. New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts; reprinted 2018.

“Despite all the drawbacks in presenting and viewing a finished artist book virtually, there is something to be said for showing the beginning ideas of a book over a screen. Perhaps in removing the haptic it allows for concentration on the idea itself and not the misaligned paper or the tape holding the pages in place. Though the haptic seems to be a necessary part of the finished product, maybe in removing it for just a moment during the planning process, the idea is really allowed to flourish.” – Rebecca Josephson

“What makes a book inherently a book? Is it the physicality of the object or the experience of the object through time and space? Is the physical interaction with the book inherent to the meaning of the book? What does the current lack of ability to have a physical interaction mean for the book as a work of art? What are books in a digital space? Does the digital platform become the medium of the book in the absence of a physical ability to handle or experience a book? 

There aren’t concrete answers to these questions. Digitally interactive artists books do exist, but is it the same experience that a viewer has with a physical copy of that “same” book? The sudden lack of a haptic experience during the pandemic has forced us to question the convention of the book.” – Dina Pollack

“Experiences are informed through our senses and the haptic experience has moved to the platforms of digital screens and videos. The engagement of a modified version, “digital experience” of the visual, limits the haptic experience. The pandemic has imposed restrictions on closeness, public engagements, and for lovers of the sensory experiences lack of touch limits our understanding of the haptic. There will always be challenges for those that seek to engage in the work that asks more of its viewers/ participants even without a pandemic. My hands will continue to create dreams and move ideas into the consciousness of physical form.” – Cinthia Marisol Lozano 

Juan Pablo Ayala ‘21, Joni Bissell ‘21, Joey Gage ‘22, Becca Josephson ‘21, Cinthia Marisol Lozano ‘21, and Dina Pollack ‘21 are graduate Book Art Students at Mills College in Oakland, CA. Together, they are collaborating and moderating blog posts for CBAA for the months of March and April. 


  • 15 Mar 2021 9:44 AM | Peter Tanner
    There is a great deal of relevant questioning and hope in these posts. From sustainability in the face of an uncertain physical/haptic future, to affirmation that dreams can be given physical form if the desire is great enough on behalf of the book, or other, artist. Where does the synthetic perception and the disembodied haptic connect? Does the idea that initiates a work derive its importance as a communicated message, or is it only through translation into form that this can be accomplished? Further, as a medium, book artistry appears to be gravely at risk in the new normal of an even more isolated and isolating world where the act of translating an idea into corporeal form is more difficult to accomplish without access to the means of production. More than anything I think the questions and issues raised represent a barometer of what is being taught, how those teachings are echoed as considerations that are confronted in the work of these, and other, book artist’s process and practice. I also think that these reflections parallel inquiries of other book artists and theorists encountering similar challenges to develop either new, or revised, critical and theoretical languages for the examination of works in this field of aesthetic object and thought production. Practitioners appear to be reconsidering production and distribution practices. They also seem to be reflecting upon diversity and representation within the field of book artistry. It could be roughly compared to the covid temperature test to enter a building, but instead it is the test to move book arts practice and theory into a new (I hope) post pandemic set of inquiries and expectations.
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