01 Mar 2022 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

The College Book Art Association’s Book Art Theory blog has presented engaging and absorbing topics over the previous six plus years of its online activity.  Its posts reflect trends and theories that are shaping the discourse that surrounds the artist book in all of its manifestations.  Here is a curated selection of some of the ideas and trends perceptible in the CBAA Book Art Theory blog.

2015: The first post, on the 30th of September, 2015, was titled “Does Text-To-Be-Read Belong in the Artist’s Book?" This post discusses an issue that is still a theoretical concern for book art: the visual languages of format, image, and text. Other posts in this nascent period appeal for a more diverse history of book arts and the practice of “Book Thinking."

2016: Amidst the offerings of this first full year of the blog is an article that raises the fascinating proposition present in a material reading of the artist book This year also includes what could be the most cited entry from the blog, titled “ The Artist Book and the Sailor Suit.”Though the title sounds glib, this post deals with the question of “to apostrophize or not to apostrophize” when discussing artist books.  This year also consists of posts regarding subjects like: “Erasures: Absence and Presence,” “What Does Theory Want?,” and “Book Art and Social Practice.”

2017: Many of the entries this year address the concerns of book artists in their capacity as educators and studio artists.  Among these posts are those that question the unmonitored and silent distribution of digital materials in the internet age and also tackle how artist books as artifacts are simultaneously accessible and inaccessible.

2018: The thought-provoking topics raised during this year include how to live with art, the question of craft versus art, and the task of “paying attention.”

2019: This year authors broached subjects as diverse as the paradigms that define the artist book, spaces and places for writing, physically embodying poetics as part of the practice of book creation, along with problematic and interesting possibilities that arise from inverting the new art of the book into a vision of an older book art.

2020: This was a year of questions.  It might be conceivable to recall our ignorance and uncertainty regarding a viral pandemic in addition to how to schedule and hold online meetings.  At the threshold of this change the question of whether or not a new theory of the artist book could be generated was introduced, experiences beyond language were considered in relation to artist books, and the revelatory aptitude of memes became even more relevant as extended hours were spent online.  Introspective questions surfaced on the blog, involving subjects such as papers romance with the book, word tornados, space time relationships presented by bookworks, and whether or not as artists “[We’re] Doing It All Wrong.”

2021: Nevertheless, book artists continued forward, assisting each other, and developing new practices for online instruction.  The listening book was proposed as a curious opportunity for further investigation.  Soon thereafter attention was given to the artist book’s ability to extend literature and include non-literary sources.  The examination of the significance of both size and scale was demonstrated to be very relevant to book art.  Finally, “Printing Through the Pandemic” disclosed in what way collaborative print work was possible, why it was and is important, and how it is absolutely necessary in addition to being therapeutic.

2022 This year has begun by questioning the place and relationship of the narratives that are crafted around the book arts, and the importance of “book arts environments” to bridge gaps between institutions and communities, as well as what are often seen as disparate academic disciplines.

Some themes that have become apparent through this analysis are: definitions and identities; histories of the medium(s) as histories of the field; relationships between text and image, as well as text versus image; haptic and intellectual hybrid experiences; techniques (including paper production, printing methods, binding methods) and materials (are you a Codex or a Printed Matter person); mutual support and strategies during a time of crisis; the book arts market place; assembling histories and diversified reading lists artist books as activism; and of course many other diverse questions of a theoretical inclination.[*]

This is what the Book Art Theory blog has unveiled to one reader. What has it revealed to you?

[*] If this brief summary has left out mention of your specific blog entry, it is simply because there was not enough room to do justice to each of the excellent blog entries that are available. Still, at least you know that your words have not gone into the void. You have at least one fan that appreciates your work, your voice and your skill. Thank you for participating in the blog. It is what it is because of you and your efforts.

Peter Tanner is an Associate Instructor in Spanish at the University of Utah and Editor of Openings: Studies in Book Art. He has a Ph.D. in Latin American literature, an MA in Latin American Art History, and a BFA in Painting and Printmaking. His research focuses on artist books from Latin America.

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