14 Nov 2015 9:00 PM | Anonymous

Johanna Drucker in her text The Century of Artists’ Books states that the development of the artist’s book as an idea, form and field did not exist before the 20th century and in its current form developed only since 1945 as a field of artistic practice. Drucker defines the artist’s book as,

… a book created as an original work of art, rather than a reproduction of a preexisting work and […] a book which integrates the formal means of its realization and production with its thematic or aesthetic issues. (p. 2)

Drucker argues that there is a concept of ‘bookness’ — a shared conventional form (two covers and a spine) and “the idea that through thematic unity a book may establish its identity” (p. 327). For example, the way in which sequence is expressed gives each book its distinctive identity: A flipbook is an example of sequence meant to move very quickly and meaning is expressed through the speed in which the pages are ‘flipped’. The materials used to create the book such as paper, board and binding, notes Drucker, can “work against or in favor of sequence design” (p. 259). Books with flaps, envelopes, pop ups and moveable objects built as architecture within the binding encourage readers to engage slowly with the narrative. Graphic novels with small frames encourage a faster pace at filmic speed.

With the embodied performance bound in the making of artists’ books, we inscribe our identities into our books. The practices of autoethnography are supported by a long history in performance through storytelling, giving testimony, witnessing, going ‘in-between’, staging encounters, and creating disturbances. Stacy Holman Jones describes autoethnography as “performance that asks how our personal accounts count” (p. 764). Tami Spry suggests that key to the praxis of performative autoethnography is “the ontological tension between its epistemological potential and its aesthetic imperative” (p. 508): the expression of a sense of being through the knowledge developed within the artefact.

Susan Stewart writes about the attraction to the Victorian miniature book by both makers and consumers and notes that,

The social space of the miniature book might be seen as the social space, in miniature, of all books: the book as talisman to the body and emblem of the self; the book as microcosm and macrocosm; the book as commodity and knowledge, fact and fiction. (p. 41) 

She describes the ties between the souvenir, the past, the present and nostalgia where the souvenir makes memory material. The souvenir, then, has a dual role: to make the past authentic and discredit the present because the nostalgia bound within the souvenir, and for which it is a referent, challenges the banalities of the everyday. I suggest that the artist’s book utilises performative sequence to tell a story through autoethnographic visual and linguistic narrative.

Drucker, Johanna (2004) The Century of Artists’ Books, New York: Granary Books.

Holman Jones, Stacy (2005) “Autoethnography: Making the Personal Political” in Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, Third Edition, London: Sage Publications, pp.763-791.

Meskimmon, Marsha (2003) Women Making Art: History, Subjectivity, Aesthetics, London: Routledge.

Spry, Tami (2011)”Performative Autoethnography: Critical Embodiments and Possibilities” in Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, Fourth Edition, London: Sage Publications, pp.497-511.

Stewart, Susan (1993) On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic the Souvenir, the Collection, Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.

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