01 Feb 2020 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

A year ago exactly, I began writing this, call it, “article” for the College Book Art Association’s Book Art Theory Blog. It was written in two parts, for two posts, and in both cases exceeded the maximum word count and posed multiple problems with regard to its “publishing”—containing embedded images, superscripts, footnotes, and specialized formatting to aid in linguistic emphasis [1]. While I might encourage you to circle back and review Part 1 and Part 2 before moving forward with me here, I will also admit that is not entirely necessary. It is my intent to continue that (this) work, but in such a way that it is ultimately unsuitable for publication in this particular format—a blog. 

However, by openly acknowledging a blog is not the appropriate (form)at for a particular type of written work meant for publication [2] is a point which lies at the heart of my article’s argument: specific forms provide specific spaces where various ontological parts (content) are processed (contextualized) and subsequently activated into a state of movement afforded by the specific qualities of the space itself. These forms are unique, their space suited to the material they contain, and their trajectory is in part predetermined by how their material (content) is intended to be mobilized. Thereby the success (or suitable fit) of a given format may be measured first, by its ability to hold its content stable, and second, by the overall range of its mobility once launched into action. These forms are both determinate and indeterminate; they have been born out of the changing needs of their content, and their content is also now constructed to suit them. As a result, both the form and the content build their path, which further allows for a multiplicity of contextualization. Yet still, they must suit one another. 

Or: This format does not provide a suitable space to further process the previous content (in common colloquial: unpack), and consequently, the content cannot be successfully mobilized via this format’s predetermined trajectory.   

While the above is meant to support the two parts previously written, it is written is such a way so as to position it outside of artistic discourse. Instead, through my use of particular terminology, it may find itself better placed in a conversation regarding the relationship between contemporary communication media and knowledge distribution. Yet, can it not also be applied to the arts? Or more abpt: book arts? 

By locating specific terms within the second paragraph, we can easily pull this into another realm of discourse, through the modifican, or adaption of these terms by locating some qualities of flexible semantic nuance. To do this, we first must acknowledge the terms we pull as fixed. This is the term’s foundation, a primary quality which consists of a mutually agreed upon understanding of what “x” means; the qualities (or signifiers) embedded in that term which remain constant across dialogic fields. 

Then we identify the term’s flexibility; a secondary quality.This may better be identified, now, as a sort of “keyword” [3]. These are qualities of the term that do not carry across fields, but instead are distinguishable marks that locate it in one field or the other. This flexibility is often the very quality that the arts capitalize on. 

As scholars we all utilize the above process (usually subconsciously) in order to make academic, theoretical, or critical arguments. 

But the purpose of the above exercise is to make conscious the subconscious function inherent in a term’s fixedness; to entertain specificity, here, in developing a critical dialogue around publication as an artistic object and activity. 

Further, not just entertain, but acknowledge it as crucial and real. We have nary been able to develop new theoretical inquiries in the field of book arts, let alone wholly and successfully identify and integrate theory from many (and expanding) sympathetic fields in order to both bolster previous discourse, and participate in (or move forward with) new discourse. To pass that threshold of potentiality into what is actually multiple already articulated and actualized presents [4]. 

[maximum word count reached—end of Part 3—to be continued in Part 4]

[1] These problems continue here, but after writing the previous posts, this post was written with adaptations integrated. 

[2] Here: publication (n.): to make public, or generally known, online, and not for public sale

[3] See: Raymond Williams, Keywords : a Vocabulary of Culture and Society. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). This takes into account the way words, as keywords, are used in discourse, and how their meaning (and use) changes (or adapts) to the present social and cultural climate.

[4] This phrasing is in direct reference to the first post’s use of interpretive poetic flexibility.

H.R. Buechler is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher, and founder of OXBLOOD publishing. Her work is broadly concerned with historic and contemporary communication technology, classification, and the valorization of aesthetic objects.

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