Conference Presenter Profile: Scott K. Murphy

29 Dec 2011 11:00 AM | Anonymous
Scott Murphy will be a presenter at the College Book Art Association Conference next week, where he will be moderating, "Re-Sequencing Expectations: Combining New and Old Technologies in Pedagogy and Practice." His presentation, "The Digital-Analog Divide: A Sequence of Complementary or Competitive Components" will take place at Mills College on Friday. He took some time to answer some questions about these ideas with this blog. For more information on Murphy, please visit his website.

College Book Art Association (CBAA): Please tell us first about yourself and your own artistic practice.

Scott Murphy (SM): I grew up in New Jersey and went to Rutgers, where I got a BA in history. While I've always been making things, I didn't necessarily see a career in art. I moved to Arizona to go to graduate school in anthropology. I've always been interested in religion and mythology and that is what I studied at Arizona State University. Despite a healthy interest in the anthropological study of religion, I felt as though the social science approach to religion, specifically religious experience, was too dry to do the subject justice. So I turned to photography and the book arts to really explore the religious topics I found so interesting. I shifted from the anthropology program after my MA into the MFA program in photography. My art is thoroughly entwined in a fascination with what it means to be human, how we connect with the world in both a physical and metaphysical sense and the history of how humans have tried to use photography, technology and art to interact with the sacred. So, in many ways the anthropological side of me has a big influence on my art practice. My art practice tends to use handmade paper, 19th century photographic processes and book forms to both engage my process as part of the exploration - a sort of meditation in art while meditating on religious experience in general.

CBAA: Your panel is going to ask questions about how the traditions of the codex fit in with digital technology. How do you address these questions in the classroom?

SM: It is easier than ever to make a book. On-demand printing and simple template software allow anyone to make, print and distribute books. This simplicity allows for the use of books in a myriad of classes where they might not have fit before. For example, I have photography 2 students create a photograph-a-day book, based on images they shot through the course of the semester. In other classes, I have students make portfolio books that they can use to demonstrate their work. In this sense, the book becomes a central assignment through the curriculum rather than in specific "book classes."

CBAA: How do you think the experience of reading is changing with the shift to digital technology? Do you think this affects how artist books are read and designed?

SM:  I think it is funny that at the same time it is easier than ever to create a physical book through digital layout and on-demand printing we have the shift to ebooks that create a digital delivery device and a virtual book. I can't speak to how this affects the reading of "normal" books. In the context of the artist book, I wonder if it makes them more valuable, more interesting or somehow more quaint. In the art world, such things are considered valuable and beautiful. I've come across quite a few "normal" folks who think it is interesting that such handmade things are continued but wonder why any one would choose to do so much additional labor. 

While there does seem to be a difference between physical and virtual books in the way we interact with them. I find it intriguing that all of my books start out as digital layouts. No one sees this step however. I hide the virtual side of my practice. Instead, I use the digital to make art that is tangible and precious. So, this does make me consider the idea of value. Digital gets you to what is important. It is not the end product - its value to me is process. Yet, in the mainstream world of publishing, the digital book is the end product. The value is the content though, not the object. Whereas my book has value in the object and the content. My final question then is where is the value in an on-demand book. It is a physical object, but the value seems more tied to the content than its physical form.

The College Book Art Association Conference will take place next week - visit here for late registration.
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