Artists and the Future of Books

"A room without books is like a body without a soul." -- Marcus Tullius Cicero

It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I am a bibliophile. I've not yet reached the point of bibliomania, which Wikipedia defines as "an obsessive-compulsive disorder involving the collecting of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged, and in which the mere fact that an object is a book is sufficient for it to be collected or loved," but I'm not ruling it out for my old age. I love books, I live surrounded by them and never thought I would live to see the current changes in technology that have many referring to them as obsolete.

The Bookworm, 1850, by Carl Spitzweg

I personally don't believe books are becoming obsolete, but I do believe they're going through a transition. Freed from utilitarian bonds as conveyors of information, aesthetics are what will carry books into the future, and not just as relics of a bygone era. There will always be a place for beautiful books. Artists and other creative types, always sensitive to cultural change, are already repurposing books with stunning results.

I first came across the notion of altered artists' books a few years ago when I did a studio visit with Los Angeles artist Susan Sironi. I was totally captivated by what she was doing and continues to do with books. Using a subtractive process, she carefully cuts through books with a scalpel and transforms them into objects of wonder.


Susan Sironi, untitled (Alice, foot), 2011, altered book, Courtesy of the artist and Offramp Gallery

Susan Sironi, Hanging By A Thread, 2010, altered book, 12" x 18", Courtesy of the artist and Offramp Gallery

Perhaps the best known of the altered book artists is Brian Dettmer. In the following video Dettmer talks about the information revolution as well as his artistic process.

And then there's this video which has been making the rounds on social media this week. See what happens inside a bookstore at night when no one is watching.