Week #1 Notes:

Nina Katchadourian’s Book Stacks projects:

  • Started in 93’
  • Stacks of books, that are ordered  based on their titles to create a sentence
  • The goal was to symbolize what was held in the libraries
  • The project had multiple locations and re-creations, using libraries, private collections, and home libraries
  • The works were often presented where they were found

Video:

  • How books can tell a story
  • How books can represent a person
  • Think about the books in all terms (physical aspects, titles, author, style)
  • Does your library represent you?

Dave Dyment One Billion Years (Past and Future), 2012:

  • This collection represents the past, present and future by using the information inside the books
  • The Books selected by Dyment use the inner contents of the book to represent a timeline of one million years
  • Bright coloured books create a visually stimulating image, with lots of areas to focus on
  • The use a prominent dark background suggests similarities to the work of Katchadourian

Ryan Park, Untitled, 2009:

  • This work differs from the others as it offers an open book style of stacking, rather than the traditional stacking used in the previous works.
  • The use of colour is very apparent in this work, as the books transition from cool to warm coolers, then back to cool
  • The background is again a solid colour, but this example uses a white background which brings more openness to the work

Write:

  • Some strategies used by the artists would be choosing specific books based on specific characteristics, for example; Katchadourian stated that she was trying to create sequences with her books, so the titles would be the deciding characteristic in that case. She also mentioned representing the owner of the books, this can be done by using the titles, or it can be done with symbolism by using physical aspects of the book such as colour of the outside, size, shape, condition and many more.
  • Colour was used heavily by Park in the selection of his books, as can be seen the ascending then descending colouration of his work. A strategy used by Dave Dyment; he used the information written inside the books to create a timeline. Using the contents of the books can be a great way to represent someone or something because it gives you a well-rounded appreciation for whatever it may be.

My Process:

Unfortunately, my lack of interest in reading resulted in me owning only four books… at first I was stumped on what to do, my roommates only had textbooks and I didn’t want to use material that has no connection to me, while I still had the four other options. As I decided to use my books, I noticed how figuratively they represented me quite well.

The titles of my books are the following:

  • Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnecut
  • The Art of Racing In the Rain, Garth Stein
  • Die Rich and Tax Free, Barry Kaye
  • Gucci Mane, Autobiography with, Neil Martinez-Belkin

I am a huge fan of rap/hip-hop (Gucci Mane), I love cars, especially fast ones. The book also heavily features a dog, which resonates with me because I’ve owned dogs all my life (The Art of Racing In the Rain). Die Rich and Tax Free, connects to one thing that I am known for which is my spending habit, the book was given to me by my former employer (a financial advisor) who constantly criticized my spending, till the point he found a book that has helped to reduce my spending. The last book, Breakfast of Champions, I have almost no ties to, besides the irony of me not typically eating breakfast, and the honest not knowing of where I got the book from.

For my “stacks” I wanted to make my library to seem more diverse than four books, so i tried several angles and positions till I arrived at three that i liked, I liked these three because of how different they are, I think in some ways it symbolizes how vast my own interests are.

For my stacks I wanted to make my library seem large and vast, so I tried to work with different shapes in order to accomplish that. I also wanted to incorporate some of Ryan Park’s ideas because I liked the look of the books being open, as I feel the back cover can offer a little more insight into the library. I also wanted to incorporate Katchadourian’s location selection, of stacking the works in the location they come from, so I decided to photograph my images inside my bedroom.

Isabella

WEEK 1

PROCESS

I have an EXTREMELY limited supply of books. Any of the books I have are all with my mom, in boxes who knows where, since we are in the process of moving. All that I have with me in Guelph are the textbooks I’ve collected over the years. With a total of eleven books, it might sound sufficient, but truth be told I struggled. There was little interest or deviance between the appearances of the books, and almost all of them fell within one of two sizes. So, I decided to use word play to have the titles of individual books interact with another. My problem was that almost none of the titles worked well together (I changed my focus of study once or twice before settling on a studio major). How could I convey an idea with the title of one book? I looked towards Ryan Park’s, and a few of Nina Katchadourian’s, work and realized that the titles of every book did not have to be shown to convey an idea. I could use the books I had with less interesting titles as a sculptural building block to interact with the more engaging titles. 

FINAL IMAGES

The Edge

The first arrangement seemed obvious to me, since I had two copies of “Image on the Edge.” Initially I was going to stack books neatly with these particular books simply on the edge of the others while backwards, but I decided to take the meaning of “edge” one step further and nearly topple these end pieces off of the shelf. With the only indicator of an image being on the edge of both the stack and the shelf, I am happy with how this turned out considering my challenges.

Leadership

After using the books faced the opposite way, the other arrangements came slightly easier to me. I had a Leadership textbooks which I wanted to arrange to become the leader of other following books. The titles of the following books were unimportant to the concept, and would have in fact muddied this idea had I presented them. I would have ideally liked to have books of descending order to make the leadership book look the biggest (therefore older and wiser in appearance) but unfortunately, it was one of my smaller stature books. I solved this problem by creating a gap between the leader and the following books. I lined them up in an orderly row, with the leadership book a few “steps” ahead so it would appear as if it were leading the way. 

The Power of Critical Thinking

In my next stack, I wanted to play on the word “power.” I figured what better display of power than to seemingly defy physics? I carefully (with plenty of failure) balanced  a few books on top of my vertical copy of “The Power of Critical Thinking.” I’m sad to report his flimsy paperback textbook did NOT stay upright on its own. But with some balancing, (and admittedly a hidden support system) I was able to capture this shot of this “powerful” book. I like this one since critical thinking seems to be in short supply these days,  and I think the world would literally be a lot stronger if everyone brushed up on their critical thinking skills. 

The Throne

Last, I wanted to use my singular non-textbook-book somehow. I pondered this a lot, and since using other books as a building block when the titles did not compliment each other had worked previously, I easily settled on a similar arrangement method. I think I took books as a sculptural unit to the next level with this stack, building a throne of books for my “A Game of Thrones” book. The word “game” also came into play when my huge, seldom read, chemistry textbook which provided the foundation of the throne came crashing shut just milliseconds after this shot was captured. This was surprisingly hard to balance, due to my untouched, tight-spined books.

Week 1 Book Stacks

Rough Work

Investigating the artists work:

I’ve been sort of chuckling to myself all week when doing this assignment thinking about its connection to my current studies in ARTH 3320 Lives: Aspects of Western Art. In it so far we’ve briefly gone over our disagreements with Roland Barthes theory from his essay “Death to the Author”. He essentially argues that as soon as the a book is finished and shared, the author and their biography add nothing to the context of the book in the eyes of the reader. Of course there are many valid arguments for and against Barthes theory, but what I find interesting in relation to this course is that while one might use a book they own as a window into the life of its author, Nina Katchadourian goes a step deeper and uses someone else books as a window into their owners life. To sum up her process, Katchadourian will take a group of books owned by someone else and rearrange their order so that the titles on the spine can be read in sequence. The sequence includes books that she sees as illustrative to their owner(s) life, almost like a portrait of them as well as a glimpse into their library taking into account how they organize their books, which ones they love, or don’t care for, etc. Compositionally, Katchadourian will also take aesthetic elements into account such as fonts used in the titles and other physical qualities such as the books “heft”. Her method of arranging stacks was the one during practice that I was most drawn to. 

In his project One Billion Years [Past and Future], 2012, Dave Dyment aimed to create his stack using chronology as his organizational tool. When arranging, the source of where the books came from, their authors, previous owners, or titles, did not take precedence over the time (past, present, future) that each books contents pertained to. He found books that wrote about thousands of years in the past and thousands of years into the future and arranged them accordingly. 

Ryan Park on the other hand, in his 2009 Untitled project, took on a more playful approach and arranged books focusing on their colour and aesthetic. Of the three artists in question he is the only one to stack the books opened as opposed to closed. Ironically each books contents have nothing to do with the meaning of the whole sculpture. 

Process

As I mentioned earlier, when it came time for me to compose my own stacks I was most drawn to Katchadourian’s method of book selection and arrangement. I wanted the books to say something about me and my literary interests. I’ll say this, it’s quite difficult when you’re someone that doesn’t ever read, which is why the first stack idea I had was one composed of various sketchbooks and notebooks I own. I also pulled select books from my roomate’s collection, using ones that I felt reflected shared interests we have in music, poetry, society, culture, and nature. The primary goal was to arrange the books so that their titles would read a little interesting phrase that reached for, if not encapsulated a common theme shared amongst them. I tried to compose each phrase like a poem, though forgive me for I wouldn’t call myself a poet by any means. Similarly to Katchadouran and Park I paid attention to the shape of the full sculpture that each book acted as a single unit of. I wanted the sculptures form to support the flow of the poem – spacing the books to emphasizing certain words when needed, and aligning or skewing titles position in relation to one another to form groups or stanzas. 

Stack 1Wood, Ink, & Paper

Stack 2Wandering the Blasted Pine

Stack 3Embers

Claire

Week 1: Book Stacks

Notes

Investigating Artists’ Works

Investigating the works of Katchadourian, Dyment, and Park allowed me to understand how diverse the physical form of a book can be as a conduit of meaning. Each artist intercepts the original intention of the novel as an individual container of writings and knowledge and draws meaning from external aesthetic qualities, titles, and ideas of ownership. Nina Katchadourian focuses on the personal context of book collections and how they reflect upon their owners and the spaces in which they exist. They are archival in nature, utilizing an accumulated vault of knowledge to construct a new meaning in the present. She begins by documenting each book in the library through a series of lists from which she begins to sort and curate books that connect to one another. Rather than being taken in their original context, the books are physically  rearranged in stacks and reinterpreted by drawing connections between titles and their owners. Her piece Dyslexia from her Reference series exemplifies these strategies, using the titles printed on the book spines to speak to dyslexia as an experience of reading, perceiving, and rearrangement. The owner of the collection from which this piece was created is a former eye surgeon and photographer, someone who is clearly deeply familiar with experiences of looking.

Nina Katchadourian, Dyslexia (1996)

Dave Dyment takes a slightly different approach, drawing inspiration from popular culture, multiples, artists books, and editions. His work with books involves a sense of chronology and time, using titles and linear arrangement to signal an unfolding or evolution. Ryan Park’s approach on the other hand, plays more with aesthetic quality over text driven meaning. He stacks books open and face up, allowing only slivers of the book cover colours to peek through and create a gradient. His works elicit a playful and joyful experimentation that is concerned with visual pleasure. The decision to open the book to create a new curving form reflects Katchadourians idea of treating the book as a sculptural item or readymade. 

Ryan Park, Untitled (2009)

Process

Going into this project I had no doubt in my mind that I would be able to put together meaningful compositions that reflect the connection between myself and my roommates. I am fortunate enough to have a roommate who works at the Bookshelf, and consequently, a stream of books is constantly being welcomed into our home. We each have an individual collection as well as a shared collection, however, even those that are in personal libraries end up circulating between us. Very quickly I noticed a pattern of categorization: self help, philosophy, poetry, fiction and spirituality. I think this speaks to the intersection of our experiences and interests as friends (though I feel that word downplays the connection we share) and how we are presently navigating our lives. 

The process of creating my stacks very closely replicated the process of Nina Katchadourian in that I developed a list of all the titles which were then transferred individually onto cue cards. From the spread I was able to freely arrange as many times as necessary, snapping photos of arrangements that had potential (pictured are some that I did not choose for my final composition and one that made the cut).

This is a technique that I had previously used in an exercise that involved creating haikus by using comic books as source material. It was extremely effective and extremely enjoyable. It opens up endless possibilities and interactions with the material. In the end, three compositions resonated the most, in that they unconsciously arose from feelings that I, and many others are experiencing at this time of great change for our world. These are feelings of loneliness, laziness, and a deep craving for human touch. I also chose to decisively break up lines to indicate pauses in the flow of reading, as well as support clarity and emphasis on the titles themselves. This also served as a symbol for the elapse of time in the third piece “Human Touch“, as a long stack of blank pages were placed after the words “flash forward”. I found that in some of the more lengthy stacks of the artists I explored, the closeness of the titles and the varying colors and fonts sometimes affected the readability. I find the spacing provides a sense of calm and an even greater impact on how the works are experienced.

Final Stacks

A Mind Spread out on the Ground
Fellow Creatures
The Human Touch

Hannah

Week One Notes

While creating my own book stacks, I followed Katchadourians process. I am currently living at home so I have access to quite a few books. I started by going through my parents bookshelf and removing every title that seemed even a little bit interesting. I then compiled all those titles in a long list.

After making the list, I placed each book title on a post it note to be able to easily play around with the names and see what worked best.

My final step, just as Katchadourian’s was to finally place the books together. I first tried to place the books in bankers box’s. I filled the remaining area by upside down books. I found this to be an interesting way to display the books but U had a bit of trouble reading them. I remembered Katchadourian speaking about the importance of the physical qualities of the book and their readability. I decided to go a different route, similar to Katchadourian by stacking the books, and having a completely black background so the books have complete attention.

I really enjoyed this method of poetry of a sort, I am a big fan of making collages and creating these book stacks was like enacting a different way to collage. I am finding it tough to title these works since I naturally want to use one of the book titles, but I also want to allow the books to connect with the others and inform each other rather than focus on an individual book title.

Eden

Book Stacks

Goodbye Berlin

This stack narrates the struggle of moving to a new place, being an outsider, and the challenge of assimilating with a new language, culture etc. I was inspired by my time spent in Germany to create a stack that tells a story. This collection includes some books I read while studying abroad, language guides and ones with a significant geographical locations.

Laws of Prosperity

This might be a recipe on how to be prosperous. Clean Gut is a guide to rebuilding your gut biome. Strange Visitors is a collection of documents and testimonies of indigenous-settler relations in Canada. Alchemy & Mysticism is a picture book of all things magical, mysterious and historical. Finally, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity is a book gifted to me by my grandmother as some passed down wisdom. These books together juxtapose a sort of portrait of myself.

I Keep the Land Alive

What keeps art alive? This stack shows the play and power of art and time. Trees and Landscapes, Walden, The Greeks, The Art of Art History, The Lives of Artists. Revive, I Keep the Land Alive, When Then is Now

Week 1 Notes