Critics such as Drucker and Zweig make important and valid points about Artist’s Book’s place in the art world, highlighting the difficulty of creating a concrete criteria for the genre. The main cause for their concern is that “the junk…that is being produced under the rubric of AB’s will just drag the level of production and conception to an impossible low. In examining Book Sets 5 & 6, I find a diverse and interesting assortment of books that each present an interesting concept to the table. I would like to discuss Wordswordswords by Edwin Schlossberg, Robert Raushenberg and Jasper Johns, and Panorama by Julie Chen as ideal representatives of what artist’s books and do and be.
Wordswordswords sets out to explore the different ways in which we think about and interact with language. The artists utilize a variety of mediums in order to share this concept with the reader, allowing him or her to experience forms and structures of language. For example, the book contains pages made of transparent film and metal-like sheets. The book also applies different fonts, font sizes, and text formats to address the different ways the reader interacts with his or her text; each new page is a playful, new experiment with language. I had the opportunity to delve into a page that used three different sheets of transparent film, each with lines of text that (when all the pages were stacked together) formed a cohesive narrative. This structure let me experience a variety of different text since I could form a number of phrases/poems with different sheets; each one creating different meaning and aesthetic every time. The font size was small so I was forced to carefully examine the text and have an intimate interaction with the words. At the same time, the intimacy was brought into contrast with the transparency of the sheet which innately brought my environment into view as the background to my text.
What I like about Livres D’Artiste books is that they oftentimes take pre-established works or texts such as poems, or in the case of Chen’s Panorama, environmental awareness content and reintroduces, expand the way I interact with them—the familiar becomes new, again. Panorama serves as a book about Life, the World, and Human existence through engaging structures. I found that the texture and layers of the book enticed me to engage in the reading panels. For example, there were several pages with different panels that provided eerie message. I could also form different messages with different panels. What most attracted me to this book was the large, pop-up “towers” which seemed to erupt out of the page. Each layer of the “tower” had different content or continuous script throughout and I had to investigate, literally, into the page in order to understand what message Chen was trying to convey. This book brought text and the book format into a profound and lively new light.