We sat down with Callum Copley to discuss his project, the democratisation of print and the semiotics inherent in the merging of images and text.
What attracted you to the Unbinding the Book project?
The project looked like a great opportunity to explore ‘the book as an art object’ rather than strictly a carrier of information.
What drew you to the book as a medium?
Having studied as a graphic designer, print and books have always been a format I have been comfortable with. Having recently worked on more digital and interactive works I felt it was a good chance to return to the printed page with a fresh perspective.
Could you explain your practice?
I would consider myself a graphic designer and communication researcher. I am very interested in vernacular communication, the psychology of language and the effect of technology on human discourse.
Could you describe your project?
The project is an exploration into the act of reading itself and the social norms that are associated with it. Reading would be considered by many to be a solitary act and I wanted confront this presumption. I have created a book which requires two people to read the publication in tandem. The physical construction of the book forces the pair to discuss the narrative to fully understand the story.
What techniques are you incorporating into your work? The book employs complex page layout and typographic experiments, in order to lead the viewers around the page in unusual ways. The text is created in a way so as to choreograph the movement of the viewers eyes. Almost scripting a performance of the way it should be read by the two subjects. I have also constructed a custom bench/table/see saw on which the book sits which means that it is impossible to read the book alone, without a partner sat opposite.
Your book uses photography to tell its story. What are the benefits of using imagery as a way to evoke a narrative?
I’m particularly interested in the semiotics of combining images and text. For this reason, in many points in my book I have allowed one viewer to read a whole page of text whereas the other view is presented only an image. By doing this I am able to control the time that each person must look at an image. As we are now a society of scrollers and swipers – to have someone else sat opposite you dictate your viewing time is interesting to me. I feel images and words and can be equally powerful and useful so in my book I chose to play with how I balance the two.Whilst your book focuses on collaborative reading, new technologies are encouraging collaborative writing and creating new possibilities for the creation and consumption of literature. What do you think is the impetus for these new collaborative approaches?
I have done a great deal of research into these fields and I think the future of reading and writing is in such technologies. There is however such intrenched culture around reading that some of the more avant-garde approaches to reading are met with much resistance. I think the medium of the internet will produce drastically different methods of reading in the near future but the process of uptake will be a slow, and generational one.
Throughout our daily lives, there is more emphasis put on sharing our experiences using digital platforms than ever before. Whilst I feel these ideas tie into your project, would you say that there is an intimacy between the two readers that couldn’t work within a digital context?
This might well be the case, but I do believe that collaborative models of communication can reach their full potential in the digital sphere. Although the internet is superficially a place of connectivity, there are very few programs, and websites that are truly collaborative. I believe the infrastructure is there but it is all too often used in a outdated manner.