Unbinding the Book

  1. Carlin Brown interview

    We spoke to Carlin Brown about her project, which seeks to transform the online experience into a tactile publication, delving into the differences and parallels between the two mediums.


    What attracted you to the Unbinding the Book project?

    I’m interested in discovering new ways to bring the digital experience into the tangible world, and Unbinding the Book has been a great opportunity for me to further explore some ideas that have been in my head for a long time now. It has been an exciting challenge to work with Jotta long-distance, through Skype and e-mail messaging, and creating my book using the internet as my main tool.

    What drew you to the book as a medium?

    Because so much of my work is created digitally and often remains available exclusively through a computer screen, iPad tablet, or iPhone smartphone, I have been eager to find new ways to create tangible versions of these same ideas. Book-making seemed like the next logical step. Having all of these ideas right at my fingertips and packaged into a neat handheld book has been an exciting extension to using my notebook computer. I’m interested in that same solitary experience that comes from endless hours spent surfing the net or reading a book from cover to cover.

    Could you explain your practice?

    My practice revolves around digital media, working through a range of themes that relate directly to my personal experiences online. I think a lot about what I am doing on the internet, and how the internet has become such a huge part of contemporary culture.

    Could you describe your project?

    For Unbinding the Book, I have created a one-of-a-kind book that describes the experience of navigating the digital landscape as a young female artist. I have also created a web-based project which corresponds with the book, creating a similar but distinctly different experience for the viewers to interact with.


    What materials are you incorporating into your work?

    Every page begins in Photoshop. I’ve been collecting screen captures, excerpts from email correspondences, original and found computer graphics, and compiling all of these things into individual pages. I’ve been thinking a lot about what these digital materials would look like if they were taken out of the computer screen; An animated .gif becomes a lenticular print, layers of open application windows become printed transparencies, and a scrolling website becomes instead a folded scroll of paper.

    You translated online experiences into printed matter, rending them more tactile. How has this tactility changed your experience of them? Has it made them more impactful, or less so?

    Digital media allows me to manipulate images instantly, creating new versions of the same piece of work with the click of a button. As soon as these works are printed, they become so definitive. In a way, I am reluctant to reach that final stage. But still, there is also something refreshing about it. Binding these digital works into a book form breathes new life into them, giving them a physical presence that they could never hold if they were digital-exclusive. I’m not sure that one is more impactful than the other, but I think people will be drawn towards the different interactive qualities inherent in both digital media and the traditional materials of the book.


    You also created an e-book equivalent of your project. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the two mediums?

    There are very real limitations to new technologies just as there to printed matter. The challenge, I think, is to find ways to make those limitations feel like integral and defining characteristics of the mediums. The three-dimensionality of a book allows it to take on traces of wear, acting as an archive of social exchange, but a digital page can last forever.

    What is your perspective on analogue vs digital printing techniques? Do you feel that digital printing technologies are making independent publishing more accessible? Do you see any parallels with this and the way in which the internet has provided a new generation with a medium that they can utilise to express themselves?

    The experience of using the Internet is something that shifts drastically from generation to generation. Discovering the web as a child or as an adult defines the way you interact with it, and the impression it leaves on you. For those of us from a newer generation, the Internet has become such a huge part of our every day lives, and I think we are often more willing to dig around on some of these newer platforms. It is easy enough to for anyone to understand and accept the transition between a Kindle ePublication which mimics the white pages of a book, but to consider more complex multi-media projects as a “book” might be a bit of a stretch. I’m looking to challenge those definitions and provide an unexpected book-reading experience.