Unbinding the Book

Jotta
Blurb
#unbindingthebook
  1. Interview with Vince Koloski

    We chat to Vince Koloski about his project that brings to life a poem by T.S. Elliot, his background growing up in a family of printers, and the symbolic connotations of light.

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    What attracted you to the Unbinding the Book project?

    I’ve had the idea for doing a piece based on the J. Alfred Prufrock poem for quite some time. This seemed like a great impetus for getting the piece done with the possibility of having it exhibited. You often have ideas for work that kick around in the background or fit into the “someday I’m going to do this” category, but without a specific theme or venue to provide some structure they often don’t get done. We all work with ideas and projects we create without ever knowing whether they will be seen or not. The Unbinding the Book project provided a way that, if accepted, It would not only be completed but people were going to see it.

    What drew you to the book as a medium? 

    I’ve always loved books. I grew up in a family of printers. My father was a typesetter, my uncle was a pressman, another uncle founded his own printing company. I can remember loading single sheets into a platen press when I was a small boy. Even today I have a day job as a rare book dealer. About 20 years ago while working with edge-lighting plastic sheet I realized that you could etch text into the plastic and have it appear to float in space. By combining that with a book form you could create a book-like object that appeared to have its content floating between the covers. I’ve been working on various forms of that kind of idea ever since.

    Could you explain your practice?

    A friend of mine William Wareham is a sculptor, a big steel guy. He always said that you treat your artwork like a job in that you go to your studio every day and you work at making art. That’s the sort of thing I see as what you might call a practice. The ideas for my pieces can come in any time; middle of the night, early morning, afternoon, when I am at the studio or when I’m not at the studio. It’s when I take those ideas to the shop and try to work out ways to turn them into real objects that what I would consider my practice comes into play. It’s a matter of determining the form of construction, the content and the materials and then working out how the combination of those parts resolves itself into a piece that best expresses the idea that I have.

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    Could you describe your project?

    The project is taking a small cabinet and treating it as though it were a chest of drawers containing the objects that J. Alfred Prufrock would wear. There are four drawers. The drawers are hinged at the front or rear of the drawer with piano hinges. The drawers themselves contain articles of clothing: a 1910. era shirt, trousers, underwear, shirt collars and suspenders. There is also a small box containing cufflinks, shirt studs a pocket watch and there is a cigarette case. The text of the poem is etched into clear acrylic sheets. The clear acrylic sheets have LEDs along the edges which project light into the sheets. The light goes through the sheets comes out through the etched letters causing them to glow and become readable. These sheets are placed top the drawers. The four drawer unit is pulled out of the cabinet and rotated 90° until it rests on the sides of the drawers. The drawers are then unfolded, if you will, into an accordion fold structure. The LEDs are plugged into a small transformer and the poem is illuminated above the contents of the drawers.

    What drew you to The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock for this particular project? Do you find that poetry’s emphasis on subjective reading mean that it lends itself better to creative interpretation?

    The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock is  a poem that I have liked for a very long time. I was introduced to Elliott while studying poetry in college and I think Prufrock has a wonderful melancholic tone to it that probably fits my Slavic pessimism. I don’t think that poetry’s emphasis on subjective reading means it lends itself any better to creative interpretation than other forms of language. I think while poetry emphasizes emotion, feeling, and sheer linguistic play more than prose, nonetheless any form of written language lends itself to subjective interpretation. And I don’t think that one can single out poetry as being any more or less suitable for creative interpretation. For instance I would love to do a William Burroughs style cutup piece with half the page being L. Ron Hubbard Scientology butted up against the other half of the page being the writing of Jacques Derrida. I think it would be wonderfully subjective and open to wildly creative interpretation in ways that in no way could poetry exceed.

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    Your two main mediums appear to be books and light. What motivates you to combine the two?

    I could go on for quite a while in answering this question but to put it simply, light carries an enormous amount of symbolic weight. Light symbolizing warmth as supposed to cold, good as opposed to evil, safety as opposed to danger, and for my purposes, knowledge as opposed to ignorance. When you combine that particular symbolic dichotomy of knowledge versus ignorance with books, which are the repositories of language which is the medium or device we use to preserve knowledge; then the combination of light and language creates a synergy of the philosophic/emotional symbol with the physical symbols of language and structure of the book.

    How do you feel that the visual elements to your work contribute to the viewer’s reading of the narrative?

    I’m not sure what the contribution might be. The cabinet with clothing and other accessories all a bit worn, a bit tarnished, a bit dusty, suggest or illustrate an emotional tone. I’ve always read the poem as the expression of a man who didn’t quite make it, was in the background, was a best friend but not the leading man, or as Brando put it in On The Waterfront “could’ve been a contender.” But he was never able to push himself forward to grab the brass ring. He has settled before a life as a secondary character and while he seems to accept it,  there is a great deal of sublimated regret. In the piece that I’ve created, perhaps the background illustrates a bit of that.

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  2. 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.

    1

    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.

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    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.

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    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.