Wednesday 13 January 2016

GUEST POST: The concertina. The accordion. The oriental fold. (Erin K. Schmidt)


The concertina sets itself apart from other book structures in its distinctive form of repetitive folds which allows a versatility in presentation and viewing. The variation in physical space that a concertina book can create and occupy creates a shifting relationship between content and form. The folded pages can be held together on one end and turned like those of a codex between the covers, politely requiring very little space. When the concertina behaves like a codex it allows only a fragment of the content to be visible at any given time.

The pages of a concertina can also spill out beyond those borders of the cover, boasting the content within the book. When the pages of the concertina are extended, the contents on each side are displayed all at once allowing the viewer to engage with the contents in its entirety.

The folds allow the book to harness and capture space, to create an enclosed environment with the slightest manipulation of the page, or to fully extend and occupy as much space as possible. Shadows are created within the space, deeper and darker with the closeness of page; light and airy upon opening. These shadows are part of the play of the book and its content, and can, with subtle movement, affect the overall tone of the work.

In my book the house in the wood I have placed two concertinas within the hardcover such that the cover closes and presents itself as a codex with the spine on the left. Because of this cover, the book can readily be viewed as codex, turning the pages as such to read the text without having to hold them together at the left.

The book can also be opened wide to allow the concertinas that have been nestled within the cover to spread out and expand. When extended, the two concertinas reveal their backsides which contain multiple images of small mushrooms. Because of the folds in the concertinas, the pages can be manipulated and moved to various positions for viewing. The space that is created between the concertinas becomes an extension of the forest floor connecting the images to each other.

I chose this format of using two concertinas for house in the wood which extend in different directions to correspond with the text of the book which describes the two paths that lead the viewer away from the house and into the forest. As the paths bend and wind, the concertina folds allow the paper to be manipulated similarly.

For my book tea and water pipe, I’ve chosen to use a double concertina. The doubling of the concertina creates a physical space between the layers, as well as the space that the structure itself already occupies due to the nature of its folds and shape. When the book is open and extended the structure becomes the setting of the book, a tea house in which the narrative occurs.

I have placed the text on the interior pages such that it can only be viewed by looking through the lattice windows that have been cut into the front layer of the concertina. In this way the viewer must enter the work as a voyeur peering into the space from the outside. The outer concertina creates a physical barrier between the viewer and the text, a private lament for a departed friend, some of the thoughts so quiet the words are barely visible.

The concertina is a dynamic marriage of content and structure. The flexibility of the book requires a flexibility of content. I consider this when I choose to use the concertina structure in my work. The content must work when viewed in fragments as well as when viewed as a whole. The interplay of shadow and form should complement the content, and vice versa. The folded pages will create small, private spaces for the viewer to dwell, whether in shadow or light. It is important, within these spaces, to offer a quiet moment of intimacy that the viewer may share with the book.

More concertina books by Schmidt:

Long Blond  Hair
God Save the Queen

Erin K. Schmidt is an American artist, whose artwork is heavily influenced by notions of identity created through personal histories, memories, and perceptions. Her books focus on brief moments, punctuated by repeated imagery or text, recalling intimate events or memories. She uses private photos and writing within a variety of structures and media to evoke emotions. She earned her BFA from Michigan State University and her MA in Book Arts from University of the Arts London. She has been awarded Shefield International Artist’s Book Prize in 2014. Her work has been exhibited internationally and can be found in private and public collections including Tate Britain, London, UK; Saison Poetry Library, London, UK; University of California San Diego;  RISD.

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