Wednesday 11 May 2016

GUEST POST: Becoming The Book (Chloe Spicer/ObjectBook)

Becoming The Book

My work, as a bookish artist and time spent working/lurking in libraries can be summed up with this primary objective: I want to become a book. 

Still from 002 is The Book (installation), 2015
I’m not exactly sure what that means yet. I think people imagine that I’m envisaging wrapping myself in a large fold of red leather, and will spend a few years lying on a shelf somewhere quietly cultivating a dusty aroma. Sure, actually that sounds like great fun, but I think of being or ‘becoming book’ as a sort of spiritual practice or human evolutionary plan which is beyond, but intrinsically linked to, the codex. I want to be a book, but I want you all to be books too.  

Books for the Body I, 2015 (Digital Print)

A universal accessibility for The Book

Although sounding slightly dystopian, my latter aim is not entirely selfish. Books have huge accessibility problems: I love books, but they hurt me. They play hard to get. I can forgive the paper cuts, but it seems particularly cruel as a bibliophile that I experience painful visual disturbances when reading - text literally dances on the page.

This is an interesting symptom of my neurodiversity, but there are countless other differences in eye sight or physical ability and neurological diversity that can make reading a book bloody hard, before we even consider the need for education and access to books themselves. It seems quite remarkable that any of us can nestle into that cosy armchair with the fireplace, slippers, cup of cocoa/glass of whisky and a good read. There must be a better way. What can the book of the future do to address these issues? Can there be a universal accessibility for the book?

Raver at The Library Rave, 2015

Books as multisensory experience

Books have special sensory power. In order to read a book, and to decide that it is worth the effort, I really need positive tactile feedback.  They need to be against my skin, in fact even that seems like a cop out – I need books under my skin, to absorb the content and bookish ‘essence’; e-book screens are entirely unfit for purpose.

I’ve learned that despite my love for diversity, I am not an inclusive book lover. There are many books that just aren’t book enough for me: e-books, textbooks & magazines – anything that doesn’t feel good hasn’t got a chance. Books need to offer a sensory experience.

The Library Rave, 2015
Seeking a universal and multisensory accessibility whilst holding onto the tactile nature of books is the keystone of my practice. This is a lifelong research project, which I develop through participatory events, workshops and installations to explore human experiences and requirements of books, and to pilot my methods of becoming book. I live for the stories that appear out of these interventions. I’ve met people who confess to having compulsively nibbled the corners of pages as a child or who fell in love at a library self-service machine, this all seems desperately important somehow.


So what would this bookish future look like? 

How will we become books? Crude methods like immersing in shredded Book Baths (2010) or wearing Book Art Hats (2014), which toyed with absorption through bodily contact (if we place books on our heads, will some of the knowledge fall out?), have evolved into practical bio-tech solutions like DNA as Data Storage (2015) where I considered rewriting the body’s junk DNA with books. What would it mean to use our bodies as data storage devices? Could the volumes we embody subconsciously provide wisdom or alter our characters? Families could choose to take responsibility for the storage of particular genres of books. On having children, these libraries would merge, and grow with each generation, eventually becoming a global genetic library.

The DNA method is universal, but a tad disconcerting which leads us to a more palatable solution: Edible Books (2015) - rice paper books printed with edible ink/pens and bound with strawberry laces, or as in Books for the Body (2015) miniature leather bound books. Digesting information is a popular and accessible way of becoming a book (if you eat seeds a tree will grow inside you…), although its unclear how the digestive system would allow for retention of information.

BYOBBBBBQ (Bring your own book book burning BBQ) (2015) is a ritualistic ceremony for books which have come to the end of their lives. I believe that when you place a book in the fire, the text rises in the smoke, which participants then inhale (or consume by cooking over the ashes) enabling the books to live on within them. This follows the eastern worlds insight into text burning as a spiritual act, rather than one of censorship.

The Library Rave (Image credit Mindy Lee)


But in looking for a multisensory accessibility The Library Rave (2015) offers the cumulative method: an audio book silent disco, offering a bookish experience for all the senses (Join the rave at the BALTIC Book Market June 18-19).

Dance round the library to the bookish anthems of Fahrenheit 451 and The Library of Babel over music, as you rave with books and handheld disco light. Wear your entry wristband, drop an e (book), and maybe just maybe we’ll all become books by way of sensory overload.

Image credit: UAL

You are invited to join Object Book 26th May for a tempestuous evening of cocktails, cinema and books:

Book Flick Nights: I’ll Drown my Book.
Celebrate Shakespeare400 with book art workshops, literary refreshments and a bookish screening of an art-house take on The Tempest.
The Colour House Theatre, London SW19 6.45pm £12/£10 []

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