I did not feel especially qualified to define an artist’s book because I am not a teacher, librarian, nor an expert, but someone has to do it and it is the assignment given, so I will try my best. And after looking at special collections, I have a firmer understanding. I have to start by saying that I do not believe there is one set of rules guiding an artist’s book. They can have tendencies and mannerisms, but the definitions will fluctuate depending on who is talking. Anyone can make an artist’s book and that is why defining artist’s books can be so demanding. If it is called an artist’s book, shouldn’t they have been made by artists? Does that mean writers can’t make artist’s books? Who is an artist?
So, the term artist’s books does not help any of us try to determine what genre they are in. However, if I had to say what I think an artist book is, I would say they are art in a form of a book. They have been composed by an artist: a writer, visual artist, poet, composer, or performer. Inside an artist’s book are images, words, word-like things, charts, diagrams, and musical notations. Artist’s books are book-like and the artist who made it had the final say over its final appearance. I keep saying the word “book,” so it might behoove me to differentiate between “book” and “artist’s book.” The book is a medium that is accessible to many people anywhere anytime. Books can reach a larger audience because there are a lot of copies produced.
I would say that artist’s books are a kind of experimental literature because experimental literature does not follow the rules of literature; it emphasizes creativity and innovation. That is just what an artist’s book does, it pushes the boundaries. However, I would not say it is fully experimental because I think artist’s books have its own genre now separate from the experimental genre.
Johanna Drucker, author of “Century of Artist’s Books,” says “A book is a highly complex organization of material and conceptual elements. While there are other forms which books take, the most common, versatile, and frequently manipulated is the codex form. Made from a set of bound leaves or pages…” (121). I agree with Drucker here because a book has been commonly associated with the codex. She makes it very clear that a book is bound paper with text. The artist’s book will not be traditional in its structure and can even be art. Amee Pollack and Laurie Spitz’s collaborated to make “An Abecedary For Our Times,” a Jacob’s ladder/magic box about social commentary. This piece is a one of a kind and can’t be duplicated; unlike a book that is produced again and again the same for the masses. The piece is an educational tool for children who are learning the alphabet, however each letter has a word that is inappropriate for children. S is for Sexting, H is for Hookup, X is for Xanax, and R is for Ritalin. There is no way for children to know what any of this means, however the toy was too mature for young children. The social commentary part of this is that this really is what children are learning today. The Internet and social media is a main source of communication, people care too much about pop culture, kids are hooked on prescription medication, and nobody puts down their cell phone to have a conversation. I feel like this piece by the women will have more of an effect in children’s lives today because they are looking for the easiest fastest way to learn and they are visual learners. We are always on our phones, so we would be comfortable with touching and playing with the cube. Artist’s books have visually interesting appearance due to the fact that an artist of some kind, listed earlier, created something with their artistic vision.
Should artist’s books have their own category?
Who would be likely to buy artist’s books?
What makes artist’s books different from other books or other forms of art?