Saturday, December 1, 2007

Transformed Book #1 - Baby Proof, in progress

Here is the transformed book project I'm working on. My first title is Baby Proof, by Emily Giffin. I had not read it before I started (I have now), but I knew it had themes and emotions that I am familiar with.

It's about a woman who never wants to have kids. She falls in love with a great guy who also never wants to have kids. They get married, and after very close friends do have a child, he changes his mind. She feels totally betrayed, and they split up. The rest of the book is about how they deal. There are also side plots about infertility, affairs, and love and marriage in general. It's not really 'chick-lit', but it does have a happy ending.

I started thinking about this project almost 2 years ago, when I was working at the University of Michigan graduate library, learning to catalog. Cataloging is fundamental to libraries and being able to find information, especially when you don't know exactly what you're looking for. It has it's own weird language and rules, which are fascinating. I got really into the inner-workings of cataloging, and I came up with this proposal. I wanted to take weeded books (ones to be discarded because they were outdated, duplicates, or damaged), create sculptures inside them that reflected the content of the book, re-catalog them accordingly, and then shelve them back into the library collection, for patrons to either stumble across while browsing, or to search in the catalog.

My themes are the concept of the 'Artist's Book' and the accessibility of such, combined with issues of library collection holdings, weeding and cataloging, and recycling. I'm also interested in the following relationships/dichotomies:

Library collection = Gallery

Librarian = Curator

Cataloger = Artist

Library and Information Science = Media

I've now been given permission by the Arlington Public Library to go ahead with the project. So here is the work I have done so far. Since this is my first subject (I'm planning to take a book-arts workshop in April but am currently just exploring on my own), I'm sticking to basic techniques - gluing the sides of the book together, cutting into the text, gluing the sides of the cut sections together, and adding paint and objects. Assemblage style. I'm trying to be subtle, so as not to hitting the viewer or potential reader over the head with the themes of the book. I also need to be visually appealing, so that the viewer might become more interested in reading the book, as well as hopefully enjoying the transformation for its aesthetics and form.

I worked a lot on this all last week, and I was really enjoying the process. But I have to stop and get true critical feedback now, because this is where I can start to make conceptual and aesthetic wrong-turns.

So please, critique away.


tenderfoot said...


found you randomly googling. i love love love what you are doing... guess what? i'm a cataloguer too. let me know if there are any titles you're particularly looking for - i will keep an eye out when we weed. i think we only have one copy of Extremely Loud (small suburban library) but if it bites the dust i will grab it for you.

plus, you should come by - it can get very quiet there at times, and there are more writing mamas than visual art mamas, but i would love to have you over there. there is at least one installation artist there on a regular basis.

jenna weiss
(you remember, yes? - former stage manager extraordinaire...)

Parsons said...

I think you are too hard on yourself in these posts. I think the work is good- stronger than you think. The imagery feels obvious, but compositionally looks great. And I'm not one to talk about obvious imagery. !
~the airplane lady.

Alex Z said...

parsons- I am indeed worried about the imagery being too obvious, but also worried about being too vague - library patrons are not coming from the same visual perspective as a visual artist, who is used to catching every detail. How do I find the happy medium??

Also, can you elaborate on what works with the composition?

Alex Z said...

And, Zach would totally flog me for using 'works' so much...

Alex Z said...

Jenna! So cool that you found me! I will go check out mamaphonic - I know I've heard good things about it :]