I never saw the day coming as a teen, when the endless rows of chic flick DVDs garnished with aisles of cotton candy, popcorn, and sweet licorice would come to its end as Blockbusters started closing their doors one by one.
Then surely it began to spread to the music stores. Like a virus, each plummeted and turned into a construction site. This ‘virus’ is purely man made and comes with no apology as the rapid growth and development of technology has no mercy.
There has been much debate as to whether the publication world (specifically in this article, art publications) is the next or even current victim. Like any creative industry, it must be open to change and progression. However, how is this threat affecting the physical and the tangible products in the art industry?
Something that is so tactile and personal, it would be ludicrous to think books would ever become extinct. With the development of technology, we are experiencing less and less IRL (“in real life”) and more so virtually. Due to this virtual world, it is not necessarily diminishing the value of IRL art, but rather altering the experience of art, turning what was once only physical and tangible into more so digital and virtual.
After watching the documentary, How to Make a Book with Steidl, by Gereon Wetzel and Joerg Adolph, the fanatic reality behind book publishing becomes revealed. With every surface in Steidl’s studio covered with mounds of paper, stacks of books, archaic-looking printers and automaton machines, the process of designing and manufacturing a single book is shown to be a craft and an art form of its own.
The time spent on: placement of text, size and scale of page numbers, endless paper material options, and whether you want your cover to glitter or not becomes a curatorial position in itself.
Steidl, among many other book publishers, creates a highly orchestrated experience for the viewer while simultaneously allowing the viewer to develop their own personal experience with the book.
Dog-earring pages, underlining sentences, and the worn out corners of the book becomes unique to you. That is something you cannot experience with your tablet. You cannot replace the feeling of flipping a page of a book with the effortless grazing of the fingertip on a screen. Is it just me or do others flip all the pages to your nose to whiff a scent of the book? Something satisfying about it…
Though many forms are continuing to become digital, therefore creating a less of a need to have it otherwise, it is ultimately affecting the way we perceive and experience reality. As times moves forward and our surroundings continue to evolve, it allows us to reflect on the importance of what we used to have and how it had lead us to where we currently stand. One does not lessen the value of the other, but reveals the differences between the two.
It is these societal advancements that will continue to affect the creative industries and morph what we do and how we do it. While recently visiting a local art bookshop in London, I was thanked by the member of staff for spending the dedicated time to each book that it required and frankly deserves.
Pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a book, the featured works were truly an art piece on their own. Standing in the shop that was about the size of my room (which, in London, cannot be very big), it showed that experiencing art books IRL is becoming less of a commonality and more so a willful interest.
Evan Hutchinson is a contemporary lens based artist from Toronto, Canada currently residing in London.