Where Are All The Books Going?
Through this installation I ask, where are all the books going? This is a metaphorical question for asking about the future of knowledge forms as they inform, and are informed by, cultural aesthetics. Witnessing the recent renovations at a library in downtown Montreal made me wonder if the knowledge traditions of physical books will eventually become entirely overtaken by digital ones. I wonder if analogue and digital knowledges can be harmonized, or if they must be mutually exclusive opposites? In creating this art from discarded books resulting from the library renovations, the concern that motivated me was an inkling that a mono-culture is breeding rampant as the ‘Apple aesthetic’ commercializes everyday cultures of knowledge production institutions.
Can a book be defined? In what forms can story exist? What is language? These are the questions that my artwork explores through textiles, organic matter, paper, paint, and readymade objects. An interdisciplinary process between content and form is utilized to investigate what a ‘book’ is and the many forms in which ‘story’ can exist. I do this by engaging with the relationships between healing and art that occur in the context of narrative and storytelling. My creations can be described as mixed-media sculptures in terms of the physical form of each ‘book’, as well as the psychological and spiritual ‘landscapes’ within these entities.
Each of us construct internal narratives to function and attribute meaning to our lives. Everyone is the author of one’s own story and the artist of one’s life.
Particularly, this piece is a critique of capitalism’s neglect for the environment and the continuation of neo-colonial cultural genocide within the twenty-first century through corporatizing and commodifying global epistemologies. It is also a critique of labour and the public-private divisions of capitalism, for the book took over one-hundred hours to make, and unquantifiable ‘amounts’ of time to develop its concepts. It achieves this through the soft ghost-like images of nature that are trapped within this book, creating an illusion of what once was, almost as a living archive or temporally transient account of ‘future histories’. Hence the name “There Was”…
Images courtesy of Anna Leonowens Gallery, photographer Jordan Blackburn
This piece is a study of the essence of log cabins. It was inspired by the ‘log cabin’ weaving pattern, which then elicited a children’s storybook about log cabins that I wrote and illustrated. In this piece before you I sought to ‘translate’ the storybook, that was inspired by weaving, back into the language of weaving itself. To do this through my art practice I began studying weaving as a language. I also looked at what the manipulation of the traditional form of a book can mean about the content of the book itself. This exploration provided me with an internal philosophical discussion on what language and books are and can become.
I invite you to participate in this discussion with me as you view this artwork. The format of a series of woven ‘squares’ interrupted by gaps in the weaving was selected because these mimic the pages of the original children’s storybook. The colours and textures of the weaving materials were selected as threads of the original story because they capture the fall-like ‘witchiness’ and simultaneous ‘coziness’ of the children’s storybook that this work derives itself from. Can you look at each ‘page’ here and ‘read’ it? Do you see weaving as a ‘language’ as I do? Can you even consider its form to be a ‘book’, or must it literally be ‘bound’ to traditional means of such in order to be granted legitimacy?
Photographer Nina Teodora Balbo