A Bookish Day: from Incunabila to Explanatory and Expirimental


Books. Returning home has been book-oriented, from going back to school and using its library to cleaning out my parent’s library at home. I found The Worry Book dusty and forgotten in my parent’s library, and brought it along with me today to share the still-charming 1960s text that classifies basic and “baroque” worries to a friend who would appreciate it.


Then I sat in on my friend’s class in the Hargrett Library, where the University of Georgia’s special collections are housed. There a librarian showed the group  incunabula, book’s from printing cradle of the 15th century, moving chronologically forward to a gorgeous artist’s book published in 1990, Capriccio. Capriccio hearkens back to the hand-made quality of manuscripts but with modern content: poems by Ted Hughes and engravings by Leonard Baskin, all done with an eye to beauty and craftsmanship that transforms the book as conveyor of information to art object, in this 41st of 50 total copies.


I am very much a digital native and minimalist in terms of possession. But despite, or perhaps because of that, I feel such a draw to these books-as-objects and the supposed permanence of the object, as opposed to the fleeting, unfixed nature of the web. This ambivalence splits many a modern mind, which has a desire of moving both backward and forward at the same time. (There is probably room for much BAROQUE Worry about the future of publishing in this.)


However, I ended my day at a lecture by Mark Callahan of UGA’s ICE Conversation Series on Experiments in Publishing, dealing both with a range of contemporary efforts and Mark’s own conception of publishing as a vehicle for the next iteration of his AUX series. Neither basic or baroque worry came up at this talk. Rather, there was playful enthusiasm toward the new possibilities and understandings of how one can publish. Predictably, this centrally involved the internet as a medium of exchange, and self-publishing options, be it Pinterest or Twitter (although the example tended to be more interesting than that). But they also expanded the notion of what a publication could be – an event, a mixture of media, to a participatory creation. At any rate, the written word no longer need have the main role it once did.


During the talk, I had an AHA moment when I saw an artist’s project very similar to one that I brainstormed with friends late one night this past weekend: the blank book. We were going to call ours: The Storehouse of Useless Knowledge. This artist has produced a high- and low-end edition of a white book based on Lulu’s material limitations of price and size. Now I will have the “baroque” worry of not saying my good ideas aloud, because they might take material form elsewhere. For more baroque worries, keep scrolling down.




As a coda, in thinking of awesome bookish artistic projects, I recently came across Christina HartlPraeger’s Book of Meme which works as a book-as-object, functioning in a sculptural way as Tauba Auerbach’s RGB Colorspace Atlas does.


Subjective Atlas of Hungary


No less than three people recommended the Subjective Atlas of Hungary to me before I finally got over to Irok Boltja to buy a copy, but oh how I enjoyed the colorful, jam-packed volume once I did. Familiar in theme, and at times with the artist of the work, this was a breezy trip through a many sided Hungary.


Part of a series of Subjective Atlases, the different images by 50 artists:

“express the way cultural identity is always in motion, influenced from many sides, and multicultural by definition.

As Lajos Parti Nagy puts it in his introduction: “Whoever encounters this strange and self-evident book, can learn strange and self-evident things about Hungary.”

For me, as my 10 months here is ending and I leave tomorrow for a few more adventures before heading back to the U.S., it’s really interesting to find how much more meaningful many of the works, and their inside jokes and references are, after my time here. My subjective atlas of Hungary has changed significantly.

But now, time to pack for the Balkans.