Friday, June 08, 2012

Books as art

True to form, I've been meaning to see a particular art exhibit for weeks, but I've been putting it off or forgetting, until now, just days before it closes.

Judging Books by Their Covers, is on at the SBC Galerie D'Art Contemporain, April 14 – June 9, 2012, and was presented as part of this year's Blue Metropolis Literary Festival.

I convinced a coworker to make the trek with me on our lunch hour yesterday — a 20-minute walk each way, and about 20 minutes to explore art in the 2-room gallery.

(We peeked into another gallery on our way out. Frankly, I find this building amazing — the lobby board listed at least a dozen galleries, all housed in this old building with the slowest elevator in the world. Seriously sssoooo slow, you'd have time for a quickie between floors. Did I just say that out loud? From top to bottom, or vice versa, you could perform a whole wardrobe change plus, and emerge an entirely different person. But I'm glad to have discovered this place, for the art I mean.)

I expected a show of actual book covers, à la Chip Kidd, or whoever, but that's not what this is. The concept of this exhibition relates more to the ability of a book cover to draw you in, through words, images, colour, texture. These are recontextualized books as objects.

The works by the five artists represented in this show could be described as bold, intricate, feminist, objectifying, irreverent, or political. The review in the Belgo Report has more details. I found them curious and interesting.

Whatever I do or don't get about art, this exhibition is a great conversation starter — about what books you have or haven't read, how you arrange them, whether these books are real or made up, how touchable these books look, and in particular with Hans-Peter Feldman's five-panel work of black and white photographs how much you want to pull those books off their shelves, turn them over, flip them open.

As much as I love my e-reader (for its portability, searchability, etc) and the e-communities that talk about books, I don't buy all this crap about technology making reading social. An e-reader lying on a coffee table is little more than a gadget, compelling no one to ask about or explore what's inside (except at a most factual or technical level). But print books, stacked on desk corners, splayed open on armchairs, scattered around a house — these are social catalysts into the minds of the flesh-and-blood people you live with. Even though this exhibit features mere pictures of books, it drives home the point that nothing quite compares with actual, physical, printed books.
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