Stéphane Mallarmé once said, “everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book.” Books were made to record things—histories, thoughts, figures—but also to reproduce and transport things. The book is an intimate, tactile, and time-based medium, meant to be held closely between two hands; to pass one’s eyes over repeatedly. When encountering a book, we expect to learn something. Artists’ books both play into these expectations and subvert them. They challenge and trespass lines of authority, asserting themselves as objects of knowledge. Sometimes they withhold, or make us work to decipher their lessons and narratives. They take us on a journey of unfolding, learning their contents and unlearning our expectations. Unlike the widely circulated images of famous artworks, they demand to be met in person, and they ask to be revisited over time.
Kayla Anderson, Manager of Special Collections, John M. Flaxman Library