“Things don’t really get moving until a page is turned.”

February 10th, 2009 by Jennifer

I’ve slipped the draft of my survey of user studies into a drawer, walked away from my desk, and crossed the Bay to CODEX, a veritable orgy of international arts of the book.

This morning at the Berkeley Art Museum Emily McVarish shared her latest book, The Square, with over 250 artists, collectors, museum curators and librarians. She described the square as a public space riddled with hand-held technology. Has the city square – the grid of daily life – been replaced by the screen? Figures – derived from video clips of people walking streets talking on cellphones – move through the pages (squarish) of McVarish’s new book.

Are both the book and the city commons “breaking down into heterogeneous intangibles?” she wondered.

I was in the audience with a clump of RLG colleagues from Yale, Stanford and LC. They teased me, “Did they let you out?” I asked, “Aren’t artists’ books at the nexus of libraries, manuscripts and museums?” Librarians, archivists, collectors, curators and creators all recognize this paradox, since they collect the same stuff for difference contexts.

Thinking about McVarish’s work, I hesitate to present here a crude SAT-test syllogism: the synthesis of book and art is analogous to the relationship of page and screen. Earl Collier, on the CODEX board, silently waved his notebook, pencil, and PDA phone. “I like ‘em both,” he said.

The CODEX bookfair, afternoons during the symposium, is astounding. This beauty, creativity and global material culture can embody antithesis to LAM silos. At least until you start cataloging…

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