Well, that was fun to watch. He’s so into what he’s doing, it’s a hoot. The ukulele book is fantastic. But more importantly, he offers a witty insight into what book art is and what book artists do. He says an artist’s book “toes the line,” in that like it has the potential to do something with the medium that hasn’t been done before. The main line of his talk is the distinction between craft and art. He mentions bliss, and may have well mentioned the sublime. Both speak to what is conventionally understood as the aura or sensation produced by/provoked by art. He definitely means to say that book art is art, not craft. One distinction that he makes is that craft is sold for money while an artist starves. That is, function encumbers art while book art can be more than craft. Another more cautious distinction the he makes is that craft traditionally has more function over art while art is primarily about aesthetics. He challenges this with the genre of book art by saying that book art has both form and function in its favor.
His humor makes for a delightful presentation, and he alludes several times to the need for book art appreciation classes. He believes that there are different schools of book art (much like there are different schools of painting or any kind of art), and goes so far as to offer a name to his: The Mona Lisa School of Book Art. He gives his work this name because he wants to create an association between the fine press books and fine arts. He even instructs the audience on how to handle a display of book arts by comparing the process to viewing a museum piece.
I think he has some good points, and the bit about the hundred dollar bill being stolen is funny. The moment he talks about Steve Jobs’ calligraphy is also cool, because it helps bridge the two lines he’s been weaving together: traditional materials and electronic media.
For me, this was a good introduction and peek into the world of book artists, traveling in a gypsy wagon or not. I think this would be a good video to see at the beginning of class, maybe even everyone together in the theater across the hall. It’s entertaining and meaningful. It’s really cool to see people finding a way to do what they love. Picture of a Thomas fine book press below.