Book Art and the Freedom to Read

Freedom to Read Week runs from February 24 to March 2 this year. It is an annual event that encourages Canadians to reflect upon and commemorate the importance of intellectual freedom.

WordFest is proud to mark this special week with a celebration at the Barley Mill Pub in Calgary on February 26, starting at 7pm. The event is free and open to everyone. But seating is limited, so I recommend arriving early. Comedian Cory Mack will host the evening, and chat about the fine-line of comedy and the significance of Freedom to Read Week.

I hope to see all of you there! Perhaps I’ll wear a bow tie. Until then, I thought I’d share my latest fascination with book art.

The freedom to do what we want…with books!

A number of sculptors and installation artists from around the world are re-purposing what we read and the books we consume into raw material for their artistic expression. Some stunning work has emerged from such experimentation.

Photo of installation by Alicia Martin

Biografias by Alicia Martin

These artists are collectively paying tribute to the book in many respects. They present books not so much as a mere medium through which stories are told, but rather as forms in and of themselves that have their own architecture, their own ways of occupying space, and their own potential for radical reinvention.

Photo of Tom Bendtsen Installation

Conversation #4 by Tom Bendtsen

It might be a cliché these days to call sculpture “a celebration of form.” But, when it’s so easy to think of reading and writing as an interaction with a two dimensional surface such as a page or screen, perhaps it’s time to broaden how we view these often-overlooked containers of our thoughts and imagination.

Photo of book sculpture by Brian Dettmer

Library of American History by Brian Dettmer; cr. Toomey Tourrell Fine Art

We’re so accustomed to the physical book vanishing from our horizon of awareness once we delve into “the story,” even as we continue to hold the object in our hands. Celebrating the possibilities of the book as a multi-dimensional form, in its own right, seems refreshing in many ways. At the very least, book art makes excellent eye candy.

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