Book Return is an exhibition of bookworks created by participants in Printed Matters: The Disembodied Book Made Whole (again), a workshop by visiting artist Scott McCarney. The exhibition is on display at Ferriss Hodgett Library, Grenfell Campus, Corner Brook, NL.
I really enjoyed Scott’s workshop, it was an intense week of studio time, and the physical act of dissecting and reworking old books was a refreshing change from my mostly digital practice. I tried a few different things during the workshop, and showed two bookworks in the exhibition, Island of Sheep and Remote Sensing. I made Island of Sheep rather spontaneously out of an old novel whose cover caught my eye – turns out John Buchan was not only a novelist but served as Governor General of Canada, and wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps, famously filmed by Hitchcock. The novel Island of Sheep was a sequel to that book, and a bit of an adventure story. Inspired by the paddler on the cover, I cut a series of waves from the pages that extended back into the book, creating a scene with some depth. I liked the effect but it didn’t feel finished, at which point I found a perfect passage in the text: “There was no time to waste, so I plunged at once into my story.” I cut a slot into the bottom of the book to reveal the text, and added another small hole at the top, which helps to activate both the sky area and the back cover. This work was created entirely by cutting into the original book.
For Remote Sensing, I found a fantastic old book about remote sensing (aerial photography and such). I had a few different ideas about how to work with this volume, which was full of beautifully precise maps. The “remote sensing” theme also seemed to suggest a process which would not involve damaging the original book. I eventually decided to scan every page of the book that had a map, digitally combining these images by superimposing all the map sites according to their original positions in the text, creating a sort of geographic cross-section of the book. I composited this map with a scan of the back cover of the book, which had a wonderfully distressed landscape-like texture, and made a large print of the work for the exhibition.