Stewart 2011

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Stewart, Garrett. Bookwork: Medium to Object to Concept to Art. Chicago: University fo Chicago Press, 2011.

"the orphaned codex form" -- "Whether they are culled from libraries or carved from foreign matter, these retreads and effigies are book-works that -- in collaboration with viewer rather than reader -- do bookwork." (xiii)

"This study thus operates at a collision of two disciplines and the elision of a third. In it, art history impacts book history over the absent scene of anything like literary reading." (xviii)

An Exhibit in Mind

book objects -- "My sense si that the theoretical insistence of all such works, their claim on a postwar genre of textual remediation, requires no existence in order to prosecute the ideas they conjure. They are so fully conceptual that they need no perceptual basis except in the mind's eye."

demediation: "an active function of such works rather than some a priori condition, names the undoing of a given form of transmission, now blocked or altered, in the medium of its secondary presentation" (1)

"Where in Marshall McLuhn's week-known sense of the form/content dyad, the content of a new medium is always the lingering form of the old, in the art of remediation the absence of the old medial form becomes the content of the new work." (1)

"Operating, one way or another, upon a familiar material support in the codex form, the objects we are to encounter are works committed to the working over of book shapes, in alteration and combination, or their working up in simulation. Results take their bearings from a formal defiance, here called remediation, that is by no means new to contemporary museum experience. The book irremediably closed to reading is the open secret of this whole regnant aesthetic." (12)

"Book-works, as suggested, are mounted in their divergent ways to explore exactly the unconscious of mediation, returned with material force for each viewer from the standard suppression entailed by abstract text." (12-13)

"Denied any medium of communication or translation, the resistant book-work, the anti-book, offers the very scaffold of latent textual intimacy, summoning -- even under physical duress and erasure -- the tacit space of reading's inner rather than outer bounds. These are the routes, recesses, and tunnelings of normal response in a book's confounding of spatiotemporal 'extent,' the whole mystified world-building of its own material enclosure and its intangible space-making duration." (13)

"When the familiar verbal transmitter, the book as paper manifold, is either dismembered and rebound or closed upon itself to become a virtual back box not only empty but unplugged, it is only so as to mark out -- in the abstract -- the never strictly spatial shape of our reading machines to begin with. The expunged text, as book-work, can grow pungent with the idioms of verbal immersion itself, familiar even in their exaggeration and parody. Always in 'mute' mode anyway, the book shape that goes so far as to boast no words at all may still, in its own right, float to claim to meaning on a punning 'volume' reduced to one sense only, a spatial displacement entirely its own." (13)

"Despite their often wholly effaced verbal dimension, there is a kind of ocular grammar to such detected book forms. Subjective genitive has turned objective; the evacuation that is reading becomes the evacuation of it. That's why various contorted objectifications of the book form, of reading's materiality rather than its matter, amount in their own way to a museum of the mind , exhibiting the mind's own ineffable -- but nonetheless figural -- relation to the present elsewhere of textual immersion, haptic and impalpable at once. This is what book-works wordlessly spell out for recognition, if only by our reading it in. Alway between text-exempt materializations of the bifold codex structure and metaphors of its activation in uptake, each new book-work, however distorted or not, intercedes in our textual preconceptions like the return of the readerly repressed. " (14)

The Thing of It Is

not just "altered book" or "treated book"; not just sculpture or assemblage

"The book: a txt on offer. Singular or composite, the book-work: an object or objects on exhibit, reduced in the usual case to a format of canceled text -- at lest mostly canceled, water words may lie open on the sampled surface. Bookwork, then: the mod of materialization for such reduced textual circumstances." (21)

"Not just unnumbered but often entirely deposed, book-works are what is left of bibliographic culture without the cultural transmission itself." (21)

"The vast spectrum of books arts is thus roughly split between two abiding and rather different fascinations: the ramifications of design and graphic layout, on the one hand, and the heft and texture of raw materiality, on the other -- a materiality either appropriated or at time recomposed from another medium. Across the resulting divide between publication and installation, the difference emerges most vehemently when comparing the high-concept print volume -- all design flair, no prevented textual pleasure -- with the reworked conceptualist object, which displaces reading entirely onto material reconsideration. (21)