by Na’ama Zussman
The artist’s book is a specific instantiation of book culture, conveyed through self-reflexive and critical modes of exploration of both the concept and the form of the book. The artist’s book is critical and potential in its concept and materiality, and in its modes of operation and engagement. Book 91 by Keith Smith (New York, 1982), also known as The String Book, is an artist’s book with no text or image; a theatrical space for the evocation of experience. Bound to the codex form and its material syntax, multiple strings weave their way through varied-sized holes, exploring the boundaries of the book as idea and form. Book 91 continuously breaches constraints of production and reception that are inscribed in it (and in the history of the book) and by which it is informed: of content; of materiality, and of reception and engagement. As it ceaselessly broadens possibilities for observation and experimentation, Book 91 accentuates the dynamic participatory role of the reader/viewer and challenges one’s own preconceived expectations regarding what a text is and how meaning is extracted. In this paper I aim to deliberate on the dynamic reciprocity that the artist’s book establishes with the concept of ‘the book’ and map out some of the trajectories by which the artist’s book unfolds its critical aspects: the experiential, the cultural, and the institutional. This paper is based on a chapter in the author’s PhD thesis.
Book 91 is housed, among other collections, in the Library of Congress and the NYPL.
Na’ama Zussman is an artist and a Ph.D. candidate in the Cultural Studies program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her doctoral thesis draws attention to the artist’s book as a site of experience, potentiality, and critique. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Science and Society in Colombia University and a researcher at The Center for Research in the Humanities in The New-York Public Library.
Zussman holds a Master’s degree in Book Arts from The George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts & Design. Her thesis essay, which received the Award for Graduate Critical Writing, discusses the coexistence of artists’ books as both map and territory. During her studies, she completed an internship at the Rare Book and Special Collections Division in the Library of Congress. Zussman is the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships for academic and artistic merits and a regular guest lecturer at various symposiums.
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by Na’ama Zussman