Articulate Activism: Artists' Books Take Issues

By Burkhart, Anne | Art Education, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Articulate Activism: Artists' Books Take Issues


Burkhart, Anne, Art Education


Recommended for students in grades 9-12

We are familiar with the informative nature of books, as well as the beauty of many handmade books. We may be less familiar with artists' books, which are different from those that are only beautifully bound or those that are collections of an artist's work. Artists' books are themselves artworks.

Although it is impossible to sum up the diverse array of artists' books, they often explore and emphasize particular aspects of "bookness" to convey ideas. Included among these aspects are the forms, traditions, conventions and histories of the book. For example, Janet Zweig s This Book Is Extremely Receptive: A Flipbook (1989) explores narrative possibilities. It is a small, wry meditation on modern technologies, housed in a silver mirror-finish paper cover. Three different forms of narrative structure parallel each other throughout the entire book. Thus, a satellite image rotates as pages are turned flipbook-style, accompanied by dialogue from a television show and phone conversation.

Book artists sometimes experiment with the placement of visual elements, putting them in the fore edge, gutter, back, front, end pages, upside down, diagonally, and backward, and utilize techniques including letterpress, offset printing, intaglio, hand lettering, silkscreen, and digital technologies. They have included 3-dimensional elements and used materials as diverse as rubber, metal, bone, wood, leather, plexiglass, and mica. Some artists' books appropriate and alter other books. Enormously diverse, artists' books can be one of-a-kind, limited edition printings, or mass-produced works. Forms book take include everything from accordion folds, flipbooks, simple pamphlets, to the familiar codex. Artists' books have alluded to book traditions such as scientific texts, pulp fiction, religious texts, informational pamphlets, and medieval manuscripts.

Although many artists' books are exhibited on gallery walls, they are sometimes displayed in reading racks or on tables so that they can, ideally, be held and experienced. You can even check some of them out of libraries. Artists' books can be found in archives, libraries, museum collections, and personal libraries. Although some artists' books can be expensive, many are about the same price as books commonly found in mainstream bookstores.

Artists' books are essentially a 20th-century phenomenon (Drucker, 2005) that gained significant momentum associated with the rise of conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s. Some artists felt that books were perfect vehicles to convey art that was mostly about ideas, and they mass-produced books in an attempt to skirt the gallery/museum system and reach a larger number of people (Lippard, 1985).

Activism and Artists' Books

Activist artists' books are those that overtly take issue with aspects of the world in need of change. These politically, socially, culturally engaged artworks explore issues about a particular aspect of life, and like other activist art, bring it to our attention. A small sampling of the many topics that activist artists' books have focused on include revisiting important civil rights events (Meador, 1996), investigating the sexist treatment of women (Cummins, 1998) and exploring censorship (Zweig, 1989). Many activist artists' books are mass-produced.

Objectives

This resource explores three activist artists' books. The lessons outlined here will enable students to:

* Identify and discuss some of the characteristics unique to artists' books as an art form.

* Identify and critically discuss the social and political content of the artists' books made by three book artists, including how production methods affect and reflect this content.

* Individually or collaboratively design, produce, and distribute an artists' book that presents an issue that they consider to be important.

Some Questions for Exploring Activist Artists' Books

In addition to the critical approaches you might already utilize, consider including questions like these that are specific to artists' books and to activist artists' books.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Articulate Activism: Artists' Books Take Issues
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.