At Monday's meeting of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective, MCBA's artistic director and interim director Jeff Rathermel spoke to 28 journal artists and book artists about "What is an Artist's Book?"
Rathermel began by explaining his inclusive definition of just a book—"A book is a contained narrative." The container can be a traditional book, a clothesline, a wall, a room, an installation…
"Narrative," Rathermel continued, "has sequence and content. Content is what the book is about and is the essence of all art. Sequence is order." For the next 60 minutes Rathermel guided us through artists' books from his own collection pointing out how sequence could be achieved in a variety of ways, and how the artist controls the container ("book"), content, and sequence, either solely or in collaboration. "An artist's book has more in common with a movie than a painting or a print," explained Rathermel. "You have to give the audience an incentive to turn the page…Every element (paper, binding, handling of text, etc.) all reinforces the content and moves it forward."
Rathermel inspired us not only with his insights into the book form, but also through the evidence of his own "collector's eye." "I'm looking for someone using the book to its greatest advantage—content and sequence," he said. Through his tutelage I think many new collectors and book arts projects were born on Monday night.
Excellent news: MCBA is cataloging their collection of artists' books and prints. The catalog will be searchable through keywords on line! I will keep you posted when more details are available.