In 1985 I came across Liz Vels’ hand-made book-shaped object on the Cape Town Triennial exhibition, South Africa. I found this object intriguing as I had not expected to find a book in an art exhibition. This book, however, contained no text (at least not on the pages exhibited) and for the first time I saw the potential of the book as an art object. The book itself challenged my expectations further in that it did not conform to what I considered the conventions of the medium: it was obviously a book, but one without text.
My decision to research the book as an artwork was made when I viewed Selected Poems 1961 – 1991. This book was a collaborative effort between the poet Patrick Cullinan; the artist Judith Mason, who produced the illuminations and illustrations; Mark Attwood, who hand printed the book; Bruce Attwood, who made the wooden cover boards and Johan Maree who bound the book.
After having been introduced to Jack Ginsberg and his extraordinary collection of artists’ books I was invited by Steven Sack, then of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, to curate the first exhibition of artists’ books ever to be held in South Africa. A significant portion of Jack’s collection formed the basis of the exhibition to which I added a number of local works which I was uncovering and researching at the time. Artists’ Books in the Ginsberg Collection became one of the largest exhibitions of its kind in the world when it opened in 1996.
This site was launched to coincide with the opening of the exhibition Navigating the Bookscape: Artists’ Books and the Digital Interface at the 2006 Aardklop Arts Festival, Potchefstroom and since then, other research projects around the book-as-an-artwork have been undertaken and the resultant exhibitions, book-objects as well as related textual research are included here.
New to the site is The Bibliography of The Jack Ginsberg Collection on Artists’ Books, which is an index to thousands of printed items (books, scholarly texts, catalogues, pamphlets, tracts etc.) on artists' books, collected by Jack Ginsberg over the last forty-five years. I am certain that this bibliography will be of great interest to collectors, librarians and scholars of the artist’s book.
This project is partially funded through subsidies received from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DoHET) for articles published in accredited journals.
David Paton January 2013