Imprimatur: ‘Unbinding the Book’

The Imprimatur project, a call for submissions by artists to challenge the concept of the book, was launched on Wednesday by indie-publishing platform Blurb and visual arts studio Jotta.

The idea behind the project is to ‘unbind the book’, to confront the idea that in the age of the internet, the printed book is dead. Artists and designers will compete for 12 commissions that demonstrate that they can successfully reimagine the idea of the ‘book’, creating original books, book installations or book conceptualizations to show what the printed word is still capable of.

Three speakers were asked to flesh out the concept of Imprimatur with examples from their own work and experiences, and all talked about different ways that a book can ‘be’.

Matthias Hübner, writer of Fully Booked: Cover Art and Design for Books, talked about concepts in book design over the last 15 years. He gave examples where for instance different types of pages are used in art monographs, using e.g. plastic instead of paper so that the book itself becomes an artwork. The layout of books can be deviant from the norm; for instance a novel exists where the first line on the first page continues over to the first line of the second page and so on right to the end of the book, then the second line does the same. Books can be bound and folded in unusual ways, so The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has been produced where the dual personality of the protagonist is revealed through split pages. 

James Cuddy & Roma Levin from Six: Thirty Studio discussed their installation Collate: An experiment of collaborative publishing at the V&A as part of the London Design Festival last year. Their idea was to challenge the traditional book production sequence of author>editor>designer>publisher. With the world so interconnected nowadays, everyone can make and share content. They took this context from the online world to a physical installation at the V&A, where members of the public were encouraged to select images and design the layout of an art book, with the final pages chosen by a vote.

Alida Rosie Sayer, artist and consultant to the Marsden Woo Gallery talked about her work and how it has been influenced by the way James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov and Jorge Luis Borges took radical new approaches to the idea of the book. She translates these concepts into physical works of art, particularly immersive sculptural installations based on printed text.

The London launch event is being followed by launches in New York and San Francisco, with an exhibition of the successful entries touring Europe and North America in the autumn. Watch this space for details.

For more information, see www.blurb-imprimatur.com

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