The “dematerialization” of books and the enthronization of “e-pistemology” have found a counterbalance: the return of the physical book as an artistic object. The printed-book predicament has paradoxically fertilized the ground for a conceptually driven, pre-Guttenberg notion of “book” as artistic medium. This paper examines the current state of affairs with respect to the “art-book”. Historically structured, the analysis is introduced by pre-Modern models of handmade books such as Medieval and early Renaissance illuminated manuscript, and Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican codices. William Blake’s illuminated books (and his nostalgia for book hand-making in the midst of the industrial revolution) serve as a bridge between pre and postindustrial notion of book production, circulation and consumption. The paper concentrates on the contemporary situation, starting by the 1960s coincidences between the intellectual propositions by the Conceptual Art movement and John Debes’s notion of "visual literacy". Case studies include from early conceptual art’s book projects such as The Xerox Book (1968), edited/curated by Seth Siegelaub, and On Kawara’s twenty books series One Million Years (1969–1981), until the work of 21st century artists such as Noriko Ambe.
Lecturer, Art History, School of Art, Design and Media; Nanyang Technological University , Singapore
Ruben de la Nuez is a visual culture theorist and academic. He is currentry a Lecturer at the School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has taught in graduate and post-graduate programs in a number of academic institutions including the School of Arts and Letters, University of Havana; the Sichuan International Studies University, Chongqing, China; the Dutch Art Institute-Graduate School of ArtEZ, University of the Arts, Enschede, the Netherlands; and the Sotheby's Institute of Art, Singapore. He holds an MA in Art History from the School of Arts and Letters, University of Havana. He was e UNESCO Research Fellow at the Theory Department, Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht, The Netherlands. He has researched, published and lectured in a broad range of issues related to visual culture.