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How Books Stop Time: The Problem Of Originality And Artists' Books

Michael Joseph


By representing bookishness in non-traditional forms, Book Artists have opened up new ways of thinking about and theorizing about The Book. Books represented as coffee tin wrappers, glass coronets in a pool of Parrish blue, painted undergarments, as hats and boots and Dr. Seuss-like musical instruments in a wordless performance that itself pantomimes the temporality and interpretive choreography of reading, liberate the imagination from the dead letter of convention. This rigorous, forty year project of interrogating the premises of the codex book has, with increasing energy and, some might say, shamelessness, exposed The Book as a notional reality, a powerful symbolism subject to seemingly inexhaustible figuration.

"It is this experience of the sacred," writes Mircea Eliade, "that generates the idea of something which really exists and, in consequence the notion that there are absolute intangible values which confer a meaning upon human existence"("Structure and Changes in the History of Religion" 366).

The task of this paper is to suggest how the Artists' Book constitutes the experience of Eliade's "sacred," within a discussion of the implications of originality and the concomitant problems of Aristotelian and non-Aristotelian Time.

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