Thinking about Books

I have decided that I am to have two separate exhibitions, so to speak. One digital, one physical. I was having the dilemma as to maximise all of the media I’ve collected for the project and couldn’t think of a way of making it all work in one small space in a group exhibition. This meant that I looked to using the video and sound for the web to create web presence for the project and then very much have a physical exhibition.

I am into books; I have been trying to make books with projects where I can. I feel confident with trying ideas to give books charm and character. However, I have been looking at ways to ‘open’ archives so that they are accessible. And in this research I have some across a lot of conflicting opinions. It has made me consider that how open an archive should/can be depends on the kind of archive it is, its content and its intended audience. Catherine O’Flynn describes “concealment is one of (archives’) defining features” so will opening up the archives to a broad audience change what it defines an archive? I want to keep this sense of concealment with my work; so that there is a longing for my audience to want more.

There are different types of archives: public, private and commercial.A public archive is for public use and makes sense that it can be distributed easily and freely. But when it comes to commercial and private archives, it begins to get a little less clear. Commercial archives such as Getty Images are not easy to access on foot; yet online, the website works in an e-commerce style so that images can be found easily. Since only 6 weeks ago, bloggers are now allowed to embed the images on their websites to discuss images for free; whereas before they would have to pay for the license. Of course, there is still the Watermark on the images. Private archives can be anything from your own family album to an institution’s archive and how free it is depends on its owners.

The George Rodger Archive is owned by the Rodger family, but the images are still copyrighted with Magnum as well. Furthermore, the archive is also personal; it has filed family photographs in it as well as diaries, letters and magazines. This makes it difficult to define: it is private and commercial. So what is the purpose of this archive? Jinx, the archivist, says that she uses it to answer queries and therefore means that is there to educate. But at the same time, a diary is personal, letter writing is personal. So I’ve thought carefully how and where I disclose information. I don’t think it would be right to scan a letter or diary and post it on the web- it was never intended to public view, nor was it for the internet; therefore, I have to think about what content can be published online in this sense.

With this in mind, I have thought carefully so that personal artefacts are not shared so boldly online. So as I have said before, pictures will be cropped and abstract and videos will be short and vague. The online version is to create interest for the physical exhibition. I have decided to have videos and pictures online because I feel that I don’t want to have videos at the exhibition as it would be very cluttered. So in the physical exhibition I will have a book and prints. But this idea of book; physical or digital? They both have their pros and cons. A digital iBook would allow the use of video and audio. But the point of an iBook is that it is a file, able to be copied onto other devices. So an iBook isn’t unique. I want to have an individual experience for my audience in the gallery, separate from something that they could access at home. Besides, I can use the mixed media from what I would put in an iBook and put it on my website for the online exhibition.

Deciding to have a physical book, I then have to choose between handmade or professionally printed. I feel confident with designing books which, as I said, have character. I use the print bureau here in Coventry to print the books and I hand bind them; however it is limited. In the pas the size of my books have been about A5, so small and intimate. I feel that this book I want to be larger for exhibition. However, the problem is that the largest the print bureau can print double sided is A4, meaning that if that was folded it would be A5. I would want to fold the pages into signatures so that they can be bound with thread and glue. Therefore I feel that I won’t have the right materials to create something that I want. But then again as I have also been thinking; what would the audience gain by having a handmade experience in the exhibition piece? I don’t want to create replicas of the objects or prints because I still want the viewer to hold it at arms length and be reminded that this is a representation of the archive and not pieces of it. I want the viewer to feel as though they want to see the real artefacts and be able to hold them. In this case, my project from the online features to even the physical exhibition I want the viewer to want more.

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