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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA Union Gallery exhibit presents ‘Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books’

    The writing on the wall says that print is dead, or so we’re told every time devices like Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad or a new smartphone come along and enable us to forgo ink and paper. Artists help remind us as to why physical books remain an important medium for transmitting ideas, thoughts and emotions from one person to another across time and space.

    The Union Gallery at Student Union Memorial Center is hosting a portion of “”Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books,”” a 2009 exhibition that was curated by Hui-Chu Ying, associate art professor at The University of Akron. Artists from around the world were invited to submit five copies of their books. The 142 works were then divided and sent to travel through the U.S. and abroad.

    Some books on display stick to what we normally expect from a book. One example is “”The Best Fortune”” by Diane Fine. Her accordion-like book contains pages that alternate between a sentence of text and photos from her trip to Sensoji Temple in Tokyo. A sentence like, “”Your wishes will be realized,”” sounds like something out of a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant. In fact, the text is an excerpt Fine received at the temple — and when placed next to a grainy, black-and-white photograph of bamboo stalks, such sentences transform into Zen koans that hint at meditative solitude.

    Befitting their size and intimacy, some artists created books that explored personal concerns. UA art professor Andrew Polk created an artist book that bridges family history with that of the world. The pages of Polk’s “”Tapestry”” are filled with the historic, haunting World War II photographs of the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, taken by Pfc. W. Chichersky. Polk writes that his father served in the “”Great War”” and was missing in action after his plane was shot down around the time these photographs were taken. “”Tapestry”” contains another layer of meaning with its inclusion of bloodstone. With bright red iron oxide flecks that resemble bloodspots, the green gem is associated with martyrs.

    Some artists suggest that the form of a book can be as malleable and limitless as its content. Joe Feddersen’s “”Panorama”” serves as a canvas where lines and fields of pure color extend across the pages, allowing viewers to see the art either as a whole or as discrete units. One playful take with the book form can be found with Leticia Bajuyo’s aptly titled work, “”A Wonderful Toy.”” A bright pink slinky is sandwiched between a wooden cover to form the “”pages”” of the book. Jill Zevenbergen’s “”Mr. Submarine”” is a technically impressive piece on a mundane subject. A snapshot of one of the “”Mr. Submarine”” sandwich franchise’s locations is presented as five layers of paper. The outline of each object is cut precisely by laser. When looked at through the gray, rectangular viewfinder, the effect can be disorienting, like seeing the world through the eyes of a color blind robot.

    The only possible complaint is that the books need more space in order to convey their full effect to visitors. Sometimes, it can be difficult to make out a book’s idea when only a small portion is visible, and it can be frustrating to read a story only to find it cuts off. But given the variety and richness of what’s there, this is a minor quibble.

    In his book, “”You Are Not A Gadget,”” author and virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier laments the limitations we create for ourselves whenever we conform to what our computers and electronic devices can do. “”Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books”” reminds us that we create technology, even something as old as the ink-and-paper book, to help us understand the world and ourselves.

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