Book Now!

5 - 26 May 2018

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The group show titled “BOOK NOW!” is conceived to act as a glimpse inside an artist’s library. Thus the show investigates into ways of artistic expression and presents works which depict libraries/books, have as a source of inspiration book(s) or the role of the library as a collection of information and resources, or artworks which themselves have taken the role of a book or research material aspiring to be part of a global library of knowledge. The opening of the show coincides with the nomination of Athens World Book Capital 2018 by UNESCO and is curated in an attempt to shed light into one of the most popular and valued sources of artistic inspiration: the book and the interconnection between writing/reading and artistic creativity.


Entering the exhibition space the viewer is confronted with an optic illusion of an installation of a large scale pile of books: Hrair Sarkissian's lightbox from his series titled Background (2013), which was made possible by the support of the Abraaj Group Art Prize, explores the relation between theatricality and realities. This series of lightboxes documents studio photography backgrounds from various cities across the Middle East: Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Byblos, Cairo, and Istanbul. In Sarkissian’s exhibited work the boundaries between reality and staged reality are blurred, the backdrop depicted incorporating itself real books and a wallpaper with images of books, thus the work can also serve as a metaphor of an artist’s library.


In Slavs and Tatars’ ‘Kitab Kebab’ work real books form themselves the basic material for the creation of the artwork. A traditional kebab skewer pierces through a selection of books, suggesting not only an analytical, but also an affective and digestive relationship with text. The mashed-up reading list of the artist collective proposes a lateral or transversal approach to knowledge, an attempt to combine the rigor of the more traditionally-inclined vertical forms of knowledge with a range of the horizontal.


Books serve also as artistic material for Antonis Donef: His elaborate collages and pen drawings layered over the printed images and words of newspaper clippings, encyclopedias and old books, present a highly personal re-consideration of knowledge. His intricate linear script and minute drawings enhance each work with energy and meaning. Memories, history and ideas are evoked through the overlapping of his characteristic lacey calligraphy on the printed material, a palimpsest that hints at stories within stories that describe a world congested with information.  While both in the works of Slavs and Tatars and Antonis Donef books are present as real objects, there are cases where the reference on certain book(s) and authors are not immediately evident. For example in the video work of Maria Loizidou, titled ‘GPS / memoscapes’, the artist uses quotes from “The book of the art” of Cennino Cennini  (15th c.) to evoke the relationship between art and existence. It is not before reading the ‘end titles’ of the film that the viewer is informed about the nature of the soundtrack text.


The format of the book itself along with its essence as a source of information and related issues of linguistics and semiotics have served as stimuli for creativity for a great number of artists. In some cases this has resulted in the creation of artworks which either are reminiscent of the form of a book or serve as ‘books’ themselves. This tradition is represented in the exhibition among others by the works of Chryssa from her series titled “The Cycladic Book” (1957-1962) and the marble editions of the 1990s which are presented in the show, and those of Maria Lai (1919–2013) whose work with books is prolific. The latter often baked books out of bread or clay, sewed others on soft fabric or paper or created books with sea shells. For her, as for artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Thomas Hirschorn, the form of the book became an imaginative tool for aesthetic and/or sociopolitical analysis; Lai contniously researched on the symbolic and metaphoric role of language and information and the transformation of the empirical relationship between book and reader.


For some artists the entity of the artistic production constitutes a library itself with a highly autobiographic character. Nina Papaconstantinou investigates the intricacies of literary texts, which are not meant to be read as such, but to be viewed as an image. In her ‘bookcase’ series the artist’s interest focuses on the absence of meaning and the disintegration of communication, as opposed to the hand-crafted effort that is needed to imprint each part that could possibly contribute to it. In her “Piles of Books” (drawings with imprints of writing on black carbon paper), Papaconstantinou “records” the colophons of books dating from the beginnings of typography in Europe to the present day. The artist gives emphasis to the book as an object, focusing exclusively on information regarding its production, its typographical identity. The stacking of the books refers at the same time to the way in which knowledge, information, is ‘embedded’ in layers, but also to the history of European culture through its typographical production.