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Novel Use of Books Becomes a Fine Art

By Jennifer Platt for The Sunday Times

Books have a long history as objects of pleasure, but as their digital doppelgängers — eBooks — eat into the market share of paperbacks and hardbacks, they are becoming something different: objects of art.

A decade ago, South African artist Wim Botha unveiled his celebrated commune: suspension of disbelief, a Christ figure carved out of hundreds of tight-packed Bibles, and several other artists have discovered books as a medium.

Canadian sculptor Guy Laramee transforms epic novels into topographical sculptures with mountains, volcanoes, valleys and even water.

London artist Jonathan Callen’s most famous pieces are those of books glued together to create a single form with a marbled appearance.

Cara Bara, a photographer in Houston, Texas, said that with her art she hoped to “raise questions about … the ephemeral and fragile nature in which we now obtain knowledge, and the future of books”.

Bara’s book art project started with a chance encounter with an old phone book. Since then, she has taken different books, changed their appearance in striking ways and photographed them.

“I realised I owned many books that were no longer of use to me, or for that matter, anyone else. Would I ever need Windows 95? After [it was soaked] in the bathtub for a few hours, it had a new shape and purpose.”

As a rider for sensitive readers, she added: “No important books have been injured during the making of these photographs.”

Other artisans use books to create functional furniture and accessories.

Californian Jim Rosenau grew up in a house surrounded by more than 5000 books. Now he takes discarded ones and uses them to create thematic, witty furniture.

British artist Laura Cahill creates what she calls “readable furniture”. Her signature pieces are vases that have been handmade from recycled books .

For those who want to try their hand at making functional book art, there are many resources online that give step-by-step instructions on how to fashion a handbag out of a recycled book or use one to make a handy storage container to hide all sorts of things.

The old saying that “books furnish a room” may soon come to mean something entirely different. — Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt


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