If Lai’s work weren’t safely behind glass, one might expect the aroma of baking to fill the gallery. ‘Bread Encyclopedia’, as the name would suggest, is comprised of a series of books, bound in bread. Each volume is lettered and tied with a string, as if ready to carry. And although the work itself dates back to 2008, the books look freshly made.
The scene is like some strange mini-market stacked with objects, that through blurred vision at least, could resemble familiar, everyday goods. Shelves are filled with wrapped packages, bundled objects, rolls tied with strings. Among them are mini footballs, old containers, parts of machinery and even a book.
The Romanian artist Ciprian Muresan uses books as a resource, sketching a copy of every image in a particular book on to one sheet of paper. His source material comprises seemingly image-laden artists monographs or studies.
Liu Ye’s small, flat photo-realistic paintings are of books collected by the artists’ parents during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-76). The books are often theory, text-books or works of literature – some of which (such as Nabokov’s Lolita) have political connotations.
The British Library is a large and colourful artwork by Yinka Shonibare which comprises a huge collection of specially bound reclaimed books covered in vibrant Dutchwax fabric and embossed in gold with the names of notable British figures who were born outside the UK or have non-British ancestry.
Let me start with a caveat: the object of exchange in Lee Mingwei’s artwork isn’t strictly a book, it’s an envelope containing a story. I wanted to discuss it though because the artwork itself is irresistible.
The artist Raymond Hains plays an interesting game with us in his artwork Valises; an installation which comprises a utilitarian metal shelving system stacked with box files, metal Airbus cases and plastic packing crates filled with books and index cards.
Michele Ciacciofera’s installation Janus Code (2016-17) is a collection of artefacts that resembles a dreamlike museum exhibit. Apart from the occasional concrete items (a butterfly, seeds, a stone), many are handmade, created with unexpected materials to resemble familiar-looking objects and displayed like anthropological specimens.
Michel Blazy‘s Aqua Alta was displayed at the 2017 Venice Biennale. At first sight the work looks like a neat stack of pristine books. On closer inspection they better resemble catalogues or fashion magazines. In actual fact they are anonymous leaflets, featuring scenes which appear to relate to Venice. Looking even closer one can see ridges and channels cut into the paper, like a small landscape of canyons and valleys.
A structure floats; the majestic hull of some dream ship. It’s huge, but nearing on the intangible. This is not quite the ghost-like art of Do-ho Suh’s, but evokes a similar feeling; the concrete-turned-transparent. This fragile tableaux is a combination of simple elements brought together to create a striking work.