I am honored to have been selected to curate an exhibition The Internal Machine at the New York Center for Book Arts in Fall 2017. The exhibition aims to contextualize the book as a piece of technology and the artists selected will range from those that might be associated with “book arts” and others that have never worked in a book format/mode before.
Here is the text from the Exhibition proposal
The Internal Machine is inspired by Bruno Munari whose playful illustrated contraptions incorporated everything from snails to abstract shapes to musical notation. At first glance they might seem to be some strange Italian relative of the diagrammatic shenanigans of Rube Goldberg, but unlike Goldberg whose inventions offered convoluted answers to simple ideas (fly swatter, napkin, back scratcher) Munari posited fantastic solutions to unimaginable absurdities, like “a mechanism to tame alarm clocks; a machine to smell artificial flowers; a lizard-propelled engine for lazy turtles.”
Munari was a polymath with a lifelong mission to reposition our relationship to objects, to form, and to function. While his early growth within the futurist movement helped shape these tendencies, much of his later work was concerned with education as much as it was with transgression. He had a long history with books and is well known for his works for children, but his Illegible Books (Un Libro Illegible) seemed to offer the reader a chance to unlearn how the book is meant to function. These idiosyncratic volumes, some in printed editions and some unique copies, and consisting of every manner of folded, joined, torn, and punctured pages, presented the book as a place to explore form as sensory experience rather than as a vehicle for textual content.
At the heart of these books, and so many of his other works, is a sense of play and it is with his Prebooks (Prelibri) that this finds a natural form. Unlike his Illegible books, in which he offered adults an opportunity to rethink assumptions of form and content by pushing against the tradition of the book, the Prebooks, were created for an audience too young to read. With children Munari had an ideal audience receptive to exploration, not saddled with years of muscle memory and fossilized learning habits. The books gave children an opportunity from the start to experience a book object as a dynamic machine for conveying tactile, visual, auditory, and material stimuli.
In the proposed exhibition The Internal machine, the artists explore the book in ways not unlike Munari, in some cases with playful wonder, in others with a provocative absurdity, and in some with an open question about the ways that we habitually think of the book as a form.