Art is a Remix

Do you know about TED talks? They’re wonderful, informative presentations on a wide variety of topics that take about 20 minutes or less to watch. The website recently featured a talk by one of my favorite book artists, Brian Dettmer.

The video is only a little over six minutes long but it’s full of great points to ponder, especially the last half of Dettmer’s talk. While I was watching, the first point that struck me was when he said, “I think of my work as sort of a remix, in a way, because I’m working with somebody else’s material in the same way that a D.J. might be working with somebody else’s music.

When he mentioned the word remix it reminded me of the author Austin Kleon and his book Steal Like an Artist, which covers the idea of remixing, where you selectively “steal” ideas from other artists you admire and combine or remix them. The end product then becomes your work. If you have time watch Austin Kleon’s TEDxKC talk.

By remixing, Brian Dettmer is making something “more new, more contemporary.” He also goes on to say, “I’m thinking also about breaking out of the box of the traditional book and pushing that linear format, and try to push the structure of the book itself so that the book can become fully sculptural.

People learn by copying, then combining and remixing to create their own work. However, once you have been working on something for some time, you begin to evolve and your unique voice/perspective emerges. By pushing boundaries the artist again creates something new.

Old books
I’ve bought or have taken old, unwanted books for the sole purpose of tearing out its pages to make something. However, I haven’t quite “harmed” any of those books yet …

Would you ever destroy/rip/throw away a book? Dettmer explains that people generally are disturbed by the thought of destroying a book because “we think about books as living things, we think about them as a body, and they’re created to relate to our body, as far as scale, but they also have the potential to continue to grow and to continue to become new things. So books really are alive.

I’ve heard of the phrase “words come alive” but I’ve never thought of the book as alive. I’m still ruminating about the book as a living body.

My favorite part of Dettmer’s talk was during the last minute or so:

And I think of my work as almost an archaeology. I’m excavating and I’m trying to maximize the potential and discover as much as I possibly can and exposing it within my own work. But at the same time, I’m thinking about this idea of erasure, and what’s happening now that most of our information is intangible, and this idea of loss, and this idea that not only is the format constantly shifting within computers, but the information itself, now that we don’t have a physical backup, has to be constantly updated in order to not lose it. And I have several dictionaries in my own studio, and I do use a computer every day, and if I need to look up a word, I’ll go on the computer, because I can go directly and instantly to what I’m looking up. I think that the book was never really the right format for nonlinear information, which is why we’re seeing reference books becoming the first to be endangered or extinct.

So I don’t think that the book will ever really die.People think that now that we have digital technology,the book is going to die,and we are seeing things shifting and things evolving. I think that the book will evolve,and just like people said painting would die when photography and printmaking became everyday materials,but what it really allowed painting to do was it allowed painting to quit its day job. It allowed painting to not have to have that everyday chore of telling the story, and painting became free and was allowed to tell its own story,and that’s when we saw Modernism emerge, and we saw painting go into different branches. And I think that’s what’s happening with books now, now that most of our technology, most of our information, most of our personal and cultural records are in digital form, I think it’s really allowing the book to become something new. So I think it’s a very exciting time for an artist like me, and it’s very exciting to see what will happen with the book in the future.

When e-books first appeared I heard/read a lot about how the book may become obsolete. Dettmer’s analogy of what happened with painting after cameras and printmaking were introduced is a hopeful, exciting way of looking at the book’s future.

What do you think about the future of books?

Bonus: Here’s another video featuring a paper engineer and book artists respectively, Matthew Reinhart, Andrea Dezso, and Carole Kunstadt. Also, if you’re interested in seeing more book arts related material online have a peek at my Pinterest board. Thanks for reading!

Art is a Remix

Lynda Barry’s Syllabus and Refuting Plato

Syllabus cover

When I first saw Lynda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor in Barnes & Noble the cover called to my curiosity and I flipped through its contents. Each page felt like a visual bombardment with tons of handwritten text and artwork. However, I’m glad that didn’t deter me from actually sitting down and reading my library copy a few days later.

Syllabus gave an inspiring sense of what a class experience would be like as one of her students. After I finished reading her book last Wednesday I immediately wished I could sign up for one of Professor Lynda’s courses. The book will have to do as a substitute for now (I intend to purchase a copy for my evergrowing bookshelf). Also, Lynda is on twitter and tumblr, where she often gives students their assignment.

This year I’ve been borrowing and reading a lot of books about writing and learning more about an author’s process of creating a story. I’ve started to read 12 Short Stories and Their Making: An Anthology with Interviews edited by Paul Mandelbaum. The first featured author Walter Kirn, who wrote The Hoaxer, gave his opinion of fiction writing at the end of the interview.

Fiction writers have not made a very good argument, and professors haven’t either, for why made-up stories can actually be relevant to real life. And I think we’ve kind of lost that thread as a culture. It’s an increasingly quixotic enterprise to try to enlighten through falsehood. And that’s why people want true stories that they can take away a clear moral from, rather than ambiguous, made-up stories that will somehow … increase their wisdom.

So I think that the father in the story represents some of my own conflicting feelings about writing fiction. I mean, it’s never been an entirely reputable occupation. Plato pretty much said flat out that artists were deceivers and creators of useless, untrue objects, and I don’t think we’ve ever gotten over that as a society. (p. 27)

For other writers out there, do you feel that writing is NOT a reputable occupation? I highly admire writers and other artists for their creativity and persistence. I felt defensive and I wanted to shout that art is not a falsehood. Instead, I would propose that art making and the product/object may bring you closer towards truth (whatever that may mean to an individual). But then that’s the art therapist side of me roaring back.

And I was so grateful to soon read two quotes that contradict Plato’s belief about art/ists in Lynda Barry’s Syllabus her 16th class note on page 171.

The 16th class note
A look at the 16th class note. The rabbit creature appears interested as well.

The arts, I believe have a pivotal role in putting us in touch with the transcendant, with whatever it is that is beyond us. They are core to a civilization, measures of our health, and should be treated as such …” Iain McGilchrist, psychiatrist & writer

Devils come to earth briefly transformed to stop you from being artistic, from becoming artists. And they have a magic question. The magic question is, “WHAT FOR?” — but art is not for anything. Art is the ultimage goal. It saves our souls … ” –Young-Ha Kim, writer

There’s so much more to digest in Syllabus. What do you think about fiction writing? What’s your view on artists?

Lynda Barry’s Syllabus and Refuting Plato

Chip Kidd: Book Designer Extraordinaire

Creating visual haikus for stories: Chip Kidd at TED2012.

I'm now a fan of Chip Kidd after watching his TEDtalk. I wholeheartedly agree with his view about books as object. Its sensuousness and smell — ahh, take a deep whiff! Feeeeeeeel that deckle …


Ahem … excuse me. I was having a moment …

So what do you think after watching the video?


Chip Kidd: Book Designer Extraordinaire

The continuing adventures with Jim

The Paper Museum wasn't the only place Jim and I visited. Far from it. After lunch we took a scenic route on our way to the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art. It was neat seeing the beautiful houses along Peachtree Battle Ave(?); each house was beautiful and architecturally unique. As an aside, Atlanta has anywhere from 26 to over 65 streets with Peachtree in its name depending on where I went on the internetz. I believe Jim told me a number in the upper 20s range. Whatever the actual number just know that there's ALOT. I know the street names confused me a bit when I first arrived in this city.

While I lived in NYC I was one of the volunteers helping out during the Rubin Museum's Red Book exhibit that ran from October 2009 to Februaury 2010. I had the chance to view Carl Jung's own art work and mandalas. Now I wanted to visit Oglethorpe to see the university museum's Sacred Round exhibit displaying mandalas by Carl Jung's patients. Feels like I've come full circle (no pun intended).

Visitors weren't allowed to take photos of patients' artwork but I was allowed to take a shot of a quote that I absolutely loved by Carl Jung. His advice to patients in regards to their artwork:

This thrills me to no end as an art therapist and an aspiring book artist!

The small campus was serene and charming. We happened to visit during the university's spring break.

Beautiful stone structures

We ended the day touring SCAD and looking at MANY works completed by skilled students. One of the best personal highlights was seeing Julie Chen's book shown at the library. I've admired her work since I first became interested in book arts. I also enjoyed seeing the library's new book arts acquisitions.

How Books Work by Julie Chen/Clifton Meador


This has been one very FULL day. Again, I cannot thank Jim enough for his companionship and generosity. My brain is overflowing with creative juice. This will be a good night for dreams.

Favorite quote of the day stated by an OUMA employee, “The answer is always 'No' until you ask.”


The continuing adventures with Jim

2 Men + 1 Discuss Creativity

I'm always interested in hearing about aspects of creativity. I recently watched a video of a great discussion at SXSW between Kirby Ferguson and Austin Kleon, which touched on basic elements of creativity — copy, transform, combine.

Then this morning our awesome airbnb host mentioned AstroJazz, a cool-sounding event for this Friday. When I was looking up more info on this I found that there was a free lecture on creativity given by Dr. Robert Root-Bernstein later this afternoon at nearby Georgia State University. All of a sudden I have plans for today.

The lecture titled The Art of Science was geared towards the art education students. One of Dr. Root-Bernstein's messages is that the arts promote creativity, which is highly beneficial when working in other disciplines like the sciences or math. He gave examples of famous scientists like Albert Einstein and many Nobel laureates who participated in some type of art pursuit in their childhood; the arts seemed to play a major role in providing insight into their discoveries. The professor also displayed amazing statistics showing how SAT scores from 2008 are significantly lower in schools with no art classes (almost -100 points compared to the average) and the students who attended schools with 4 years of art had much higher scores that were almost 100 points above the average! (To Administrators and People in Charge — STOP CUTTING FUNDING FOR THE ARTS!)

His book goes into much more depth; I'm adding it to my wishlist. He and his wife also run a blog about creativity that I'll now be following.



2 Men + 1 Discuss Creativity