Visual and literary artists often partner, resulting in beautiful works like “Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Joan of France” currently on view in MoMA’s “Inventing Abstraction,” in which Sonia Delaunay’s Orphic, abstract shapes literally bleed into Blaise Cendrars’ poetry, or becoming one and the same in the case of the Conceptual group Art+Language. A current exhibition curated by Jessica Cochran at Columbia College Chicago’s Center for Book and Paper Arts, “Structures for Reading,” considers a refreshingly novel aspect of the interplay between literary and visual arts: the relationship between book and human body as well as the physical exercise of reading.
New possibilities for reading are presented by Gareth Long’s “Invented Desk for Copying,” a wood desk in an S-shape with two facing working spaces, from Flaubert’s last novel, or Johana Moscoso’s “Delirio/Delirium,” a bean-shaped pillow that sits on the ground and provides a huggable support for readers’ contemplative heads. Czech artist Eva Kotatkova imagines an apparatus for attaching books to the body, either a medieval torture-device or a multi-functional spider Halloween costume and book carrier in one. These alternative structures spark curiosity: why are desks shaped that way, and why have their shapes remained unchanged through the years?
While the creative reading prosthetics may not revolutionize reading, digitization is causing a shift with small independent presses increasingly absorbed by large publishing houses, themselves trying to keep print media alive, addressed in the exhibition by Silvio Lorusso and Sebastian Schmieg’s humorous “56 Broken Kindle Screens.” The e-book-size paperback reproduces images of malfunctioning Kindle screens, our twenty-first century answer to nostalgically old books with torn, stained pages. For all the repositioning of the reading body presented in “Structures for Reading,” the greatest change currently occurring ironically changes readers’ physical position very little, as an e-book easily replaces the paper version in the reader’s hands. (Anastasia Karpova Tinari)
Through April 6 at the Center for Book and Paper Arts, Columbia College Chicago, 1104 South Wabash.