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Printed Matter 

Artists offer their visions of what books might look like in the future

Wednesday, Dec 19 2001
Once upon a time, pundits declared that technology would transform literature. Dan Okrent, editor at large of Time Inc., declared in a December 1999 lecture: "I believe ... all forms of print are dead." The Internet would kill printed magazines, they said, and e-books would eliminate the need for paper volumes. That day has never come, of course. Instead, digital and printed lit coexist -- and in some cases intersect. Now a small show at the San Francisco Center for the Book highlights the point of that intersection.

"XFB: eXperiments in the Future of the Book" began as an installation for an exhibit at San Jose's Tech Museum. As part of that show, Xerox PARC set up the "Artist's Book Studio," decked out with high-end digital technology. Eight Bay Area artists participated, and the result is on view here. Ann Chamberlain created the gorgeous Terra Incognita, in which she altered 15th-century maps, transforming them into what looks like either a Rorschach test or a discarded snakeskin. Punched into the pages are snippets of the human genome map, as if, Chamberlain suggests, one is "reading the body ... its code, its inscription, its instructions." Jocelyn Bergen's entertaining Linguabet is similarly physical, stretching like a skeleton from its concertina binding.

Charles Hobson produced Dancing With Amelia, a poignant, airplane-shaped volume. The book is a response to a letter written by Amelia Earhart to her fiance on their wedding day, asking him to free her after a year if married life wasn't working out. Hobson imagines how Earhart's husband hung onto her for six years (until her disappearance): "Year 5: He cuts a hole in the side of the house ... and lets her park her airplane in the kitchen." Each artist's view is a revelation, a voice raised from the printed page saying, "I'm not dead, yet."

About The Author

Karen Silver


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