October 02, 2003
Printed books as the first modern art

Here's an interesting Blowhard insight:

Many people don't realize that the nothing-but-text, read-it-straight-through book that's still seen by many overly-serious people as the only kind of "real book" was a bizarre and anomalous publishing development; it was (in large part) a historical accident attributable to the difficulties of getting industrial-era publishing technology to manage images and text well.

A related myopia is that a lot of people don't seem to get that "books" and therefore also "literature" are not just one of the old arts – they were and are the first of the new. The first mass produced art, the first "modern" art. And I'll bet you anything that when those trashy "novels" (listen to the word for God's sakes!!), read by … everyone!!, there was all hell from the existing literati.

Now they fake up printed books to be like works of, you know, Real Art, and give them prizes for being profound and selling only twenty copies. It's as if they're trying to disguise their true roots.

Even more crazy, to me, perhaps because more recent and hence even more obviously ridiculous, is the attempt to dress up photography and colour printing as a fine, one-off, but-you-just-have-to-see-it-in-the-original-my-dear Art, instead of as machine arts. The whole point of photography, and of the printing press, is that you can have an infinite number of copies, each of which is just as good as the original.

How soon before the Art-snobbos demand to see the original digital electronic files of things, and to claim that no copy is really as good, and try to charge extra for the damn things? I wouldn't put it past them.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:36 PM
Category: LiteraturePhotography