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The book objects: writing and performance

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It does not take many steps for book to transform from predicate to subject, or for object to change from noun to verb. In this article I discuss the book as concept and as object, drawing on the history of the book, and contemporary discourse and practice, to suggest how books engage us as members of society and as individual practitioners. The article draws on Deleuze and Guattari's reconceptualization of the book as plateau, and as assemblages of strata, working rhizomatically rather than programmatically. It draws too on Foucault's reclamation of the book as experience and experiment rather than knowledge-object to suggest ways of encountering the self and the world in the act of writing. Perhaps not surprisingly, I reject the death of the book scenario, and instead offer an expanded notion of the book as that which can lend itself to performative actualizations, to the magic of the fetish object, and to the work of thought itself: the book as cognitive event; the book as ideas machine. To exemplify these notions, I discuss some recent moves in Australia to explore handmade books that operate not only as art objects, but as research products too, and also suggest how digital books offer alternatives to the conventional performances of identity, for writers and readers.

Keywords: artist book; fetish object; object relations; performative; rhizome

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Canberra, Australia.

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice is the official organ of the Writing Purposefully in Art and Design (Writing PAD) network. It offers art and design institutions an arena in which to explore and develop the notion of thinking through writing as a parallel to visual discourse in art and design practice. The journal aims to extend the debates to all national and international higher educational art and design institutions.
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