…but what is – really – a book?
Descriptively it is a manufactured item made of paper, ink, string and perhaps some leather which contains information, i.e. a representation of reality (or fantasy) as perceived or told by the author.
In this age in which the concept of the “book” is being redefined, the physical, manufactured side is perhaps losing importance, in favor of the meta-item representing something; technology is making it possible to consume the information in ways much richer than the simple linearly sequential nature associated with the manufactured item, enabling the “reader” (but is this word still appropriate?) to build connections and therefore enrich the information at each successive consumption.
All this was prompted by a conversation with my friend Giulia Zorzi, who’s a photography expert and critic, as well as owner of the MiCamera Bookstore; her concept of books is tightly linked with images and she’s had this ambitious idea to narrate the history of Italy from 1945 to the present as depicted in a series of photography books divided into 6 categories: Society, Landscape, Urban Dwellings, Industry, Social Uprisings and Culture.
Giulia involved the Museum of Contemporary Photography and its 15,000-title-library, located in an ancient villa in the outskirts of Milan. Together, they have selected over 200 books that not only describe our post-war history, but present a path though the evolution of book design and photography.
Combining the past with the present, the project foresees an integrated use of electronic reader devices (i.e. Amazon’s Kindle) to allow visitors to peruse all of the books in the exhibition and whose first venue will be at the Museum, as well as realizing an e-book version of the publication. At the same time, a copy of each selected book would be acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Photography (if not already in its possession), making them physically available to the public.
As its often the case with Giulia, the idea is so ambitious and innovative that I am sure they will manage to convince a sponsor. I find the idea of “a book of books of images” fascinating, a sort of third level meta-storytelling which could greatly profit from a non-linear, non-sequential consumption style coupled with the more traditional one.
This blog post is the most I can do to promote this bold idea – who knows, one of its readers may be captivated as I was, in which case I’d be happy to put such a munificent party in contact with her – not before I appropriate all the merit, though !