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Fifteenth Annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium

I and Thou: The Book as Community

November 7, 2009

John Cotton Dana Library, Rutgers, Newark Campus Newark, New Jersey


In Ich und Du, usually translated as I and Thou, Martin Buber famously proposed that people address existence in two ways: that of the ’I’ towards an ’It’, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience; and that of the ’I’ towards ’Thou’, in which we move into existence in a relationship without bounds. One of Buber’s major themes is that human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships. All of our relationships, Buber contends, bring us ultimately into relationship with God, who is the Eternal Thou. Taking inspiration from Martin Buber, the theme of the 2009 Book Arts Symposium will be the idea of the book as community. While bracketing the transcendent signifier (though not overlooking the fact that The Book has a long history of symbolizing Divine agency in many religions), I and Thou: The Book as Community will look at how books, book-making, and book-art help to found meaningfulness in relationships, or how the ’it’ of the book and the ritualized book-making process inspire and support inter-personal relationships that transcend simplistic, functionally or ideologically based social determination.

Symposium ’09, I and Thou: The Book as Community, will look at three categories of interaction between book and community. While articulated separately, these categories are dynamic, reflexive and inter-dependent.

The first category is defined by interactions between book-makers / book-making / book-art and pre-defined communities. I and Thou will explore how social identities are valorized through book-art. One important aspect of this category is how the concerns of community, and perhaps the implicit pull toward the ’boundlessness’ Buber describes, influence and condition the work of artists.

The second category is defined by the relationship of work and culture within self-selected book-worker communities, or among people who collaboratively make books or book-art. We will focalize this category through New Jersey communities, The Women’s Studio Workshop, The Printmaking Council of New Jersey and The Book Arts Roundtable. The third category will consider the international network of book artists as a generalized instance of what anthropologist, Victor Turner, famously defined as a ’communitas:’ an unstructured community where all members are equal and in which there abides an intense community spirit, the feeling of great social equality, solidarity, and togetherness.

Since I and Thou is the fifteenth annual meeting of the New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, itself a highly collaborative phenomenon, the event will model collaborative/interactive/communal creativity.


8:40: Workshop: Sarah Stengle will teach attendees how to construct a kaleidocycle. Kaleidocycles are unique faceted objects that rotate inward on themselves presenting sequential hexagonal pages. Artist Sarah Stengle will teach a workshop on how to design your own, with image and text, from a single rectangle of heavy paper. They can be folded and assembled in a matter of minutes--if one is willing to resort to scotch tape. Assembling kaleidocycles with PVA glue and hidden tabs requires a bit of planning and finesse, and the workshop will conclude with tips and techniques for producing a more enduring and aesthetic project. The basic pattern appears in Doris Schattschneider’s book Kaleidocycles.

9:30: Welcome: Mark Winston, Assistant Chancellor and Director of the John Cotton Dana Library, Newark-Rutgers University

9:40: Introduction: Karen Guancione will introduce the Symposium theme and discuss her ongoing project in the cultural center in Patzuaro, Mexico

Artists Presentations: 10:00-12:00

  • Two Girls Working: Tiffany Ludwig and Renee Piechocki: collaboratively explore issues of female cultural construction. Their ’Trappings’ project openly explored the relationship of women to power within the construction of personal identity. Trappings: Stories of Women, Power and Clothing was published by Rutgers University Press in October 2007;
  • Margot Lovejoy: has developed interactive community projects for decades (including Turns which was featured in the Whitney Biennial and most recently Confess);
  • Ken Montgomery: is a multi-disciplinary artist who has created The Ministry of Lamination (’a private Soundation created in 1994 to celebrate creativity by supporting dedicated cultural workers playing in the marginal fringe sound art noise field'=’).
  • Warren Lehrer and Judith Sloan: creators of Crossing the Blvd, which tells the stories of recent immigrants ’strangers, neighbors, and aliens in a new America.’

12:00-2:00 Lunch

1:00 Lunch seminar (Esther Smith / The Paper Bride)

The Paper Bride: Wedding DIY from Pop-the-Question to Tie-The-Knot and Happily-Ever-After is the third book in Esther K Smith's series for Random House imprint, Potter Craft. Illustrated by book artist Liz Zanis, the book features Purgatory Pie Press founder Dikko Faust's handset typography, projects made by Stephanie Brody Letterman, Bryan Baker, and Susan Happersett, and Esther and Dikko's 1980 wedding photos by book arts legend, Richard Minsky. The Symposium will get a sneak preview of the book to be released in 2010 and see letterpress originals that went into its design.

2:00: Open Mike (forum for announcements)

2:15--3:30: Panel (New Jersey Book Artists Communities)

  • Tatana Kellner, Ann Kalmbach: Women’s Studio Workshop
  • Karen McDermott: Book Arts Roundtable
  • Linda Helm Krapf: Printmaking Council of New Jersey
  • Judith K. Brodsky (Summation)

3:30 Exhibition: I and Thou Opening: Amanda Thackray, curator

3:30: Book Artists Jam

For the invitation to I and Thou: The Book as Community

Original program page in Wayback Machine