Reading Room: Book Art From South Asia

Initially organized by Ruhanie Perera and Amit Jain, for the 2014 Colombo Art Biennial I was brought in as a New York based collaborator to present the fifth edition of this exhibition for Saffronart, New York. 

From Ruhanie: 
In the age of the digital revolution, where the practice of reading itself has changed so dramatically, this reimagining of the book through a contemporary art practice is both interesting and significant. Book art demands – as is the case with approaching contemporary art – both an aesthetic engagement and a critical conceptual inquiry into the work. Aesthetic engagement with book art demands a paradigm shift to reading a different logic in the book: the logic of the visual and the textural. The book is also a cultural site because of its history (consider the many times that books have been burnt as acts of symbolic violence) and its signification of knowledge. It follows then that critical conceptual inquiry counts book art as a visually embedded cultural site. It is a site where many versions of history, senses of identity and narratives (both dominant and counter-) converge.

The book in contemporary art is thus an object completely transformed – not just in its structure, but also in its meaning. Walter Benjamin calls this the “renewal of existence.” This sense of renewal is to be experienced in the work of the exhibiting artists brought together in conversation in The Reading Room. The mood is sometimes fantastical and playful, and sometimes evocative and intimate. At its most activist, it stands as a collective resistance to dominant politics and ideologies. And, as the artist works in many ways as an interpreter of the book, so will the viewer of the work.

The experience of reading is one we know so well: it is one that is deeply personal, whether approached with anticipation, curiosity, or sometimes even with hesitation. Reading Room invites the reader of this space to carry with them the memory of this experience in a context created for encounter, discussion, and making meaning. Book art did not start its journey in a gallery. Its stirrings are to be found in a sketchbook, in a simple fold, in a story. Reading Room is thus an invitation to stop for a moment to read the many different stories of book art, and through it, engage with a collective artistic consciousness that repositions the book.