Book Art Review
Manifesto for New Book Art Criticism
Books have long been recognized as a key medium for artists. Mallarme wrote in 1895 that, “Everything in the world exists to end up in a book.” That is ever more true in today’s climate as the book form is leveraged to share ideas, perspectives, outrage, protest, humor, and beauty.
Book art production is more prolific now than ever before, yet critical writing about book art and specifically about artist books lags far behind critical writing about other media. Few publications devote space to writing about book arts. Reviews of artist books often consist mostly of descriptions of the book rather than a structured analysis.
We want to raise the bar! Book Art Review is our plan to make book art criticism more visible and more valuable, and to engage with a diverse group of writers and readers. Its main principles are:
- Defining book art and artist books as broadly as possible, including digital and other novel and experimental forms.
- Acknowledging that the way we tell the history of book art needs to be expanded, revised, and annotated because of our culture’s changing perspective.
- Acknowledging that there is no single model for proper criticism, but that critical writing should generally entail thinking about subject; maker; image; text; typography & design; binding structure; printing method; other physical attributes; time and place of origin; and quantity produced.
- Demystifying artist books and making them more accessible to a wider audience.
- Encouraging dialogue about book art in as many forms and forums as possible.
Beginning in fall 2020, we will launch Book Art Review with a range of activities including:
- Open public discussion about what artist book criticism should look like and what the field currently lacks.
- Producing educational resources and classes for prospective writers.
- A physical and online journal.
- A prize for book art criticism.
- Public outreach and education programs.
If you are a writer with an interest in writing about the book as an art form, we would like to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book Art Review was launched with the aim of promoting and strengthening book art criticism by providing a forum for and recognition of writing that embodies the principles listed here. We believe that these evolving principles represent attributes of strong book art criticism and reflect the criteria we will use for the BAR and prizes.
1. We believe that book art and artist books should be as inclusive a category as possible, ranging from traditional codices to digital and other novel and experimental forms and objects.
2. We must demystify artist books and make them accessible to a wide audience by ensuring that writing about those books uses clear language and adopts well-defined terminology.
3. We must embrace and support a diverse set of voices and backgrounds among both critics and makers to ensure the way we tell the history of book art reflects our culture’s broad and changing perspectives.
4. We understand that readings and interpretations of artworks may and will shift over time based on the viewer and changing cultural contexts. We support these shifting understandings and aim to document the perspectives of our and past times so that future audiences and scholars have a fuller picture of the development of this field.
5. We believe there is no single model for proper criticism nor a right judgment and emphasize the importance of well-argued and supported assessments, even if they present contradictory views.
6. We insist that criticism must express a judgment (and description as needed) and must provide an analysis that supports the judgment based on :
- Evaluating formal elements including images, text, materials, typography & design, binding structure, and printing method
- Considering the time and place of origin
- Comparison with other book art
7. We believe that criticism should primarily be about the object but may take into account and discuss both the viewers’ and makers’ background and intent.
8. We encourage critical responses in a wide range of forms, styles, and lengths, from short reviews to essays.
Book Art Review magazine publishes two issues per year, with the first issue launching in Spring 2021. Individuals interested in writing for BAR should reach out at email@example.com
Workshops for Arts Writers