We often think of the book as a container; an inert vessel that patiently awaits contact, its words and pictures permanently fixed in time and place on the page. There are books, however, that invite re-animation–even conversation–with what is contained therein.
For instance, the Talmud, a historic Jewish text whose origins date back to 200 CE, is often designed to incorporate commentary and opinion alongside its core text. In some editions, two or more voices share space on an elaborate page, in dialogue with both the Talmud and each other.
In this way, the Talmud’s design creates space for conversation and extends the invitation to a reader. This is but one example of the way books can give permission. The juxtaposition of different perspectives alongside one another suggest that one’s interpretation of a text is neither fixed nor static. It encourages a reader to engage with the book as a dynamic object, as opposed to the arbiter of unequivocal fact.
At Center for Book Arts, we often think about what can happen when artists take control of the book medium. The curators of Beyond Codex: Living Archives, Shahar Kramer and Anthony Tino, have approached this question by focusing our attention on a group of artists who use the book—a medium often regarded as authoritative—to rethink the power structures that surround us. Text, image, material, and structure all have the power to inform and influence us. In this catalog, designer Mina Shoaib draws inspiration from the Talmud and its interwoven texts. On these pages and, indeed, throughout this exhibition, we invite you to create space for a multiplicity of voices and perspectives–including your own.
This catalogue documents the thinking and work with the 2022 exhibition Beyond Codex: Living Archives curated by Shahar Kramer and Anthony Tino at Center for Book Arts.