Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I have always loved the physical sensation of leafing through a new book. The smell, the crackling of new binding, the texture of the over leaf are all an essential experience before I even begin to read. For me there is a physical relationship with books that is inextricably linked to their enjoyment.

No one knows this better than Douglas Coupland, whose background as a visual artist has made many of his own novels have their own unique design elements that are not superfluous in any way to the written content. With his latest installation "50 Books I have Read More Than Once" Coupland has taken his enjoyment of books and transformed them into a concrete entity that explores the physical manifestation of his love of good books.

The covers of these beloved books have been pasted to the end of wooden blocks, all of varying length and size. There is also a direct correlation between the books that impacted him the most, and the size of the block they are attached to. The completed pieces placed together form a larger structure that provides a physical form to his own reading history and how his imagination has been shaped.

According to Coupland, the piece provides "a methodology that would allow viewers to visualize the structure of their own bibliographic histories - no two of which are ever identical". He has also commented that asking which books one has read repeatedly is often a more honest indicator than the "desert island" question of essential books, which usually just becomes a method for establishing one's intellectual credibility.

Douglas Coupland's installation is on display at the Simon Fraser University Gallery until October 20, 2007.


One of the books that would place a high ranking in my sculpture would be "The Dictionary of Imaginary Places", a collection edited by Alberto Manguel & Gianna Guadalupi, originally published in 1980. My first edition hardcover commands a place of prominence in my library and has a strong physical presence; it is large, thick, and weighs a fair bit. Its not a book you lug around, and bringing it out is an event that requires the appropriate setting for perusal, as well as a certain degree of reverence when doing so.

It is full of fantastic maps, drawings and factual descriptions of various imaginary places as taken from many famous pieces of literature. It is wonderful because you can just flip through it and read a few entries as desired, or simply explore many of the maps or drawings of various imaginary kingdoms, countries or buildings. The map of the land of Oz is particularly delightful and well researched.

The smell, shape and texture of this book has become an old friend. I couldn't conceive of reading another edition of this book, as it just wouldn't be the same. Even when it sits idly on my shelf it is a physical reminder of the many other books that have shaped my imagination, a key that can open doors to many magical places.

I would mount it on a massive block and put it in a place of high prominence on my equivalent sculpture, alongside many other books, filled with poems, art, wild stories, polemics, biographies, all forming a rich and textured landscape of my always evolving and expanding imagination. It would form a map in its own right, never static and always growing.

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