Streaming Books, Literally

PixGrove

Ever feel like your home is overwhelmed with books? (No? Really?) Well, Spanish artist Alicia Martin has taken inspiration from book sprawl and created massive outdoor sculptures that suggest the aftermath of a book-eating cyclone.

Since the late 1990s, Martin’s book sculptures have tumbled from windows or cascaded over archways throughout Europe, with three located in the heart of Madrid. Despite the innate grandeur of these projects, very little has been written about Martin’s work, in English or Spanish, other than on than a handful of Pinterest sites and blogs. But, here’s what we know:

Each sculpture requires a minimum of 5,000 volumes, according to the artist, who sources her raw material from an ever-present supply of discards. Each structure is held together by internal metal and mesh framing, around which Martin attaches the books. These sculptures recall the work of another biblio-centric artist, that of Nancy Gifford and her piece “Lament,” which we wrote about back in 2014. (Update: “Lament” found a permanent home at the Davidson Library at UC Santa Barbara in 2016.)

Reproduced with permission from Nancy Gifford.

Lament

In different ways, both Gifford and Martin offer up commentary on the grand sweep of cultural change underway. “The book chose me,” said Martin for the Spanish-language art website queleer.com in 2014. “It [a book] carries much symbolism, and though the result seems obsessive, I do not recognize myself in this obsession. It is an object that stores and records time and space. The book itself is an object to be read, and offers as many “readings” as there are people who have read it.”

So, the next time your books find themselves everywhere but the bookshelves, just think: glued together and toppling out a window, they could have a new story to tell.

About the Author

Barbara Basbanes Richter

Barbara Basbanes Richter writes for Fine Books & Collections magazine and Art & Object. She’s also a professional ghostwriter.  

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