Book Art


Exchanging messages with the help of writing – this is the basic understanding of the word „correspondence”, and in its wider aspect – with the help of signs and their meanings. Both should make the corresponding subjects understand each other. As a form communicating is shorter and more superficial, while corresponding is more profound, noble and deeper.
The topic of the currant edition of the Book Art Festival is CORRESPONDENCE. Comparing this edition with the former ones I can say the presented works are less experimental as forms, but more powerful as messages. There can be two reasons of such a situation: either the form is more stable, or we got used to experiments.
The first prize went to an almost classical, minimalist book referring to the correspondence between a banker and an artist. Everything that a classical book should represent itself Susan Jochanknecht shows in her work with utmost elegance, and that's why it was awarded.
Such an executive and artistic rigour can be found also in another book nominated for an award and made by Elżbieta Woźniewska, a Polish artist based in Berlin. Bound in dark ultramarine velvet it touches nicely our finger tips and encourages us to enter the fabulous world of Gilgamesh. The text is accompanied by the illustrations of intensive and vivid  colours. The memory of these colours has been preserved in historical monuments of those epochs. The one who has seen, only once, the real Gate of Ishtar in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, knows how deeply the ancient inhabitants of Euphrates and Tigris valley loved the colours.
Renata Pacyna won also the first prize for her book-object titled “Héloïse. Veiled, unveiled.” This is a simple, coarse dress sewn from white canvas. However out of the front, as if from the heart, the love of Héloïse and Aberald pours as long canvas pages covered with their letters. The more the result of their love (Héloïse's pregnancy) will be seen, the more exposed will be their correspondence. The one who knows the tragic history of their love, will understand that the Héloïse's attire is a kind of straitjacket, and its straps should be tied on the back by the others, by those who probably appraise this love.
A letter, like a diary or memoir, is very private and intimate form of correspondence. Ania Gilmore created an object-memoir from the genuine, real envelopes which crossed the Atlantic Ocean during the martial law in Poland bringing the correspondence of people whose personal histories plaited a meander with general history. The envelopes with stamps (recognisable for people living long enough) have been saved, stored with care like relics, now brought back to live in a different form.
Letters and postcards can be sent to “nowhere”. It can be a place not defined and not existing physically, yet the content of the written correspondence becomes a reflection that can be shared. The book by Maciej Jabłoński (the third prize) is a black box with black postcards to “nowhere” inside. The correspondence with his own thoughts born from the darkness of mourning.
The object by Grażyna Brylewska (the second prize) is composed of two books. The small one, very beautiful, is about love, while the bigger one is about pain. Both are wrapped with ribbons and look for shelter in metal boxes. Entangled in various dependencies they are a thoughtful comments on relations and proportions between love and suffering.
“Two Stages of the Memoir” by Magdalena Haras (the third prize) are the pair of shoes made of paper; their soles delaminate, split into pages where a story of the journey-escape from Siberia has been written. My grandpa also had escaped from Siberia and looking at this work for the first time in my life I thought how important attribute of this journey the shoes were (and the legs, too).
There is more drama and seriousness than joy and play in this edition of Book Art Festival, although the interesting forms are not lacking.
Probably everybody remembers from their childhood little illustrated books with some movable elements. Such is the form of the work by Małgorzata Niespodziewana, “Katarzyna and Nika 1936-1951”. The main characters of the Nika Strzemińska memories, published in “Art, Love and Hate”, come out of the black like on the theatre stage. Małgorzata Niespodziewana was awarded the Płocka Art Gallery Prize.
Małgorzata Dmitruk is recalling the past, too. Her drawings as usually are very witty and accurate short-cuts. This time the world she created is a home placed in the 1970s. We can see brilliantly presented situations and details of socialistic reality. Everything has a flavour of Bareja's films.
Pamela Paulsrud showed at the exhibition a few little toy-books. Tiny gadgets full of ideas, very handy, but with no use at all. Can be neither opened, nor read. These candies of absurd delighted the jury who awarded them the second prize.
There is the famous Museum of Art Nouveau in Płock. The time is flowing slowly in the rooms furnished in the style from before a century. Beds covered with the milky foam of abundant laces encourage to take a rest. A floral motifs so typical for that epoch has been placed on every object. We can't hear any servants who were inevitable to keep the rooms in order. Somewhere in the corner there is a Pathe phonograph – a music split away from both instruments and musicians. A herald of new times is hanging on the wall in the art deco room – a telephone with big tube. A big step towards virtual reality.
Nowadays, when you send a short message, the screen of your mobile is covered with various signs  :)  =    @  +  #... Is this the correspondence? The new generation is supposed to send private, intimate messages much easier when using the electronics than looking straight into the eyes. A computer screen is a medium for correspondence, too. Anna Schmidt was the only artist who referred to this phenomenon in her book titled “elo :)”
Well, myself, I'm also tapping the keys while writing these words and soon I will press enter.

Ewa Latkowska-Żychska