The Book Body of Big Data

A conceptual exhibition

It was a matter of time before artists would be inspired by massive data collections. However it is quite a surprise to see it happen in the context of the old fashion art of bookbinding. Artist and graduate bookbinder Lyske Gais took up the challenge to combine, or should I say to bind, the very new with the very old, presenting her work at the 37PK gallery in Haarlem.

In this former hospital, to be precise in the former operation theatre, four collections of real data are presented, in what could be understood as a book sculpture installation.

The artist collected, numbered and sorted available measurements of two thousand female soldiers and compared them to the Vitruvian Man.

The idea was to create a visual physical representation of massive data by binding it into four, rather extraordinary books.

An interesting concept; for one, the pages show, in a very physical way, that the general measure does not exist as such. The complete data shows a subtle yet evident curve!

Secondly, it necessarily problematizes the whole idea of book as storage of information, or more importantly: the book as carrier of truth. Besides a perspective on the human body, it confronts us directly with todays invisible (yet public) harvesting and storage of data. In that sense Lyske Gais work has a social political edge to it that in my opinion has not yet been fully developed in this exhibition so far.

The focus seems to lie on the esthetically presentation of the books as sculpture, with solving the challenge of supporting their size and weight, an interesting perspective when dealing with measurements of the human body.

However, walking around the books, circling the data, thumbing through the pages, even comparing the size of one’s own hand with the curve of the book, creates an almost interactive installation.

As an installation it questions the position of books in todays digital world.

I hope in a future exhibition, this aspect of interaction with books, our reading or not reading, our historical perspective on their value, will present another source of inspiration to the artist.

Nevertheless, if we, as a society, are to account for the ‘politics of objects’ then this book sculpture installation problematizes a very relevant issue. It deserves our attention.

The exhibition is on show till 16 December and then again from 10 till 27 January 2019.

Visiting hours: Thursday till Sunday from 13:00 - 17:00

Address: Groot Heiligland 37, 2011 EP Haarlem

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