Author and artist Ulises Carrión sought for “authors to be more attuned to the book’s materiality and impact on meaning” as well as “demand for a breakdown of the system that privileged writing as intellectual labor and denigrated the physical aspect of book production” (Borsuk 141). Just as Carrión would have admired, my nameless accordion book of angels breaks the standard mold of the book, presenting itself as more of a visual book than the mere textual book that Carrión was so disappointed in. Still, I kept some of the traditional aspects of the book when constructing my work, giving it both a front and back cover. As a visual book, my accordion book is composed mostly of images, showcasing the angels and the pages themselves as works of visual art.
Though I mostly used basic materials for constructing the book, the images of the angels came from a postcard book I had owned for a number of years. Interestingly, I tore the pages out of another quasi-book to construct my own bookwork. After all, would a book created to be torn apart and sent all over the world not be considered some kind of alternate book type? These postcards reflect a part of my own past in the meaning of the book, both as a kind of scrapbook portrayal in the placement of the images, and as a display of my faith through the angels themselves. In a sense, my book becomes a prayer book, sending messages to heaven upon the reflection of the reader. Just as Amaranth Borsuk says, “books are always a negotiation, a performance, an event: even a Dickens novel remains inert until a reader opens it up, engaging its language and imaginative world” (Borsuk 147). The material nature of this book entices a reflective reader to find his or her own engagement with the images. Just as the postcards remain mostly blank on the back to allow personal messages to be written, so too does my book remain mostly blank on the backside, leaving space for letters and writing to be added.
In this way, my desired reader would be a contemplative person, someone who peers into the images and faces on the pages and forms his or her own conclusions. I deliberately try to evoke this response from my reader through the irregular shape of the pages of my book. I cut the folded pages to resemble angel wings, and these pages stick out beyond the cover and the images fastened upon them, implying something beyond the mold of the typical book. Likewise, the sparse text that I include in my book also suggests something beyond the book itself, as the poetic prayers speak of angels and saints at night time watching over us, making the mostly black covers of the book resemble the idea of a Bible or a prayer book. Still, the text acts as an accent to the visual nature of the book, allowing each image to converse with the reader instead.
Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2018.
3 thoughts on “Contemplating Angels: A Critical Response of an Accordion Book”
My mind kind of exploded when you said how these postcard angels are prayers being sent to Heaven. I love it when there’s meanings like this when it comes to the appearance or materials a book is made with! Not only does its look made one think, but with what made it and its intent really draws you in and forces you to contemplate more.
Your accordion book is so wonderful and unique! I love how you mentioned the connection between your own book and the book from which its materials were sourced. It is interesting to see a non-traditional book that is religious, daring to question what we mean by prayer books and perhaps even how an entirely different type of prayer book can hook us in deeper by arresting our traditional thoughts and forcing us to leave our comfort zones. You mention that your book is a prayer book, but maybe it is even a type of prayer itself at the same time.
I really like how the form of the book itself and the content within it are completely connected. The shape of the angel wing cover and pages really makes the postcards stand out and invites the reader to really contemplate the idea of the angel. I also love how you talk about your book as a prayer book. I think that brings a whole new depth of meaning and contemplation to the entire project- it’s not just a book to be read but a tool to aid in prayer.