Thursday, May 6, 2010

The best thing to happen to books since Fahrenheit 451.

Tonight I prayed for forgiveness from the blogging gods (Bill Gates and Dooce) for my lack of posting activity these last few weeks.   My recent Hades-delivered sickness and the trappings of real life (wtf non-internet life?) left me functionally retarded and unable to form sentences with recognizable nouns and verbs.  On second thought you probably wouldn't have been able to tell...  But subsisting solely off of cinnamon toast and stress did make me cranky and weak (again, probably hard to tell a difference) so I'm just going to blame my blogging drought on the fact that I haven't had a drop of the sweet sauce (read: cheap wine) in almost two weeks.  Since the 'Sauce' is technically 50% of this blog you can understand how important that is to my creative process.

Fortunately I was roused from my creative hibernation by some serious fuckery (and I also unscrewed the top off of a bottle of the good stuff).  Now I don't mean to tread on the Moggit Girls territory here but what in the hell is going on with "bookshelves" lately?  

Archive II from David Garcia

A nomadic library says the artist and designer.  Or are we like hamsters trapped in our self-imposed wheels of institutional education in constant motion but never going anywhere... mmmhhhhhh....??!?!!!

Not Art.  Just fuckery.  I think it's still plagiarism even if you add a cushy bench in the middle.

Chaos Theorie by Manuel Welsky
Definitely not art.  Barely functional.

Perhaps I'm having a problem with semantics and not the product.  I can't tell what's installation art and what's for sale at Velocity.  Or maybe my wheel of higher education has stolen my imagination...  To me design is supposed to be creative problem solving while hoping for aesthetic appeal.  Because this isn't Design: 

Libraria Newton from Francesco Polare

It's creative masturbation.  There's nothing wrong with masturbation but you can't sit on your couch all day jacking off to the self-reverential awesomeness of your own ideas.  Don't you need a real job to buy the horn-rimmed glasses to read your collection of Chuck Palahniuk books you designed your "shelves" for?  However I'm guessing the market for vice grip bookshelves is probably pretty small (and available at Home Depot) hence all that time on your couch.  

From the designer:

The Hübler is a creation using concrete – and books with a ‘concrete’ history – in various planimetrical surfaces. The absence of the books, due to their various dimensions, form different shapes of various depths and heights. The result concrete structure will not have a final shape, because, by using it, visitors can change the books or remove them.
The politically outdated books have been donated by the Research Institute Library of Radio Free Europe, the once active radio channel, sponsored by the US that fought against the Communism before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The table constitutes a monument to eternal knowledge – set in concrete- and it is a monument to the degeneration of information, to the immortality of the past and to its disintegration, while also offering an opportunity to reflect on the essence of the book.
The aesthetic reaction is not generated by the composition, rather by the abstraction of the artwork. Our aim here is not to show the technical virtuosity, the perfection of the design but the conscious use of the technology, with all of its rigid potentialities. The control over the material is obligate on a certain level, but not it is not the ultimate intention, or the main scope.

It's "interactive".  Like a thousand pound Kindle.  I think they must have been rendered functionally retarded like I was last week because that last paragraph doesn't even make sense.  [MS note: if you use "planimetrical" in a sentence we can never be friends.  Just sayin.] 

The polar bear bookshelf that can be yours for about $4000 depending on the rate of exchange for Euros.  Don't forget international shipping.  If it was just a stuffed polar bear I probably would have been much more likely to buy it but once you make it "functional" for storage it makes you an asshole and me *eye roll*.
Produced in a limited edition of 50 (price on request of course) the religion bookshelf was curated (curated? seriously?) by John Simonian and designed by Mike and Maaike as a "theological observation" meant to bring together the world's most influential religious texts and present them all equally.  Of course 75% of this bookshelf is blank so I'm thinking it's actually a bookshelf for atheists.  In that case I'll take one!

Looks like punishment.

It's a reading light that only comes on when you take your book off of the top.  Because being confined to one tiny area for a specific task is EXACTLY what customers want now.  Are you paying attention Steve Jobs?

the Soft Shelf from here
Looks really easy to dust.

Even though these shelves look like they are in the middle of paying lip service to someone at least these have shelves that are straight and easy to use which is definitely better than the essentially useless masturbation above.

Maybe with new technology books with actual pages to turn will soon begin to feel passe and almost quaint.  I mean you can't display the contents of your Kindle or iPad quite so easy to impress your dinner guests.  But you can put a few select books on a donkey shelf and VOILA!  Instant artistic merit.  Call me old fashioned if I like my books on boring straight shelves or (gawd forbid) stacked underneath lucite boxes filled with pretty things like Lonny tells me to do.  Still hate the fucking rainbow of book organization though.

So I guess the question is 'Is it Art or is it Design?'  I give a thumb's up for 'art for art's sake' but once you try to attach some semblance of functionality to it I start to get itchy.  Or is there a sliding scale of middle ground now called 'functional Art' where things are designed with an artist's statement bigger than the actual purpose of the piece created and I need to just accept that even though I'm obviously an unimaginative simpleton?   

To me it just seems like masturbating to make a baby.

Or in this case a bookshelf.


  1. I feel as if my mouth is full of cotton. I can not compete with such witty banter. Once, long ago, BC (before children), perhaps. But no longer. And you produce all of this while sauced! Bravo! I tip my hat to you lady. You are AWESOME!

    And the paragraph describing the concrete block. Bullshit. Makes me want to slap those ridiculous "designers." I'd call it an overpriced retaining wall.

  2. oh pshaw! There is never a competition you silly girl. Don't confuse my "witty banter" with anything other than snarky ravings of a girl with a computer!

    And yes - overpriced retaining wall sounds about right! Perhaps we should investigate this technology to stop the oil spill in the gulf. Books would absorb oil - concrete contains the perimeter! Genius!

  3. In Bob-town, I call the people who buy these things 'douchers' (I reserve the more proper and formal 'douchebags' for when I write). For the people who design them, well they must be geniuses to convince anyone to buy them and clearly have a talent and skill exceeding my own.

  4. Bob-town sounds like a place I'd like to visit because I've been searching for a way to say 'douchebag' that doesn't sound so stuffy and formal.

    These "artists/designers" need to teach the rest of us how to sell shit like they do. I could sell 20 polar bear shelves a year and live pretty damn good. Well played assholes.

  5. i actually kinda like the "religious bookshelf" but not the way it is marketed. . . and makes me think that good design may actually be something I could steal and make for myself (at 1/1000 the cost) -- hellava (sp?) good read. . please banter more, Madame

  6. YES DIY religious bookshelf! I think you can make just about anything yourself and then attach a lengthy statement of purpose full of broad themes and confusing rhetoric and then call it art. It's all about the spin.

    Thanks for reading jb!

  7. Just found the blog. Loved it. Also agreed with JB, the religious bookshelf is something I may try to build. I am a novice woodworker, and I believe I could pull that one off.

    I like to set the bar really low, and I believe that shelf is a fine example of what one can do with a little free time, a ruler, and a sharp chisel.

    I think I should go read some more of your posts.



  8. Thanks Brian! Please let me know how the shelf turns out - love to see the end result! Which books will you curate for your version?!

  9. I had a great laugh out loud by myself this morning. Wonderful 'reading'!

  10. Thanks for stopping by the Sauce today Jane!

  11. j'adore! I agree with you on the straight-shelf viewpoint. After all, how will my guests pull out a book to read when my own conversation proves humiliatingly boring without collapsing the entire ensemble?

    ...and I don't think the creators of the concrete so-called "shelf" have read any of the books installed for structurally artistic purposes (thus, they view them only as structurally artistic purposes, as opposed to literature meant for scanning and adding to a boastful, well-rounded repertoire of knowledge). If they had, they'd be able to construct comprehensive sentences in the English language.

  12. The only reason I own books is so guests have something to read at dinner parties. I'm such a considerate hostess.

  13. Would it be inappropriate to add a slot amoungst the religious tomes for the kama sutra? (That really would make you a considerate hostess at a dinner party)

  14. Hell no! That would be awesome. I would have a door prize for the guests that got into the most complicated position. If you made up a new position you get to steal something from my house. But not the kama sutra...

  15. Just made my headache go away reading this, albeit months after the fact. In Pville, which is a stone's throw from Bobtown, we call this sort of thing, "what happens when a fancy pants designer gets a hold of your pocketbook and convinces you it's all the rage." I mean, really? I would like to meet someone who actually has bought any of this. Wouldn't you?

  16. I would like to meet them and then shake them and then just ask "Why? Dear gawdolmighty why?!"

  17. Reading this post reminds me of the day I found a typo in the New Yorker (albeit the online version). Life as I knew it is over. I'm going to go home and sob into my Wal-Tussin on the rocks.

  18. I'm not sure if that is a compliment or an insult so I might sob with you into my own glass of Wal-Tussin as I toast your ability to include both the New Yorker AND white trash cough-syrup-induced highs in the same comment. Well done. I almost LOL'd if I was the type of white trash that actually LOL'd.

  19. I'm a reader, and it makes me sad that books' place in our world has descended to decorative-ish object/holes in concrete. Also, I am sick, and the cough syrup is a vital nececessity, but the DM Max version seems to be more akin to meth than to alcohol, as my heart raced all night and I barely slept.

  20. Wow. I totally read your comment ass backwards. But I'm glad that *I* wasn't the one that made you sob and you are instead sobbing at the general state of the world. Phew. Sorry about your sickness - do you want me to read you a book pulled from my artshelf-of-fuckery to get you to sleep?