Book handling as a research method (Daly 2018)

Abstract


How do we conceptualise touch? Unlike most visual art, touch is a fundamental aspect of interacting with artists’ books and it is not until you have a physical interaction with the artefact that you can fully make sense of it. Despite this, there is no obvious syntax for us to report our experiences of handling an artists’ publication.
During my recent practice as research doctoral study, it soon became apparent that there was no clear framework to describe my experience of handling books, yet this was a fundamental part of my research. Without handling a book, entire swathes of intertextual nuances could be missed - the deliberate material choices of the artist and the reader’s own rich experiential past never get the chance to make meaning.

In order to capture my experiences it became necessary to fuse aspects of material culture (for touch) and literary theory (for intertextuality) together into a discourse with handling set at its core. Logged as fifty short narratives, each handling event described the insights I gained, followed by a short statement that could be tabled and referenced as part of my thesis conclusion. In the light of my findings, it can be argued that handling books provides a type of tacit knowledge that is unavailable from viewing alone. Developing a framework for reporting this haptic experience therefore, can enrich and enhance our understanding of book works.

Published in: The Blue Notebook: Journal for Artists' Books

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(above image: Tim Daly)