My mother is a huge fan of second-hand bookstores. Disappearing into them for hours and hunting down something she’s been wanting to read for ages. She replaced many of my Modesty Blaise books that way – digging through the piles of crispy flour-smelling books, mildewed here and there: to find the titles a cheap friend had pinched from my collection.
I don’t read books on paper any more. My Kindle has replaced them – and it’s been an easy move. Recipe books, yes – I like the textural involvement then. But for the rest: it is a visit to Amazon, a download and a screen. Book, paper, ink, printing techniques – replaced by ‘one click’ purchases.
I’ve been spending some time in the attic recently – seeing what furniture and bits we have to move to McGregor – and found boxes of my favourite books. They’ve been sitting there since I culled my collection when I left NYC.
They’re unlikely to ever be displayed again – but I want to hang onto them – just in case. But the sight of piles and piles of browning books make me a bit blue. Someone told me the other day that in 125 years time no-one alive will remember me. So why bother? That’s a different post. But books do endure … which made me wonder …. “what will become of old books now they have been replaced by pixel?”
Russian artist Ekaterina Panikanova found an answer. She creates large-scale paintings using open books as her medium. Manipulating them to explore childhood memory: creating disquieting, almost nightmarish images of her early years, apparently fractured by mental illness (though we don’t know in whom).
She breaks the images down into pieces, then puts them all back together again – on old books, notebooks and prints from different eras, arranged into an irregular grid of interrupted surfaces. And, though the pieces seem to be interchangeable – they are heavily reliant on one another to create a whole. Much like the experiences and memories that piece together a lifetime.
(All images copyright Ekaterina Panikanov)