The “TheGiftofBooks Series” is an ongoing project involving several contexts.
As a trained scholar, ardent reader (in both German and English), writer, daughter of a failed writer and sibling of a compulsive book hoarder I have an intense and loaded relationship to books.
When busy with fan culture and fan fiction on “tumblr” I came about the term “book porn”. Young, mainly female and queer, mainly well educated white middle class bloggers from the US, UK and other English speaking milieus like to post pictures of beautiful old and new books in the very medium that puts the dominant culture of scripture on print to an end.
Is my project also “book porn”?
Not quite. Even though its main trace is also photography it is a bit more complex.
“TheGiftofBooks” is connected to my precarious economic life as a freelancer with very limited monetary resources. My poverty is dictating the various “reasons” and ways to take pictures of books.
I take pictures of books in fancy book shops, both mainstream and secondhand, to console myself for not being able to buy them all. I use those pictures also to look them up in public libraries.
Those pictures of books in shops are also a tool of documenting the architecture of informational marketing and the staging of books as “societies” of objects representing both categories of knowledge and culture, landscapes of “identity” and hierarchies of persons, names and corporate capital.
I take pictures of books, book covers and pages in the public library I love to attend as one of the few places in Vienna where one can hang out for longer without feeling unwelcome and ashamed for not being able to spend money.
In the library my reading and picture taking is also part of my research for other projects such as the “MorphoPoly” project on a universal systemic history of “the city” to prepare for a bottom-up, de-centralized new practice of city planning.
And finally I take pictures of books I have “stolen” or rather “borrowed” from friends in an ironical practice of mischief and practical jokes.
By “stealing” a book I confirm the bond of friendship while also reminding the other that “owning” anything while others do not and cannot own is never a simple innocent fact or well-deserved merit.
Finally my obsession with books, owning, borrowing and stealing them, reading them, taking pictures of them and finally also donating them and giving them to others, is also part of my broader interest in an emerging landscape of many media providing for many kinds and types of multi-sensory information, with no new “dominant” type of medium making all others “obsolete”.
For such a simple linear history of monopolies of escalating domination is an ecological disaster, for bio-life, city-life and info-life alike.
(Those pictures are in part what one can call “bad pictures” with cut off frames, reflections of light, blurred scripture and cut-off parts of people at the margins. This happens. I do not deliberately make “bad pictures” but I do not bother to make “good ones” as those pictures made with a mobile phone are a piece of “arte povera” of an artist who has to rely on open access to information and gets it where she can. Why should I fake fancy imagery in that context?)