With the recent releases of Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad, the shift from print to digital is becoming yet more pronounced. This Saturday, the History of Art symposium “The Art Book Today: Print Projects in the Digital Age” explores the re-emergence of “art books” in the face of a declining publishing industry.

History of Art Symposium

Saturday at 1 p.m.
Helmut Stern Auditorium

“At this moment when the industry at large is really struggling, artists and … independent groups or presses seem like they (are) starting to experiment and do some interesting new things,” said Jacob Proctor, associate curator of modern and contemporary art at UMMA and co-organizer of the symposium. Those new innovations he described include “experimental design and new experimental ideas about distribution.”

Proctor and Elizabeth Sears, fellow organizer and professor of history of art, collaborated to focus on this wide-ranging topic in the visual arts. The “art book” is not solely a resource for artists, but includes other printed publications like museum catalogs and academic books. While print publications get fewer and farther between, the art book is undergoing a reemergence as an item that cannot be so easily digitized, they said.

The symposium will feature five panelists from various fields in publishing. The first panel will focus more on art historians’ perspective of the current state of publishing. Panelists for the first half include Joseph Imorde, professor at University of Siegen and founder of Edition Imorde in Berlin, Gloria Kury, founder of Gutenberg Periscope Press Ltd. in Pittsburgh and Lisa Middag, publications director at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

The second panel will concentrate on the design aspect of publishing. The panelists include Franco Nunoo-Quarcoo, professor at the School of Art & Design and Paul Wagner, senior designer at Princeton Architectural Press in New York City.

The selected panelists represent “a number of extremely articulate, forward-thinking people who have pondered the future of the book with images (and) who represent different sides of the trade,” Sears said.

A discussion with members of the audience will follow the panelists’ presentations.

“I think the discussion is going to revolve around ‘Why now?’ Especially in the context of digital editions in terms of … what’s more common, why is the art world heading towards print?” Wagner said.

This cross-disciplinary event covers a broad range of interests in the visual arts, as art books can be used for everything from fine art photography to stills from anime or television series. Accordingly, sponsors of the symposium include the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, the Department of English, the School of Art & Design and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

In this digital age — seen in the publishing world through online publications, e-books and other digital tools — the rise of the art book in print signifies a lasting importance of the tangible conservation of images in print.

“Sometimes the physical is very important because seeing it, opening it, feeling it, … all the senses are really important in terms of experiencing the book. These are not just things to sort of look through but things to experience and that has to do with how it’s designed,” Nunoo-Quarcoo said.

The art book is the latest focus of the annual History of Art Symposium. Previous symposiums have focused on documentary photography, materialism and the concept of the ephemeral.

What is perhaps more intriguing about this upcoming symposium is the focus on the unforeseen and potential repercussions in publishing as a result of our universal dependence on technology and the digital rendition of publications.

“Who’s not interested in publishing and what’s happening to the print media today?” Sears asked. “It’s such a vital issue, we’re really seeing enormous change and the consequences are very hard to predict still. But it’s a turbulent and fascinating period.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.