projects > Selected reviews, interviews, & catalogue essays



Catalogue essay by Sarah Robayo Sheridan for Out of Print at Mercer Union: A Centre for Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada

“Out of Print” designates a book whose print run is exhausted, making it difficult to locate within the market. When a book becomes a scarce commodity, its meaning can shift from its content (the book as a relay of ideas) to its form (the book as precious object, curio). In recent years, book publishing has undergone major change—the sale of books has largely migrated to the internet and the very form of the printed page, the major platform for the written word in the last millennium, seems now waning in favour of electronic formats. Slowly, printed materials are headed for obsolescence and, as if in premonition of this end, there has been proliferation of contemporary artworks that explore the legacy of the book. ...

Molly Springfield’s meticulous drawings can be understood as a way of paying witness to the changes afoot in information technology. Springfield has redrawn the Google book scanner patent documents using the blackletter type style recognizable as that of the Gutenberg Bible. Springfield’s hand rendering of the typeface also aligns her labour with that of the typographers who would have originally chiseled out the letter forms on which movable type is based. These drawings emphasize a direct association between the import of Gutenberg in the history of mechanical reproduction and the equally significant turn represented by the Google patent. Rather than the compression and erasure desired by Latham in Britannica or the deviations of Horton’s proposed Oracle, Google’s patent technology is directed at producing verbatim electronic copies of works in print through highly sophisticated text-recognition software. This machine thus opens the gates to mass migration of McLuhan’s “Gutenberg Galaxy” into the digital arena. The advent of e-book readers has also encouraged this transition from the page to the screen. Amazon’s “Kindle” is a curious example, with a branding that one can’t help but associate with the sinister history of book burning. Springfield gives us portrait of this object, executed with the same scientific realism of an anatomical or botanical drawing.

Out of Print
2011