Books Unbound
Gladstone Hotel, Design Talk

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LeuWebb Projects presented “Books Unbound: Film, Vinyl, Paper” as a Come Up To My Room design talk at the Gladstone Hotel.

Exploring the question of the disposability and destruction of books, LeuWebb Projetcs discussed their installation from the 2011 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche titled ‘Film, Vinyl, Paper’. The piece used film canisters, books, and records from Yonge Street’s disappearing media merchants to reimagine a non-virtual and un-networked public space.

At a time when information is more readily accessible than ever, does it matter whether a book is saved or destroyed? After all, the Platonic view holds that a book is simply a vessel for content, a perishable facsimile of eternal ideas. Aristotle would have seen things differently, barring the movers from touching his library as he tried in vain to downsize to a more manageable condo.

This past year, for the first time, ebooks outsold all physical books combined on In Toronto, used book sellers now get so many people trying to unload old books that many no longer accept books, period. It seems we’ve reached the proverbial tipping point, with Gutenberg’s press being nudged off the edge of a cliff with the click of a mouse. So what does it matter now if a book is saved or destroyed?

As LeuWebb Projects, we recently explored this question in our installation ‘Film, Vinyl, Paper’ at this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. In an attempt to make legible the changing nature of media, commerce and public space, we used Canada’s main thoroughfare, Yonge Street, as a partial case study. Using the physical media from recently shuttered stores, we created a play and rest zone in the Yonge Street roadway directly adjacent to the demolished Sam the Record Man block. For one night, books became tables, records became building blocks and film canisters became stools for the thousands of people passing by.

Finding the materials for constructing the piece was remarkably easy. School libraries now routinely send boxes of old books to be shredded and recycled. University libraries overflow with donated books bequeathed to them by well-meaning alumni. Crates of vinly LPs lie mouldy in basements across the city, waiting to be unearthed. These once prized posessions and family heirlooms passed down to later generations are now emminently disposable materials.

Through the placement of these media, and books in particular, in new contexts and situations, we may gain a better understanding of their societal, cultural and historical value, and get closer to a varied reading of the book as form instead of as simply content.

Link to Gladstone Hotel event website