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The Reading Room, New Delhi April 2014

The “Reading Room” is a journey of discoveries and experiences, of nostalgia and witness; a space where the many and varied perspectives and practices of the book arts find a place of meeting, dialogue and expression. Book art demands both an aesthetic engagement and critical conceptual inquiry into the work.

Aesthetic engagement with book art requires a paradigm shift to reading a different logic in the book: the logic of the visual, textural and cultural. Traditionally, the book has signified knowledge, and can be considered a visually embedded cultural site because of this history (consider the many times that books have been burnt as acts of symbolic violence). It is a site where many versions of history, senses of identity and narratives (both dominant and counter) converge.

The book in contemporary art, is thus an object completely transformed – not just in its structure, but also in its meaning. Walter Benjamin calls this the “renewal of existence”. This sense of renewal is to be experienced in the work of the exhibiting artists brought together in conversation in the “Reading Room”. The mood is sometimes fantastical and playful, and sometimes evocative and intimate. At its most activist, it stands as a collective resistance to dominant politics and ideologies. And, as the artist, in many ways, works as an interpreter of the book, so will the viewer of the work. The experience of reading is deeply personal, whether approached with anticipation, curiosity, or sometimes even with hesitation. Thus, the “Reading Room” invites the reader of this space to carry with them the memory of this experience in a context created for encounter, discussion, and making meaning.

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