The nature of how books are consumed has constantly been evolving over the recent years - with the onset of e-books and rise of competitors in the business, many second-hand booksellers are struggling to make ends meet as they face a fall in the number of regular buyers. Before the advent of the internet, people often relied on books to receive information as well as recreation, this habit has seen a decline due to the modern-day dependence on online resources for the same. This replaced reliance and the changed demand have had an impact on the livelihoods of second-hand booksellers and the kind of books they sell. Owing to the preceding reasons, I have chosen subsistence of second-hand booksellers and the effect of external influences on it, as my preferred area of study.
To create a work of art that -
• Captures the essence of the object - a second-hand book, and the
subject – the bookseller – often invisible, like the space he occupies,
• Focuses on memory, nostalgia & loss
• Touches upon the idea of 'a story within a story'
• Draws upon the idea of 'reflection' through characters, choice of books
• Makes comparison and evokes emotion that makes one rethink of the
experience they might be losing on due to the technological shift
• A5 Water colour Sheets
• Ink & Water Colour Paints – Brushes
• Pencil – Pens – Charcoal
• Digital Medium – Procreate on I-pad & Photoshop
• Paper cutting tools
• Black – white – Ochre – Grey – Monochromatic & Subdued Tones – Rusty, Withering, Rough, Raw
• Pressed Flowers – Dog-eared Pages – Folds – Scratches & Scribbles – Tea stains – Finger Prints – Old Smell – Faded - Tactility
• Carry out the survey on Books & Reading –
Number of people – 50
Age Group – 8 –15 years & 18-60 yrs
• Shortlist the respondents based on the relevance of their answers to the planned artwork
• Analyze the data obtained and make notes on your findings, initial
assumptions and contradictions
• Combine the obtained reflections of the questionnaire along with
secondary research carried out since the beginning of the project.
• Start working on the form and content of the artwork.
A second-hand bookshop is a treasure trove of books, passed on from one to another, carrying stories within stories – stories that resurface little by little through scribbled notes on dog-eared pages. Going through one often feels like an exploration, an experience of the unknown unknown, you don’t know which book to look for because you don’t yet know of
that book’s existence.
It is a place of convenience, where knowledge is accessible; in here you don’t choose a book but a book chooses you and you gladly let it.
Second-hand books are unmistakably made up of many touches and peculiar smells that add to their physical and sentimental character. The yellowing leafs, tattered edges and musty scent give these pre-loved objects a personality.
But what does a touch or a sniff mean to us during this pandemic? What does this human experience mean in a world becoming increasingly digital?
Perhaps, just fear…
Through this artwork, I wish to ask questions, questions about what we lose in translation, even when the content remains but the medium changes? What about ideas of possession, how do you possess what you cannot hold? What about space? What about memories? What about nostalgia we feel for something that is no longer ordinary?
If I mount the pages of a book and display it on a gallery wall, would they still be pages of a book, or do they become pieces of art and history? When you flick through its pages on your phone, is it the book you are looking through or is it the notification that popped up just now? What do you lose, when there is nothing more to lose?
Perhaps, just intimacy…
The artwork has been created as part of my PGDP thesis project called “Reading Between the Lines” under the larger theme of “Vanishing Livelihoods – The Seen & The Unseen”.
The main focus of the artwork is a “second-hand book”, a shared object, that creates a chain of relationships among the bookseller, the readers and the previous owners of the book. The piece tries to evoke feelings of nostalgia, loss and an appreciaCon of the ordinary through poetry, motifs, photographs and sketches put together in the form of a visual book.
The circumstances during which the artwork was conceived, that is the Covid-19 pandemic, is essential to the nature of ideas it speaks about. The uncertainty of the current context brings out the aspect of interdependence between changed habits (among readers), understanding of the ordinary and the impact of our choices on the lives and livelihoods of those around (second-hand booksellers) us.
The way the display of the work is perceived is such that it highlights the differences between mediums despite unchanged content i.e. an e-book, a physical book and scanned images of the artwork displayed on a wall. It draws attention to the need to hold, smell, touch and possess that often gives the object life and a meaning more than itself.
I have used quotes of different characters from different books, cut out images, collages, as well as scribbles and photographs found in my personal collection of second-hand books to further accentuate this notion of memories, borrowings and longings.
Through this piece I hope to create an impression that pushes readers to be more aware of the choices they make when picking a book - from where, why and how. I hope to provoke a thought about the importance of a secondhand book as an object, the many lives it touches both sentimentally as well as financially, and how as a reader one can contribute to its existence and of those who depend on it.