This is a mail art call, one of the ongoing cultural artifacts spawned by Fluxus and Ray Johnson. Even if you don’t contribute, this is worth paying attention to, as cultural observers everywhere (Paul Krugman’s NYTimes op-ed on Friday) have been predicting the end of the book as we know it.
So what do you think? Is the printed book format in danger of becoming an relic from the Gutenberg Galaxy? In the eBooks research I’m currently engaged in, the printed book remains a preferred medium for textbooks, cover to cover reading, and texts for personal markup. eBooks are good for many things, but they do not replace the love of paper.
Books are themselves a system of signs, a packaging of signs that, when collected with sufficient other relevant texts, constructs a persistent identity, representations to others, and prompts of past literacies. You can walk in to a colleague’s office and know their competencies, interests, specialties, and possible contact points for relationship. (Have you ever seen someone’s book collection when on a first date situation and decided, on sight, this was not ever gonna work? Or, maybe it just would?) Try doing that on the web.
THE LAST BOOK
(A Project by Luis Camnitzer, sponsored by the National Library of Spain)
Open call for collaborations
The Last Book is a project to compile written as well as visual statements in which the authors may leave a legacy for future generations. The premise of the project is that book-based culture is coming to an end. On one hand, new technologies have introduced cultural mutations by transferring information to television and the Internet. On the other, there has been an increasing deterioration in the educational systems (as much in the First World as on the periphery) and a proliferation of religious and anti-intellectual fundamentalisms. The Last Book will serve as a time-capsule and leave a document and testament of our time, as well as a stimulus for a possible reactivation of culture in case of disappearance by negligence, catastrophe or conflagration.
Contributions to this project will be limited to one page and may be e-mailed to email@example.com or mailed to Luis Camnitzer, 124 Susquehanna Ave., Great Neck NY 11021, USA. In case of submission of originals, these will not be returned. The book will be exhibited as an installation at the entrance of the Museum of the National Library of Spain in Madrid at some point of 2008. Pages will be added during the duration of the project, with the intention of an eventual publication of an abridged version selected by Luis Camnitzer, curator of the project. The tentative deadline is October 15, 2008.
This call is open and we hope that it will be resent to as many potential contributors as possible.