Salons

#5
Salon 1/2 Toon Koehorst &
Jannetje in ‘t Veld

26 Feb 2011
Residency Apartment

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The first salon took place in the residency apartment, and all participants of the salon were asked to bring a book of sentimental value.
In response to their library research and Google’s digitalization of books, Toon and Jannetje researched, designed and built their own book scanner. Participants practiced scanning books and analysing the outcomes and challenges that arose. The pair also screened book-scanning footage retrieved from the Internet, and guests were invited to introduce their books and explain why they held so much value. Following the presentation, Rodrigo Novaes (Flusser Archive) spoke about their library and we began a discussion. The topics covered included the changes and challenges surrounding the digitalisation of libraries, and the various book-arranging systems used by libraries. The Swiss Sitterwerk library was a unique case worth mentioning, as it had no system for sort its books at all.

Attending Guests: Jennifer Allen (Art Critic), Claudia Becker (Researcher, Flusser-Archive), Benjamin Cölle (Film Producer and Collective Librarian), Prof. Dr. Hans Dickel (Art Historian), Katja Gretzinger (Graphic Designer), Lynne Marsh (Artist), Rodrigo Novaes (Researcher, Flusser-Archive), Niko Princen (Artist), Hendrik Schwantes (Graphic Designer), Emma Williams (Architect and Collective Librarian)

Dear Guest, Welcome to the first ABA Salon. We are very happy to have you all here tonight. The topic for tonight is the digitization of the Library. We are at a moment where all major libraries are dealing with the transformation of their collection into a digital format. Google claims to have scanned all the books in existence at the end of this decade. We think this is exciting but also prob- lematic. We think this transformation warrants a closer inquiry, and what better and accommodating way than to have a dialogue with informed people like yourselves about it.

During the preparations for this evening we encountered some texts and some images we would like to share with you. At the Transmediale last month we joined an interesting close-reading at the Flusser archive. Vilém Flusser is a philosopher that was unknown to us beforehand, but after getting to know his work we found his ideas to be very much related to our research. In this light we included a text written by him in November 1991, for Art Forum New York. Its title is ‘On Books’, we thought it to be highly appropriate in light of the small library we have brought together for this evening. Although we have to warn you that it’s a tad bit melancholic on part of these objects we like so much.
We are very grateful that Jennifer Allen will say a few words about that close companion of the Gutenberg Galaxy, and the defining logic for libraries for ages: The Alphabetical Order. Is mankind on the verge of becoming An- Alphabetically and/or Disordered? Are New Roman Times upon us?

Then we also would like to show you the book-scanner we are trying to concoct. It is informed by a couple of fascina- tions, worries and other emotions. But foremost we believe that with a DIY approach we can better grasp the im- plications of turning physical books into machine-readable images. We are not the only ones… Crafty people all over the world are building their own book-scanners to mimic Big Google. Some define their motives for building a scanner as freeing themselves from the burden of having so many books. Many are just relieved not to have to buy them anymore. This part escapist, part boot- legger movement reaches out and meets at a very active online forum called diybookscanners.org. We have collected a series of these contraptions by these energetic engineers. You can find a dif- ferent color print of their builds in each hand-out. But they are not for the faint- hearted, together they paint a rather ghastly picture of brutal torture racks where books are stretched and maimed to give up their information, to be left as an empty shell after extraction.

But what we do like is the new parallel life books can obtain through this digitization process. Their picture taken, they can be distributed even more easily and made all the more accessible. We wish for the marginalia to make a comeback. Those remarks that expand on the text while living apart together from the original text. Digitization could provide for a whole lot of space around the page!

And finally, although it is hard to overcome the obvious first objections, we believe a new aesthetic should take hold. One where the omnipresent watermark turns into a seal of approval. Where the marginalia, the references, extend into the image itself. We believe that when this happens the book and its digital shadow can have a very productive relationship.

There is much more to be said. But we’ll leave it up to you to maybe scribble some notes between the lines or at the margins of this handout.

Jannetje in ‘t Veld
& Toon Koehorst