I find myself thinking of artist Steve Fagin's amalgam of criticism, fiction, visual arts, and numerous other disciplines as a productive model for a contemporary art curator working within an encyclopedic museum. I've been in discussion with Fagin ever since my graduate student years in the Visual Arts department at the University of California, San Diego. Fagin is exemplary of the hybrid and genre-bending artists that have created and sustained that department in the sunny beach town of La Jolla. (San Diego and the Origins of Conceptual Art in California, a fascinating show at a local gallery, recently chronicled this history.)
Ugo da Carpi, Sibyl Reading, Lighted by Child with a Torch, c. 1480-1532
Recently, Fagin has been contemplating the next life of the book. In this age of the Kindle and E-Ink, there is an increased technological mediation of our reading experience. Fagin's romantic, frenetic, and intellectually challenging response to the rebirth of the book as electronic (illuminated) manuscript—impishly titled The Last Book: This Ain't Your Grandson's Kindle—is a live performance and video projection involving an international roster of writers, artists, and filmmakers that will take place at the MAK Center at the Schindler House this Sunday. Fagin's idea is to rekindle (pun intended) a physical and visual relationship to the book.
As Clive Phillpot once noted, "Artist books are distinguished by the fact that they sit provocatively at the juncture where art, documentation, and literature all come together." Fagin, the wizard behind The Last Book, is staging what might be the future of reading as an amazing voyage into the twenty-first century, and I'm readjusting my reading specs accordingly.
Rita Gonzalez, Assistant Curator, Contemporary Art