Benjamin Shaykin

The book in translation

A book is a physical thing. It has a shape, it has heft. The form of the codex—a collection of pages bound on one edge between covers—is a deep structure, an iconic form imbued with its own meaning. Proportioned for the human hand, it is symmetrical across its spine like the human body.

A book is a symbol, a frame. It is a space—a sequence of spaces—both finite and limitless. Its borders are clearly delineated, and yet it expands infinitely outward: temporally, through the turning of its pages; imaginatively, through the immersive act of reading; and relationally, through the connections made between texts and readers across time.

We are living in a period of major transition, a massive shift from the printed page to the digital screen. Our relationship to books, both as objects and as texts, is changing. The benefits of new technologies are hard to deny—digital books are searchable, sortable, and interactive; they are shiny and they are weightless. But there is much that we overlook by only looking forward.

A book on screen is not a book. It is a translation of a book.

A book is not simply a mute container for its contents. It tells the story of its creation through its physical presence. It accrues history through its use. Its place on our shelves and in our lives will not be easily replaced by backlit screens and simulated page turns.

The Book in Translation is an attempt to document and comment upon the condition of the book at this time of transition. It is a series of experiments using books as both subject matter and form. I take notions of translation and transformation and turn them back on themselves, restoring the ephemeral into physical form, making abstract notions tactile. I play in the liminal spaces, the moments when the page turns.