Marshall Weber

The Expanded Book, a lecture performance

Marshall Weber

The Expanded Book, a lecture performance



Edition Size


$ 1,500.00


The Expanded Book, a lecture (2-8 day workshop versions of this program are available).

This hour to two-hour lecture explores a genre of books made by artists called “The Expanded Book.” These are books that function as conventional codex books and traditional scroll books but which also function as books that expand into physical space as installation and environmental artworks and into social space as interactive and social practice artworks. The lecture will present various types of books, because if a picture is worth a thousand words then an immersive performative experience is worth a million words. When possible the actual books will be presented along with projected images from “Expanded Book” projects from around the world.

The lecture will feature environmental books which people can walk through like my book “The Scroll,” a 48 foot long and 8-foot high book collaged with materials gathered from the streets of New York City in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, and Xu Bing’s “Book from the Sky,” often installed as huge scrolls flying over the installation site and formed of thousands of ‘fake’ Chinese characters that have no meaning and are unreadable.

Expanded books engage the reader’s body, eyes, ears, nose, and mind. They aren’t just paged; they need to be operated or driven. In exhibition they convey the action of pages turning, flying like birds, running like gazelle or looping like fractal formulas. Some drive like farm tractors others drive like Porsches. Innovative page structures, bindings, page materials, printing, calligraphy, design, illustration, conceptual elements appear in artists’ books continually and this lecture will survey these enigmatic artworks. Many artists make artists’ books that are unique in their structure thus liberating the book from convention.

Artists’ books are also used in the expanded context of activism and social practice. In 2012 Booklyn staff coordinated an assembling book that gathered art donated from over 30 artists into a dense text/image collaged limited edition book that was then sold to fund the Streetopia Art Fair in San Francisco. After the festival, another book documenting the festival was produced in part with further funds generated by the festival itself. Important innovative publications providing funding, promotional and educational materials for various activist organizations have been produced over the past decade including historical artists’ books and portfolios created for: Occupy Wall Street, Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Zapatistas, the Sublevarte organization in Mexico City.

Artists’ books are produced as vehicles for emotional and evocative visual information.  They are created to convey complex scientific and political information while also activating reader engagement by using intimate sound, smell, and tactile media. These works use multi-media strategies to not just convey data but to provide an intellectual and aesthetic experience that will inspire the reader to profoundly engage with the subject matter and perhaps catalyze action… like all great artworks.

Digital media has liberated the book from its sometimes dull task of being a vehicle for text and data, much in the way photography liberated the painting from its mundane job of visually recording portraits, inventories of art, and real estate in the 1900s. Like painting, the book in general, and the artist’s book specifically, has become a fine art medium and a tool of the imagination and of various agents of social change. This lecture will provide an illuminating view of the wide spectrum of forms and functions taken up by “The Expanded Book.”