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Unbound and Bound: When is a book a book?

Page last published: 09 Aug 2013

Jayne Dyer, A Reading: 3, 2008, From The Reading Room series, digital image, 198 x 120 cm, No. 3 in edition of 5, Courtesy the artist and Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne and King Street Gallery, Sydney The question of 'when is a book a book?' is seriously considered in the two visually stunning and intellectually enthralling partner exhibitions developed by Macquarie University Art Gallery – 'Unbound'  & 'Bound' - which opened in 7 August. 'Unbound' is on display at the Gallery while 'Bound' has fittingly utilised the exhibition space within the University Library. Both exhibitions will run until 7 September.

Some 50 prominent and emerging visual artists from around the country were asked to contribute to the shows – including Mike Parr, Anne Zahalka, Euan Macleod, Stephen Birch and Juno Gemes.

The result is a dazzling array of aesthetic mediums, and interpretations that takes viewers on a journey into both the known and previously hidden qualities of 'the book'.

According to curators Rhonda Davis and John Potts, 'Unbound' permits viewers to 'experience the book as a space in which the artist has explored current issues exacting the immediate affects, responses and stories attached to a chosen condition'.

In particular for Davis, 'the intrinsic qualities of the book allows artists a medium… [for] ideas, processes, accumulations and narratives in an open-ended way'. Potts considers that 'Unbound' 'resonates with affiliations we have come to know about the book in anticipation of what it is and about to become − continually re-invented, re-interpreted and transformed by the artists hand – the book lives on'.

'Bound', curators, Kate Hargraves and Sara Smyth King, have created – in collaboration with the University's Librarians – a beguiling insight into the Library's rare book collections, contrasted to the evolving transformations of 'the book' generated by the popular growth of the eBook.

As Hargraves points out, 'the old' is certainly being confronted by 'the new': 'University libraries hold astounding collections of rare books that often don't see the light of day due to the fragility of the material… with the arrival of the digital book, rare books are becoming even rarer'. Smyth King also draws attention to the fact the 'library spaces are no longer silenced entities but are permeated with the effervescent sounds of voices, eating, drinking and the constant rhythmic tap of key boards'.

Both exhibitions offer visitors windows into the relentless changes of how we now consider, view, relate and experience books and libraries within the context of both public and private reading. The written, visual, textual, monochrome, polychrome and imaginative world of the book is brought to life.

For more information, please contact

Rhonda Davis: (02) 9850 7437; rhonda.davis@mq.edu.au