alicia martinFor images that express and dramatize the crisis in the printed word, you could do worse than the sculptures and installations of the Madrid-based sculptor Alicia Martin, who has been producing images and effigies incorporating books in radical, highly stressed arrangements since the mid-1990s.

Her work includes commissions directly linked to books, libraries, bookshops, and literary culture, as in her site-specific project “Palíndromo” for the Prize Goncourt des Lycees at Fnac Montparnasse in Paris in 2007. More recently, we have “La fuerza de la palabra” (The Power of the Word), at the Colección MUSAC in the  Instituto Cultural Cabañas at Guadalajara in Mexico in 2010.

And her 2012 print “Singularidad” (Singularity) uncannily resembles the destructive (indeed, almost apocalyptic) book scanning engine in Vernor Vinge’s Hugo Award-winning 2006 [easyazon-link asin=”0812536363″ locale=”us”]Rainbows End[/easyazon-link], which hoovers entire library shelves into its maw in a vortex of destruction, where cameras arranged around its sucking mouth snap and reconstruct the text on each scrap of book paper as it is whirled away to oblivion. And considering that Vinge’s work often touched on the topic of the singularity, you wonder how far Martin was channeling Vinge when she created this work.

Vinge crystallized the issue of destructive text preservation in one striking technological metaphor: Martin is doing something similar in art. Maybe someone should commission her to decorate the Library of the Future. Or the Library of Babel. Either way, this is a kind of book art that’s hard to ignore, or forget.


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