Conny Gölz-Schmitt loves books, and her art is made with books, but she’ll be the first to let you know that her art is not book art. Books are the medium, but the results are two-and three-dimensional assemblages. She uses the components of already-crumbling old tomes for their formal properties. Gölz-Schmitt began by making two-dimensional collages from their covers and pages, and gradually, pushed by the desire to use more of the books, she began making three-dimensional sculptures that hang from the wall.
Old, used books have always come to some kind of an end, unless they are the lucky few preserved in library special collections, but in this digital age, their demise can induce additional levels of nostalgia. Now we share words through smart phones, computer screens, and magazines. We may love to hold books, but opt for audio editions for their ease and flexibility. The word “text” conjures a quick message sent through phones rather than words on a page or a book itself.
Whenever a new normal sets in, the change can feel unsettling. Gölz-Schmitt’s work is not only about the evolution of the printed word, but the arranged stacks and collages demonstrate straightforward ways to upcycle books. She adds reflective materials to the edges of her sculptures so they cast a delicate halo of rippling light onto the wall just beyond it. Her keen eye integrates separate patterns that flow because of the alluring placement of shapes and tones. We may note the former use of the medium, but have more interest in the books’ new identity as art.
Are we neutral, or do we bemoan the fact that we now more often read from screens? The podcast Invisibilia, co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, created a fascinating show called Our Computers, Ourselves. It tells us about Thad, a man who has been part-computer–a cyborg–for many years. He began his life with a computer attached to himself while doing his dissertation on the subject, before the existence of smartphones, and he continues in this state to this day.
The heart of the podcast is when Thad answers whether he thinks computers diminish our humanity. He compares wearing computers to wearing eye glasses or even shoes. When asked if there is a downside to being synthesized with your computer, he says, “you have to charge the computers.” Thad doesn’t think we become less human by letting a computer remind us, inform us, or even keep us company.
The host goes on to provide more historical context: in ancient Greece, Plato discouraged literacy because he thought that being able to gain information through books rather than through direct interaction with people would cognitively change us for the worse. We can all agree that reading and writing went okay, though, right?Meanwhile, Gölz-Schmitt responds to her own attraction to old books by finding a new use for them that integrates all of their parts. If she could find another medium with the textures, colors, and patterns that she finds in the books, she would, and she may well do so in the future. For now, the works in Uncovered elegantly usher in a new era.
-Shana Dumont Garr