Gemma Meek

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    Reading Socially Engaged Book Art: Establishing New Dialogues

    In the last fifteen years, there has been increased activity from artists using book art as a mode of socially engaged art practice. These new practices involve artists engaging with social groups outside of artistic roles (homeless groups, communities around place, mental health participants, education collectives etc.), through the exchange, creation, collaboration and production of books in an artistic manner. The book presents a space for the collaborative production of ideas and identities, to explore aesthetic experiences, concepts of community cohesion and the potential of art for social transformation.

    Although these practices present an exciting addition to the field of book art and socially engaged art, little critical analysis exists to encourage discussion on these new modes of engagement, posit examples historically or challenge how book art in these contexts are to be read. This is in part due to the dominant focus on the form of the book in critical analysis of book art, which fails to adequately capture how creation of meaning may also occur within communication, creative processes and physical interaction through and around the spaces of the book. By moving between and around two critical fields of enquiry: book art and socially engaged art, a method of analysis may emerge as a way to address socially engaged book art, whilst adding to these fields of thought. Thus, the aim of my research is to construct a critical framework in which to read socially engaged book art within selected case studies, through mapping connections in practices, themes and book forms.

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