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Artificially Antiquing


Written by Kinsey Sullivan
05 Monday 05th March 2012

Barhad, a postgraduate Design Interactions student at the Royal College of Art, created the machine to discuss the role of books in contemporary culture. He noticed books being used as props in storefront displays, shoes and jeans upon piles of books and mannequins standing on torn-out pages, which sparked the interest.

An Archive of Years to Come is the result of that investigation into books as elements of art and design. The piece is a time machine, a chrono-chamber, inside which “a book lives a synthetic history line,” Barhad says. It exposes books to UV light and high humidity within a sealed chamber. Four hours within the machine is equivalent to approximately one real year. As it ages the books, the piece sends up the habit of glorifying the obsolete, the highlights modern art’s emphasis on process rather than product. It also raises questions about the place of aesthetics and materiality in knowledge preservation, and whether such archiving is an earnest endeavor to retain information or “part of capitalist aspirations to create value.” 

“Books have a special place in the object world,” he adds. “They are always moving from the divine to the everyday, from abstract to form, from being alive to being decomposed.”

Using books as decorative elements is not new or rare. Eighteenth century Russian courtiers bought bound waste paper to fill their libraries, collecting rows of fake, empty books to impress other nobles, Barhad says. Interior designers use them to cultivate a sense of sophistication, and shops make their goods more attractive by displaying them upon books. But faced with such rapidly changing media, the issue gains weight and import. 

Barhad, a former book designer and collector, says that the most important aspect of this work is the discussion of books as concepts. “The research should undress them in order to give it a new form.”

He's currently looking for a space to use the machine to age books chosen by the public and writers, and he believes the most appropriate place, symbolically, would be the British Library.   

Scope out more of Koby Barhad's work here. What do you think about the use of books as art elements and symbols, and the shift towards new technologies? Post your thoughts, comments, questions and revelations below. 

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