• Wolf Vostell’s Betonbuch [Concrete Book]: Materials and Meanings

    Author(s):
    Elizabeth Frengel, Patti Gibbons, Maria Kokkori, Ann Lindsey
    Date:
    2022
    Subject(s):
    Libraries--Special collections, Artists' books
    Item Type:
    Presentation
    Tag(s):
    2022 ARLIS/NA Conference, Materials science, Conservation, Art librarianship, Special collections, Artist's books
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/8mjh-e443
    Abstract:
    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fluxus co-founder Wolf Vostell (1932–1998) used concrete as an actual material for his unique body of work, including the Betonbuch [Concrete Book]. Vostell’s Concrete Book is a concrete slab in the shape of a book, measuring 34x25x4.5 cm, weighing about 9 kg (20 pounds) that is believed to encapsulate a copy of the author’s paper-based booklet Betonierungen (Concretifications) which comprises unbound reproductions of many of his concrete works and utopian proposals to ‘concretify’ cities, furniture, and even clouds. In 1971, the artist constructed one hundred copies of the Concrete Book, and the copy no83 is in the holdings of the University of Chicago Library collection of rare artists’ books. An unreadable book in any conventional sense, Concrete Book foregrounds tactility, physicality and materiality, providing a unique opportunity to explore questions of making and meaning: why the materials of bookmaking matter and how they signify. We assume that there is truly a book inside, but how can we confirm its presence? What non-destructive tests could be used to examine the inner contents? This paper presents the results of an interdisciplinary study of Vostell’s book that brings together curatorial, conservation and material science expertise and discusses how new material knowledge can enrich our understanding of an object’s biography. Employing Vostell’s Betonbuch as a reference point, this paper also explores the challenges libraries, conservators and scientists face when collecting and caring for works on unusual materials, discussing issues in storing and preserving these materials, and illustrating broader challenges in collection care and stewardship. This presentation was given as part of the Challenges in Caring for Art and Art Libraries: Preservation, Management, and Access panel.
    Metadata:
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    5 months ago
    License:
    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
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