McGlynn, Tom: The Brooklyn Rail

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The Internal Machine, The Center for Book Arts, October 6- December 16, 2017.

The modern book is the product of a mechanical operation, the printing press, but as Internal Machine suggests, it can be considered a mechanism in and of itself. For instance, think of the way the reader virtually inserts him or herself into a book which becomes a vehicle for emotional, philosophical and theoretical transportation. This carefully considered show puts one in just such a vehicle, situating the viewer in a playfully discursive topology of a cut-away and exploded view.

The curator, John Roach, has put together sixteen artists whose reconsideration of the book ranges from the manic scrapbook to the mechanically-reproduced codex. In choosing such a range of contextual possibilities, he transmits the idea that the “reading” of any text isn’t necessarily an open and shut case. A deep reader discovers that they are involved in a continual generation of meaning, just as any author knows that the process of writing can facilitate the discovery of connections between otherwise unrelated things. The moving parts of this idea (as well as the moving targets within its range) make for a wild ride of a show. Its metacognitive point seems to be that books, like our brains, can contain a multitude of different operating instructions, and that an ability to reverse engineer any given meaning of a book can move us closer to a more finely-tuned mechanics of mind.

The room of the exhibit is taken up, from floor to ceiling, with an immersive display of free-standing and wall works. It is as if one is enveloped in the brain box of a wildly inventive mind, entertaining multiple disparate thought-tangents at once. Gillian Brown’s Creationes ex Machina (2017) is a continuous scroll, hung eccentrically from the ceiling, connected to a large inkjet printer. The scroll is crammed with cosmological figures which would be at home in a medieval manuscript. …