Nigel Poor, a visiting artist residing at Alice Lloyd Hall, has inspired a great movement in the arts over the past week. She has introduced a new form of social-redemption in literature, which reworks censored material into a more liberated state. This banned book project has been incorporated into the community of Alice Lloyd, allowing students to take part in reshaping novels into new pieces of art.
Whether it be torching a copy of Fahrenheit 451 or separating black-and-white pages from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the process of recreating these books more powerfully captivates the original spirit of the work itself. Especially now in the information age, when physical books often go extinct for the more suitable online medium, the power of paper in a work is an attempt at reviving the spirit of physicality available in books. There is something about bookstores and libraries that is intrinsically pleasing in real life, as opposed to the digital medium. One can argue the aesthetic value of actually seeing the sheer volume of information available in a bound piece. When this body, this container for the substance within, is minimized to the visually unsubstantial work on a computer screen or digital reader, something is lost within the book. It is like a person being transformed into digital material, like on Facebook or Twitter or any other form of social media. The ideas—the spirit—of the person remains, as they can write their mind and demonstrate the thoughts swimming within via pictures and art and music and all these great things, but the container, the body, is not transferred. Therefore, it is not the same. We crave to meet people in person; which is why we still have interviews and keep restaurants and social gathering places in business. The body, our container, affects the content. Be it from body language or outward expressions of our personality—hairstyle, skin color, piercings, etc—our physical form has an effect on the thoughts within. This is what the banned book project plays upon.
The paper books themselves were not the things that were banned, it was the ideas within. However, in order to truly demonstrate the power of those ideas, text is not entirely captivating. While we can write about the struggle and ignorance of censorship and topics of controversy for hours, the physical art form is what embodies a deeper meaning, which can withdraw personal emotion and insights from the viewer and give off something the banned books were once unable to give—inspiration and revelation.
They embody the power of the written word in a new shape, and provide a growing deviant of inspiration unachievable by simply the text itself. It gives new life to these formerly shackled pieces. It frees the book.