When I first saw the image advertising Cara Barer’s Origins exhibition at the Bau-Xi Gallery, I immediately thought of OCA student, Stan Dickinson’s Textbook project which I have been following with great interest and became intrigued to see this exhibition. So on a bright, sunny spring day, I headed downtown to Vancouver’s Gallery Row to take a look.
Like Stan, Barer takes photographs of books that she has manipulated into various shapes. She makes use of recycled books, at times painting the edges with vibrant colours. The shapes she creates are all from nature – flowers and butterflies. They are delightful images to look at and explore. The images invite the viewer to look deeply and to ponder on the construction of the project, as well as the method used in photographing it. The images were all quite large which definitely created an engaging opportunity to get up close.
Her images just ooze rhythm, pattern and texture and one wants to reach out and touch the pages to feel their crinkly texture. One become curious to know what is written on those pages. The book in its sculpted form, just like its unsculpted cousin, hides a mystery between its covers. I found it rather difficult to single out any one image as the images all offer something different to the viewer. However, I think her butterfly sculptures may have a winning edge for me. In these photographs Barer has created two mirrored sculptures using two books to simulate butterflies in flight. Pages are curled in patterns similar to the whorls found on a butterfly’s wings. I think in most of the butterfly images, though, the mirroring effect has been done in Photoshop as the symmetry is too perfect, but this does not detract from the actual photograph at all.
By creating these book sculptures Barer is paying homage to an item that we have all grown up with and are familiar with, but which is sadly a dying trend, what with the digital age. Youth no longer want to purchase books, opting instead to read via digital means. Sadly they miss out on that tangibility, the experience and sensory perception of opening a brand new book for the first time. Running one’s fingers over the spine of a beautifully saddle stitched binding and smelling the new leather and hearing the crackle of crisp new pages, or catching whiffs of that old musty scent of a forgotten book newly discovered in the attic or at the bottom of a suitcase. As noted in a documentary about Polaroid that I started watching recently (still need to find the time to sit and watch it all the way through), a gentleman working at the Computer Museum mentioned that the digital age is extremely young, only about fifty years old. The best archival method still remains paper. Its been around for hundreds of years, faithfully recording man’s stories and records and only time will tell how long digital archival methods will really last. However, one thing is for certain, and that is the digital method will not outstrip paper anytime soon.
I’m really pleased I went to see this exhibition. It certainly put a new face on an old friend for me.
Barer, Cara Fine Art Photography [online]. Available from: http://www.carabarer.com/ [Accessed 28 April, 2015].
Barer, Cara. Origins [online]. Vancouver: Bau Xi Gallery. Available from: http://bau-xi.com/collections/cara-barer# [Accessed 28 April, 2015].
Dickinson, Stan, (2014). Semiotics and the Textbook Project [online]. Stan’s Creative Space – Body of Work. Available from: http://standickinson.com/2014/05/13/semiotics-and-the-textbook-project/ [Accessed 28 April, 2015].