Dream Books - Bookworks from Film 101
December 1, 1999 - January 31, 2000
This exhibition of experimental books represented selections from the work of the Department of Film’s Film 101 class, Introduction to Experimental Film & Video. The Fall 1999 course was designed to introduce students to the medium of experimental, independent, personal cinema. The class was divided into a Monday screening/lecture and a Wednesday discussion group composed of five separate sections. During these smaller discussion groups, the instructors introduced the class to experimental modes of time-based expression.
The first assignment was to create a "Dream Book." Each of the five instructors set up a class reflector for the students to e-mail descriptions of dreams they had during this period, recurring dreams, or dreams that they remembered most clearly. The books were to be inspired by their own dreams or any of the e-mail dreams that they received from other class members. All 180 students in the class made a dream book. From these wonderful book works, each of the instructors--Stephanie Barber, Carl Bogner, Christine Khalafian, Meredith Root, and Renato Umali--made the difficult decision of selecting books that best represented the work of their sections as a whole. Also included in the exhibition are books selected by Max Yela, Head of Special Collections at the Golda Meir Library. Max helped direct and inspire all of us with several talks throughout the semester about books as expressive forms.
Professor, Department of Film
The materials on display in "DREAM BOOKS" were organized into the five separate discussion sections of Film 101 led by Stephanie Barber, Carl Bogner, Christine Khalafian, Meredith Root, and Renato Umali, plus selections I made myself from the work of all five sections. The works represented in the exhibit were experimental books based on dream imagery and sequencing. For most, if not all, the students in the class, this assignment was their first experience not only with the production of an artist’s book, but also with the concept of the book form as an expressive medium. As with film, books are well-suited to the expression of dream narratives because of their inherent sequencing structure and the ability to fragment that sequence in surprising ways. Unlike film, books also demonstrate strong affinities to the thread-like nature of dreams through their physical structure, the personal nature of book usage, and the intimate quality of viewer interaction with the book object.
The challenge of an experimental book is that it is often produced--from conception to final product--in a very short time; in the case of the Film 101 class, a period of less than two weeks. Each of the over 180 students in the class met this challenge with seriousness, ingenuity, expressiveness, and creativity. Because of the time constraints, all the books have a sense of immediacy, intuitiveness, and developing experimentation, especially in their use of materials that were close to hand--electrical tape, aluminum foil, nuts & bolts, cardboard, scrap board, found objects, etc. In reviewing the books, I was less interested in the quality of production, than in how effectively the students used the medium of the book in sequencing; pace and cadence; interactiveness; structural conceptions; the use of transformations; and how well the book object conveyed an intimate space.
Of course, structure without content is empty, so I was also interested in how the content--the dream sequence--informed and was informed by the medium of the book. How well did the student use the book medium to illuminate the dream context? How well was the concept of a dream narrative revealed by the book structure? Were there tensions and transformations that were dreamlike? Were there effective relationships between words, images, and book structure? The books on display offered diverse and effective responses, from traditional book sequencing to objects that simply reference the concept of the book. Whatever the mode of response, they fulfill not only the letter but also the spirit of creative experimentation inherent in their assignment.
Head, Special Collections
©2001 University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee -- All Rights Reserved.
Prepared by Leslie B. Heinrichs