Haecceity and haptics: A critical explication of bookness in Speaking in Tongues: Speaking Digitally / Digitally Speaking

Corporeality / Sensoriality / Materiality: Body-centered interpretations of South African art

Keywords: Artists’ books, heteroglossia, smooth and striated space, haptic, self-consciousness, reflexivity, bookness, haecceity


Given the ongoing need for a more rigorous theoretical underpinning for book arts discourse, this essay conjoins a critical explication of my artist’s book Speaking in Tongues: Speaking Digitally / Digitally Speaking, and the practice of making it, with selected foundational statements on the haptic experience of artists’ books by Gary Frost. These statements provide a framework across and through which I am able to weave the explication. In order to do this, however, a history of the call for a more critical underpinning of the field is first undertaken. Thereafter, selected relevant theoretical tropes that have been influential on my thinking and practice are drawn together, forming a ground upon which the explication can be undertaken, focusing particularly upon haptic theory. This explication of artist’s book practice acknowledges, and is predicated upon, the well-documented lack of a conclusive definition for such objects, and thus I attempt to foreground constituent concepts of bookness as critical and appropriate lenses for characterising and theorising the book arts.