Friday, 28 February 2014



I am intrigued by the concept of “re-imagining.” Although it sounds like a trendy academic neologism, it’s actually a real word (added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006)! You can re-imagine just about anything: an idea, an object, a space -- why, you can even re-imagine an entire city! Re-imagining can be conceptual, or it can take a concrete form. It also implies that whatever is being re-imagined already involved a degree of imagination in its previous state. To me, re-imagining is another layer in a cycle of imagination.

Robert The: book works. Source:

These abstract reflections do have a point: when I first saw an image of this lobster created out of the book The Art of the Masters, I immediately thought of the word “re-imagine.” Any book is already laden with meaning from the words or images that it carries -- and, as our colleagues in the Book History collaborative program will likely tell us, the physical form of the book (such as the feel of the cover or the white spaces on the pages) has significant implications on the way we read and interpret stories. Yet when it takes a new form -- re-imagined, if you will, as a lobster -- it becomes a different kind of art object. Textual meets visual (and structural) in a new way. 

Book sculptures transform a medium, which, in turn, leads to a wonderful diversity of interpretations. The lobster here is a creation of book sculptor Robert The, whose “book works” have been featured in exhibitions across the US and Canada for nearly twenty years. (His “book gun” sculpture of The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore may be of particular interest to iSchool McLuhan scholars.) Robert The often uses the whole book form, cover to cover, to create an object or make a creature come alive. 

Su Blackwell's "Little Red Riding Hood"

Other artists use the same medium, but their creations adopt a different approach. Take, for instance, Su Blackwell, who builds enchanting scenes from a story’s pages. With exquisite precision, Blackwell cuts and shapes individual pages into detailed storybook settings, literally shaping words and casting shadows to create the dreamlike aura of Narnia or the childhood suspense of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Here, the multi-layered medium of the book takes on a new form and a new literary genre.

Su Blackwell's "Out of Narnia"

As an English literature major in my undergraduate program, I studied texts re-imagined through various discursive lenses. Now, as a museum studies scholar, I am discovering some of the same texts re-imagined in physical form. What have you created or learned through re-imagining?

For more stunning book sculptures, see "13 Sculptures Made Out of Books" via Mental Floss or "The Art of Book Sculpture" via Brain Pickings.  


  1. What lovely objects to share with us! I discovered this artist who creates book cut-outs as well. Her name is Kyoko Imazu. You might enjoy her work too.

  2. I think re-imagine is one of the best words (in the dictionary) - I think it has such theoretical and practical potential and can be used as a framework for discussions about pretty much anything that has to do with museums (after all, the best work of museums is when they re-imagine history and culture for visitors in order to challenge perceptions and ideas). Thank you for opening up a discussion about this, Katherine!