I.R.R.I.T.A.T.E: Warning! This is an Artist's Book

Karenjit Sandhu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Following Gertrude Stein’s assertion that ‘one of the definitions of modern art is that it be irritating’, this project engages with the idea of irritability and artists’ books. I propose that when viewing an art object, the heart and mind of the viewer is immediately irritated. This irritated response may be emotional such as an immediate like or dislike, or intellectual with a nod towards the conceptual underpinning of the work. However my thesis asks: what if an artwork, or to be more precise – an artist’s book, had the potential to physically irritate the viewer/reader through their engagement with it? What if the paper was made perverse in the sense that it could, for some, prove too dangerous to touch? What would such a bookwork look or feel like? How would such a bookwork be presented?

These are the very questions I explore in this project. I will create a bookwork which perversely suggests that touching the book could provoke a physical reaction similar to that caused when allergic human bodies and allergens come into contact. The bookwork will consist of features which are recognisable to the reader as a ‘book’, however, in terms of its content, its pages are to be embedded with the following allergens: milk, peanuts, grass, cat hair, mould, dust. The bookwork will come with a visible health warning. Yet the familiarity of this object will invite participation. This thesis will explore the tension between the form and content, between wanting to read a book whilst being warned of its contents. The very notion of reading this bookwork is one which the reader must undertake at their own risk. The bookwork is to be viewed as the irritant and its purpose, to irritate its reader.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerversions of Paper
Publication statusSubmitted - 2014
EventPerversions of Paper - Birkbeck University of London
Duration: 28 Jun 2014 → …


ConferencePerversions of Paper
Period28/06/14 → …
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