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The Book – A Modern Tradition

Visual arts have always dealt with common everyday things in a bit uncommon way. In painting, drawing, sculpture and other disciplines, works of art have been created that often surprisingly reflected the current issues, at the same time exploring the means of artistic expression, discovering new technologies and astonishing the public with novel approaches to traditional topics. Though as a traditional part of human culture the book has had its distinctive characteristics, it is constantly being transformed. New technologies of printing and bookbinding are being developed, new forms of printed books appear, and electronic media are advancing. The question has arisen whether the printed book has not lost it purpose in the age of electronic information transmission.

Books, however, are not just sources of information. Moreover, it is not solely the text that carries information. The book has a cover, colour, graphic design and illustrations. As a whole it also conveys emotional information. A book keeps us company, offers comfort, amusement and knowledge. In addition to written or recorded information it always constitutes a work of art. Taking it in our hands, at that first moment we perceive its size, colour, weight and feel of the first pages. And that is one of the important reasons why the book is not only a cultural and information phenomenon, but also a phenomenon of art.

Since 1998 a small debate what can still be considered a book and what cannot regularly takes place in Brno. Phenomenon: The Book, a competition for university students organized by the Department of Art at the Faculty of Education of the Masaryk University in Brno, every year presents new works that transcend the common definition of the book. Some works belong to the area of typography or illustration, while other take the form of an authorís book, a book object, and some represent rather action art or installation. The diversity of the displayed works reflects attempts to find out how far the book can move from its conventional form. When we walk around the exhibition shown in the Gallery of Art Education in the House of the Lords of Kunštát, we can clearly see that some works take the direction to professional typography and graphic design, while other move towards free artistic expression. Yet another group of works could be perceived as thematic or material games, the authors of which will be well capable of developing childrenís creativity as teachers at schools, possibly even through project work focused on a book.

The book thus remains a classical bearer of our cultural memory, as well as a space for exploration, in which we develop and enrich our visual and spiritual sensitivity.

Radek Horacek