The Book of Babel
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When Aditi Babel recently took a walk around the book market of Udaipur, Rajasthan, she was looking for "something unusual" — and not just for reading pleasure. After scouring shelves full of old and new titles, she came across a tiny shop selling foreign tomes. Babel picked up a dusty Japanese travelogue, hardbound and printed in old-fashioned Kanji letters. She could not read the script but bought the book nonetheless. It would be the raw material for her art form, book sculpting.
Babel, a graphic artist and visiting faculty at IIT Bombay, is among the few in India who create artwork from books. "After pursuing a course in fine arts at ICJ, Jaipur, and Masters in Visual Communication from IIT Bombay, I went to Florence in Italy for a course in book-making and binding. By the time I was returned, I was in love with the art form," says the 28-year-old, speaking on phone from Udaipur.
After buying the Japanese book, Babel says that she flipped through the pages like a traveller trying to find her way around a city. "Every book is different — old books, especially. When a book is to be transformed into an artwork, I first try and understand its beauty, both physical and otherwise," she explains. Once, she spots the potential of the book, she gets to work using folding techniques from Origami, as well as simple craft methods like rolling, cutting, twisting and refashioning the pages, until a distinct shape begins to emerge. Her works are mostly abstract and boast a geometric precision in the folds and arrangement of pages. Her first exhibition was held in Bangalore in March, and Babel is working on the next set of books already.
In India, artists, including prominent names such as Vivan Sundaram, are experimenting with raw material such as bottle caps and metal scrap to create installations. Babel is attempting to spread awareness about her art form through her workshops. "Some people are not comfortable with the idea of tearing or converting a book into an artwork, but I always work with books that are in a bad condition. So I'm actually giving the books a new lease of life," she explains.
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