Artist Books 3.0

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I am currently writing a dissertation on women's relationship with artists' books. I am particularly interested in the use of the artists' book for political means, beginning with second wave feminism of the 1970s, and continuing through to the 21st century as a prominent space for feminist concerns. I would like to consider questions such as: why are women particularly attracted to the book format? Can artists' books be effective political tools? Is there a difference between artists' books created by women and those created by men? I would love to start a discussion around these questions, and to ask artists to comment on whether gender plays an integral part in your practice.

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You might be interested in an artists books project between women artists in Australia and women in Afghanistan. The project was an act of solidarity with women struggling for the right to learn basic literacy skills - a right often denied women in Afghanistan - through the artist book as a 'meeting' place/space. I think the women-to-women connection was as important as what the books reveal aesthetically and in the narratives. The books can be viewed on

and the project description on

Thank you for this Gali, it looks like a fantastic project. The adaptability of the book form really seems to lend itself to communication, and I think a meeting space that can take place over borders is a beautiful and powerful concept. 

It is amazing how much the text can transform the reading of the visuals and be used to call for change and recognition of what these women desire for themselves and Afghanistan.

What was the reception like at the exhibition? Did these books have a powerful effect on display? 

Because there were 36 concertinas they were displayed quite tightly, some open, some closed or partially open, so the collection as one statement was pretty powerful. Unfortunately, they couldn't be handled by the viewer. Thanks for your response Gemma. 

Gali, I had a look at the sites and it is very powerful work. I realize a project such is this can not be outcome based, but a seed gets planted and awareness is raised.

I have noticed that women use more delicate papers and fibres and materials for books. Some men use hard materials, metals and thicker papers. Of course there are men and women using both but generally I have noticed this. Women using metals and harder materils seem not to use sharp edges and sharp objects as I have seen some men use. I have not noticed any men using soft fabrics in books.

This comment does not really answer your question why. This is just an observation of mine.

Thank you for this post Judy. Do you think that women are consciously using delicate materials and softer edges to their work? I am aware that the artist James Sharp employs fabrics and stamps in his textile journals, perhaps a challenge to the harder materials of male work?

Thank you again for your observations.


I have only a small narrow view of my world of books.I have been creating books using moulten metals. The metal in its heated form is very runny and malleable then it changes to hard or very hard with either smooth  edges or very rough forms. it has more weight than paper but is not delicate usually. I have been combining textiles and metals in the one book form using subject matter about being a mother. I have been the only woman working in the foundry, working on art projects while the males make machine objects and parts.


I was a yound teenager during the Vietnam war and also spent 2 years at Butterworth RAAF 1970/1971 which made it a formative experience for me. I have a body of work based on the civilian experience especially women and children associated with the idea of a Guardian Angel (from my Catholic School education).

I also did a series based on the idea of age and old things still being beautiful starting with seed pods from my potpouri bowl and then overlaying them with faces.

Any help?


Hello Jo-anne, 

This sounds fascinating! I am currently looking to write a thesis on collaboration and social engagement in political artists' books, and your work sounds like it would definitely fit this theme! I would love to see some examples! I will drop you an email :)

Thanks, best wishes, 


Hi Gemma

Have a look at my page and I have an Album on War etc with a few images from a book in it.  Jo

I would like to think political issues being addressed by either gender would produce content particular to the issue. Therefore either gender would use subject matter like race, infrastructure of a particular country. What is clear is that (still) mostly women would address issues of gender inequality and gender based violence, access to education in some countries, access to land and so on. I've seen artist books by women at the Artists' Press (South Africa), done in metal by either gender. I'm planning a book using cold drink cans as we speak. Although I've taken part in two collaborations on this site, one a general open plan topic another on biography/autobiography, my personal focus in the artist book format is around issues of safety of women, globally. 

Hello Petru, 

I think its particularly important when looking at works that address gender (particularly in terms of warfare, education and race) to see multiple perspectives from men and women. 

It has to be said that the majority of artists books that I have seen that involve collaboration and community engagement that deal with issues of activism (education rights, freedom of speech etc), tend to be made by women. Whether this is a trend I am unsure, it is only the beginning of my research!

I would love to know more about your book art using cold drink cans, have you any images/web links? I would also love to know more about how your project on safety of women developed. 

Thanks, best, 



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