Is it a book, an exhibition, a catalogue of the exhibition? Is it mass produced? Is it unique? Dayanita Singh is a book artist who stretches the imagination of what a book can be, transcending the spaces between publishing and art. Book Building traces the journeys of Singh’s books, from the first, Zakir Hussain (1986), to her latest, Zakir Hussain Maquette (2019), showing the spectrum of her book-building process, from idea to material object and how she inventively circulates them in the art world and beyond.
Both a short history and a deep dive, this is Dayanita Singh’s manifesto for the photobook. Taking those she has made with Steidl as a basis, we witness the transformation of books into book-objects which open up new interpretative spaces: Museum of Chance (2014), for example, first became a book-object, then a diptych, a book-case, a suitcase museum and a book museum, before finally becoming the ongoing museum in Singh’s Museum Bhavan (2017). Book Building documents Singh’s 13 books in images and short texts, along with several DIYs Singh has created with detailed instructions on how to display her books as exhibitions—making us the curators—as well as various performative interventions, from book carts and happenings, to installations and tours. At the heart of Book Building is the collaborative process that Dayanita Singh and Gerhard Steidl have established over 20 years; the belief that a book is always in a process of becoming.