A "web-interpretation" of the 1926 essay 'Our Book' by the russian avant-gardist El Lissitzky accompanied by the Pexels stock photo API and a score of generated sine waves playing quartal harmony in three keys.
*click to begin*
Every invention in art is a single event in time, has no evolution. With the passage of time different variations of the same theme are composed around the invention, sometimes more sharpened, sometimes more flattened, but seldom is the original power attained. So it goes on ’til, after being performed over a long period, this work of art becomes so automatic-mechanical in its performance that the mind ceases to respond to the exhausted theme; then the time is ripe for a new invention.
The idea that moves the masses today is called “materialism,” but what precisely characterizes the present time is dematerialization. An example: correspondence grows, the number of letters increases, the amount of paper written on and material used up swells, then the telephone call relieves the strain. Then comes further growth of the communications network and increase in the volume of communications; then radio eases the burden. The amount of material used is decreasing, we are dematerializing, cumbersome masses of material are being supplanted by released energies. That is the sign of our time. What kind of conclusions can we draw from these observations, with reference to our field of activity?
With changes in the language, in construction and style, the visual aspect of the book changes also. Before the war, European printed matter looked much the same in all countries. In America there was a new optimistic mentality, concerned with the day in hand, focused on immediate impressions, and this began to create a new form of printed matter. It was there that they first started to shift the emphasis and make the word be the illustration of the picture, instead of the other way round, as in Europe. Moreover, the highly developed technique of the process block made a particular contribution; and so photomontage was invented.
The idea of the “simultaneous” book also originated in the prewar era and was realized after a fashion. I refer to a poem by Blaise Cendrars, typographically designed by Sonia Delaunay-Terk, which is on a folding strip of paper, 1.5 meters in length; so it was an experiment with a new book form for poetry. The lines of the poem are printed in colors, according to content, so that they go over from one color to another following the changes in meaning.
Notwithstanding the crises that book production is suffering, in common with other areas of production, the book glacier is growing year by year. The book is becoming the most monumental work of art: no longer is it something caressed only by the delicate hands of a few bibliophiles; on the contrary, it is already being grasped by hundreds of thousands of poor people.
By reading, our children are already acquiring a new plastic language; they are growing up with a different relationship to the world and to space, to shape, and to color; they will surely also create another book. We, however, are satisfied if in our book the lyric and epic evolution of our times is given shape.