Spell Bound

Oh, the marvels of a book.

From a bound volume of pages loaded with words, comes forth the keys to the universe, the liberation of people, the indoctrination of acolytes, Thanksgiving recipes, and the dirty thoughts of prepubescent boys reading the good parts of a Judy Blume novel.

As the Miami Book Fair International recently proved, books are elemental vehicles to ideas. Whether their pages be full of words or images, the phenomenon of a book is undeniable.

"Turning Pages," a collection of books constructed by Miami artists and exhibited in the Centre Gallery at Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus, takes the potential of books and extends it to the ultimate power. The exhibit features the homemade creations of more than 30 local artists, from the obsessive and manic volumes made every day by Purvis Young to the deliberate and consciously crafted works of Sherri Tan.

In a corner hangs a web of words made of golden wire by Wendy Wischer, casting its shadows on a white wall and forming a jumble of thoughts, as if reflecting the fragmented and half-intelligible phrases that run through one's head at any moment of the day.

JC Carroll contributes an abundant slambook of images called I Love You that delivers, in a drunken wet kiss, a soulful avalanche of personal snapshots smothered in a flow of pop-culture and natural and supernatural influences. Sonny and Cher cutouts are mixed up with Mexican Lotteria cards and satellite pictures of Hurricanes. The first page of the book quotes Albert Einstein: "Art and Diplomacy are the highest forms of civilization."

As would be expected in an art gallery, the idea of a book is open to interpretation. In "Turning Pages" a book is a freezer loaded with half-eaten morsels, itemized and stored in plastic airtight bags (Xavier Cortada). A book is a Rolodex index of cards stamped with a word on one side and a button, or feather, or any kind of artifact on the other (Maria Gonzalez). A book is a battery-powered, voice-activated assemblage of pages from the Kinsey Report's Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Robert Chambers). The piece rocks and flutters and pulses, leading one to believe that by just stringing wires to the pages of a book and sparking it with energy, it, too, is capable of reaching orgasm.

The point, says curator Lea Nickless-Verrecchia, is to "expand the parameters of what defines a book."

You may never go back to reading that Harlequin romance in the same way.

"Turning Pages" runs from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. weekdays through December 12. It opens January 14 at Florida Atlantic University, and in March at the Bienes Center for the Literary Arts at the Broward County Main Library. Admission is free. Call 305-237-3696.

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Juan Carlos Rodriguez