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The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists' Books and Radical Open Access


In this essay we argue that the medium of the book can be a material and conceptual means, both of criticising capitalism's commodification of knowledge (for example, in the form of the commercial incorporation of open access by feral and predatory publishers), and of opening up a space for thinking about politics. The book, then, is a political medium. As the history of the artist's book shows, it can be used to question, intervene in and disturb existing practices and institutions, and even offer radical, counter-institutional alternatives. Yet if the book's potential to question and disturb existing practices and institutions includes those associated with liberal democracy and the neoliberal knowledge economy (as is apparent from some of the more radical interventions occurring today under the name of open access), it also includes politics and with it the very idea of democracy. In other words, the book is a medium that can (and should) be 'rethought to serve new ends'; a medium through which politics itself can be rethought in an ongoing manner.