Conceptual Refractions

Littérature, Table ronde, Roma/online

Entrance: Via Liguria 20
Take the Book – Spaces for Art and Science

Littérature, Table ronde

Entrance: Via Liguria 20
Take the Book – Spaces for Art and Science

The moderated discussion will be held in English and it can be followed online. 
Please register here to participate in Rome.
Please register here to follow the event online.

Getting work published is one of the main activities that artists and researchers have in common. The expectations, however, toward what a book could potentially be and the objectives associated with the act of publishing vary considerably. Researchers from all disciplines usually work under high pressure to advance their academic careers by way of publishing new insightful research in journals, anthologies, and in the form of monographic contributions. Artists, on the other hand, are less constrained by the limitations of what constitutes highly standardized publication formats. They challenge accustomed conceptions of the book, experimenting with materials, designs and different ways of presenting.

The book constitutes a sort of common space in which interaction is possible: surely, interaction with the book, its shape, and the modes of expression it permits, but it also figures as a point of reference, a common playground that connects different actors involved in the business of making books. In its many manifestations, the book can be construed as an intellectual challenge to be mastered, a cultural artefact to be cherished, a toolbox to be played around with, a carrier of ideas, imaginaries and information to be consumed, or as an opportunity to exhibit and showcase collaborative endeavors. There are indeed many ways of thinking of the book in view of both its tactile-experienceable qualities and the more notional-abstracting dimensions that describe its conception and contents.

This encounter is part of Take the Book – Spaces for Art and Sciencea series of three events that will take place during November and December 2021 entirely devoted to the book, between history, art and science.

Conceptual Refractions – The Aesthetics of the Book

The digitalization has called into question the continued utility of print media, given the ease of accessibility and dissemination of digital publication formats. At the same time, however, the special importance given to its digital properties also highlighted the book’s significance as an item of social and cultural production. Following this line of argument, the panel aims to assess from a philosophical, historical and artistic point of view the social and cultural dimensions of the book. In so doing, particular attention will be given to questions regarding materiality, space, time, network and communities, and images.


Nils Röller (ZHdK)
David Finkelstein (Heriot Watt University)
Johanna Drucker (UCLA)

Moderator: Ilaria Andreoli (INHA – Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris)

In collaboration with Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).

In accordance with current regulations, the public is required to present a Covid Green Certificate at the entrance in order to access the event. This includes one of the following:

  • • You have received the anti-COVID-19 vaccination, with proof that you have received the first dose of vaccine at least 15 days previously or that you have completed the vaccination cycle;
  • • Recovery from COVID-19 within 6 months prior to the date of the event;
  • • Present a rapid antigenic or molecular test with a negative result within 48 hours prior to admission.


Nils Röller is a professor at the Zurich University of the Arts. His research focuses on the relation between text, image and philosophy (Iconography of Philosophy). In the Journal for Art, Sex and Mathematics he publishes experimental posts in collaboration with artists and poets since 2006. Out of this Journal, research projects have been developed and financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. For the Shared Campus Nils edits in a team the platform Text-Image Parergon. Recent publications in English and German language include Alpentram (Wien: Klever, 2021) and Interfacing Philosophy, in Text-Image Parergon, Oswald’s Hubble. Together with Siegfried Zielinski he built up the Vilém Flusser Archive and the Festival Digitale, at the Academy for Media Arts Cologne. For his experimental approach to Dieter Roth he received the Schiller Preis of the ZKB.

David Finkelstein is a cultural historian who has published and edited over 70 published books, essays and refereed journal articles in areas related to cultural history, book history, print culture and media history. These include The Book History Reader, Introduction to Book History, Movable Types: Roving Creative Printers of the Victorian World and the edited Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, volume 2: Expansion and Evolution, 1800-1900, winner of the 2021 Robert and Vineta Colby Scholarly Book Prize. Current projects include a co-edited Edinburgh Companion to the British Colonial Periodical Press, due out in 2024 with Edinburgh University Press.

Johanna Drucker is the Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies and Distinguished Professor of Information Studies at UCLA. She has published widely on topics related to the history of the book, artists’ books, graphic design, digital humanities, and visual forms of knowledge production. In addition to more than a dozen academic book titles, she has had a dozen creative works published by small presses in the United States and elsewhere, and her artist’s books are represented in collections throughout North America and Europe and beyond. Her work has been translated into many languages including Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, French, Spanish, Catalan, and Spanish. Her most recent work includes Iliazd: Metabibliography of a Modernist, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020, a study of the Georgian-born avant-garde poet-typographer who became a renowned publisher of livres d’artistes in Paris in the second half of the 20th century. Her book Inventing the Alphabet is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in 2022.