design: Piera Wolf
text: Iñaki Domingo, Anouk Kruithof
publisher: Editorial RM, stresspress.biz
publishing date: november 2016
10 no-cover books in transparent Acrylic box (3 mm)
Size of each book is 228 mm (H) x 170 mm (W)
Outside size of box is 173 mm (W) x 235 mm (H) x 53 mm (D)
Color, bw & duo-tone offset print on different papers
Section sewn in 16pp, with exposed colored thread
Book edges color sprayed
total pages: 768
total images: 528
price: 110 €
I was researching on the relationship between art and technology as
a starting point for my review of Automagic,
Anouk Kruithof's latest massive photobook-ouvre, Google made me bump
into a forum hosted on an English videogaming website simply titled
"Magic vs Technology". My prime task momentarily dissolved
as I got caught unthreading the passionate debate this topic arose
among the gamers.
The forum members couldn't really find a point of agreement on which
of the two factions is the strongest, filling the discussion with
diverging opinions bolstered by detailed explanations of the
superiority of witchcraft abilities over cybernetic weapons, or vice
Even though the whole dilemma could sound too nerdy to be meaningful, it contained a truth that permeates not only the lives of videogaming enthusiasts, but those of all of us. How do we see and relate to the power of technology? Do we ever put it in question, as we do with magic? For those who have no specific knowledge - which means the majority of us - it is as incomprehensible as sorcery; nevertheless, we let it shape our daily activities, delegating more and more practical and cognitive tasks to it.
Here I go back to the initial point of my inquiry, before the gamig detour brought me off-topic: which role do artists play in mediating the inescapable presence of technology, and in understanding the blurry outlines of its influence? Artistic research made a big jump forward at the turn of the twentieth century, while Henry Ford was introducing the Model T, Albert Einstein was formulating the theory of relativity and Harry Houdini was performing his impossible escapes. Art, progress (and illusion) walked arm in arm, the first being informed by the second and commenting on it at the same time. Today, the interaction with a big part of technological progress has condensed in devices we constantly carry in our pockets, and conscious artists are aware that they cannot evade dealing with what this entails on the social and aesthetic levels. Especially if their practice is based on image-making, as in Kruithof's case, being photography the medium that more than others has been subjected to jerks and twitches in terms of production, application and dissemination.
It goes without saying that the artist can implement many different possible approaches to the analysis of the digitalization of our lives, but insisting on the personal sphere and private experience is perhaps the most straightforward, honest and though risky one.
The tome Automagic contains the many hundreds of images drawn from Kruithof's own photographic archive taken with iPhones and compact digital cameras over the past twelve years, and is comprised of nine individually-binded photographic booklets plus a textual one, joined together in a transparent acrylic glass box. While visually navigating through the extensive amount of pictures, we encounter a wide spectrum of colors, shapes and techniques that are only apparently casual, because the treatment of the images, as well as their editing and printing, is different and specifically designed for each booklet.
There is a motivation behind every choice made in terms of editing, design, paper and packaging, but I do not really feel the need to know them; or, at least, my appreciation of the book does not radically change once I am informed about them. For me, Automagic is an expression of Anouk's personality as much as the clothes or nail polish she wears, that I imagine she never has to justify, because they naturally reflect who she is. For me, Automagic "belongs" to her to an equal extent; thus, in commenting the book I am not guided by how it is made or looks like, but rather why Anouk decided to make it. More precisely, I am intrigued both by the vulnerability and recklessness entangled in exposing twelve years of private life in something that resembles a visual autobiography, and by the place this books occupies within a more holistic discourse on the weight - literally - of paper in a world based on screens. Automagic, in fact, is not the first book project that sees Kruithof working with photographic archives, but derives from a diametrically opposite premise: this book is born downstream of the spontaneous accumulation of her own images, not of an intentional appropriation of found or collected material; and this automatically turns the artistic object into a state-of-the-art document of technology in force along the last decade.
Moreover, it is interesting to witness an artist straining and stretching a given format in such a free way, especially when it comes to photobooks, that often remain restrained within their own limits. Automagic is actually a collection of mixable episodes, more similar to tracks in a music playlist or folders on a computer desktop than to chapters in a "proper" book. The connection with the ever-evolving, compoundable and somehow whimsical nature of the digital source material is loud and clear and is the strong point of Automagic, whose structure seems like stating: "Don't be fooled by the fact that now I am a printed object; I will always be an endlessly open entity". A sort of modern spellbound, that has to be spontaneously enjoyed rather than rationally examined.
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