The Book after the Book (1999/2000) is a hypertextual and visual essay about cyberliterature, where criticism and web art melts into the context of the net_reading/writing_condition. Its main focus is non-linear narratives, which reconfigure the literature/book relationship starting from the very notion of volume. Works that provide programming language a textual appraisal, creations that resort to videographic procedures in literary construction and play on the passivity and participation of the reader.
Short animations intercept the reading of other artists works playing with the textual condition of the on line image and, at the same time, with the imagetic condition of the screen text. They are all images that perform texts and face the strange passage imposed by the net. Deep down, on the back of the page, at the source, a situation is defined: the Internet is no more than a big text. On the front, at the screen, text reveals itself as image.
That strangeness introduces aesthetic dimensions that go beyond the technical horizon of multimedia. It can be writing one more line in the History of the Book. The History of Literature after the book. A History that, from the point of view of material culture has run on very stable grounds since Renaissance. It is as surprising as undeniable. From the Classic Era to present days, the book, as an object, has changed very little.
This stability is, at least, intriguing, in view of the symbolic value attributed to the disposable product by the cultural industry. It invites the thought that Literary History is also the history of reading and of the supports where the interaction between reader and text takes place. They are more than content receptacles. These supports are reading contexts where significations are built.
A gesture repertoire, a tactile game between hand and paper (or mouse), a constellation of objects and vision instruments defines the position of reading in this world. Unstable positions, no doubt. Here is Borges' enigmatic Book of Sand . A book in which it is impossible to return to the page which has been read. The Book of Books. The book of reading.
The Book after the Book central axle is a bookshelf whose shelves, which accommodate cyberliterature and artworks, are cut off by reading intervals. They are "empty pages ", fading from gray to white, that hinder the return from the shelf to the bookshelf, using the browser back button. It is necessary to appeal to the web site tool bar in order to move between its books of sand and zones of friction.
Not only each turn back implies in a new reading itinerary, but any selection means to run the risk to change the path, to lose the starting point and to redirect the reading route. The advance toward a selected work makes the reader exit The Book after the Book web site. The bookshelf functions now as node of a network, a set of revolving shelves, a new reading machine. After all, remembering again Borges, is there any place better than a library to lose a book?
Nevertheless, one is not after the novelty of cyberculture, nor striving to reinforce the now tedious discourse of the Internet's redeeming potential as a computer web able to candidly unite all humanity into a global village. This wouldn't be more than a chapter in the spectacular history being successfully elaborated in the last ten years by the computer and software industry. This narrative confers to the selfsame industry the power and the mission to inaugurate a new era. The subject here is not the no-book, but the book after the book, the computer not as a new art support, but as a new reading and writing machine: an interface.