Sam Winston’s Modern Gods Revives The Ancient Scroll

by on August 28, 2015

Scroll piece from Winston’s ‘Modern Gods’

“Book” has become a transient sort of word.

   It used to be easy to define— Made of paper pulp, binding, and wisdom, it was something you cracked open for a good story or access to information. But now we’ve gone digital and ‘books’ no longer only come in physical form.

   As cheeky protest to this questionable ‘progress’ of technology and technocracy that seems to presage the future of books and the downfall of the library, some artists are translating their art ‘books’ into something even older—scrolls.

   It’s the ultimate throwback to the last time there was a literary tech innovation. Scrolls were all the rage once upon a time—despite the considerable frustration of reading them (and constantly losing your place when it rolled up on you) and the difficulty in storing them (ancient libraries looked a lot more like wine cellars, with special racks for scrolls). The modern versions are still hard to show off (though laying them flat, as per the pics here) does have its benefit (reading, however, isn’t one of them).

   Sam Winston‘s ‘Modern Gods,’ for instance, involves one book and three scrolls, all somewhat undecipherable, each cloth wrapped and stored in an individual, specially shaped box. It’s not an easy ‘book’ to check out of the Brooklyn Museum Library’s special collections, but they’re still happy to have it and even happier that it comes in scroll form.mg_sim_1

   The contents of “Modern Gods” is no less re-revolutionary. Pulling apart the science and tech that we worship into its component verbal parts, British artist Sam Winston playfully transfigures the ‘gods of time, tech, and the elements into alchemical works of art, that, like his scroll format, pull on older forms of artistry and literary invention.

   But if scrolls have returned to be the new ‘in’ medium, I think it’s safe to bet on some cuneiform tablets coming back up in the future.