Paul Laidler, Is it a game, or is it real, Unlimited (Hardback & soft cover versions), Produced through
Paul Laidler, Is it a game, or is it real, Unlimited (Hardback & soft cover versions), Produced through

Limited edition, 2009
UK. Published in 3 formats: softback or hardback, hardback with jacket.
Width 13cm x  Height 21cm  x Depth 2cm
Hardback version available here: Blurb books

The book work Is it a game, or is it real is a reinterpretation of David Bischoff’s War Games. In this instances a remake of the Penguin book that uses the film adaptation of Bischoff’s novel as the cover image. The visual reference of the film as a printed cover image is employed by publishers as marketing tool to sell more copies of adapted novels. Marcella Edwards, senior commissioning editor at Penguin Classics sees the film’s influence as a way to tap into new markets. The film image appears to make some classic texts more approachable for these new audiences. Edwards describes this phenomena where the text “becomes less classic, less difficult. You don’t need a PhD to read this stuff – it’s readable”. Here the novels text is proceeded by its cinematic cover image a reinterpretation that for many becomes the original, diluting any beginning or end – and somewhat ironically, a reality made out of fiction.

Here the reinterpretation/remake foreground’s the digitized theme of the novel, period and production process. Firstly the work presents the digital pixel aesthetic of the 1980’s although in this instance the digitization is not screen based but instead simulated by printed dots that construct the appearance of pixels. For instances the book work Is it a game, or is it real is a digitally recorded version of the (1983 Penguin) publication although the transition from physical to digital becomes pronounced through the flatbed scanning of the books three dimensional form and the pixellated appearance of both text and image. The book has been recorded using the different resolution sizes of 12, 32, 42 and 52 ppi (pixels per inch). These resolution settings assigned to the recording of the book are purposely set below the standard amount of pixel information required for reading digital images on screen (72ppi) and in print (300ppi).

I might add that when using automated POD facilities for producing work, low resolution preference generally sit outside of the systems approved optimum print settings. Subsequently the ‘computer says no’ the system breaks down and you need to convince a human directly (via the online help desk) that you want pixelation.

As well as the physical, printed edition of the book, the Blurb facility also offers a virtual rendering of the book format that can be considered as a digital edition in the truest sense. The electronic format otherwise known as an e-book, allows the user to view the on screen flipping of pages as animated actions that refer to the experience of its physical counterpart. Although the e-book phenomenon engages with the dynamic potential of the Internet and allows publishers to reduce publishing costs, it does not currently provide the best reading experience to the customer.
The pixellated appearance of Is it a game or is it real? as an e-book initially makes the viewer question the technology as a reliable tool for reading digitised information. Viewed on screen the image appears to have become corrupted, or the correct resolution setting has not been assigned to the digital file. The assumption that the e-book is not a true representation of the printed version is re-addressed once seen in conjunction with the printed, signed edition. As an artist’s book, the signature confirms the intentions for the final printed results and the subsequent reading of the physical work as an ‘unsophisticated’ e-book facsimile. In one sense, the book fails to function before the concept reveals the object’s primary function as an artwork that appropriates the formal designs of the book format.

The appropriation and function distinctions resonate with Michael Craig-Martin’s thinking of real objects as if they were art. Here Craig-Martin considers utilising the characteristics of objects rather than the Duchampian idea of art by nomination, “The defining aspect of an object is what it is used for e.g. scale, material, look – using their functionality as a device to make art from.” (Cork, Michael Craig-Martin) However, the resulting book as an art object is not in the strictest sense a direct appropriation of a previously existing object. The work is an appropriation of an object’s function that is conceived and realised in conjunction with the object’s associated on screen presence.

And finally, like the film/novel the artist book has distopian undercurrents concerning digital technology and our trust in its utopian design. The POD facility Blurb highlights the relative ease with which one can copy, reproduce, store and send digitized imagery/objects without any concern for origins or authenticity. Further more the rapidity with which this technology moves raises archiving issues concerning the compatibility and ‘readibility’ of digital information between old and new software. Data is either lost or interpolated – are we preserving the past or distorting it?
Is it a game, or is it real fuses past, present, text, image, fact and fiction as an artwork that is interpreted through its mediation. Subsequently the work invokes a self-conscious presence, perhaps referencing Bischoff’s vision of computer consciousness. Also see the analogue after digital Pinterest collection for usage of the pixel aesthetic