Antony Cairns (UK) brings a touch of anarchy to his new publication LDN EI, a limited edition production that’s more than a photobook, but rather its own platform. Taking old e-readers as a base, Cairns hacked the Kindle software to support the singular functionality of presenting his own book, complete with table of contents, imagery and essays. The e-reader hardware has also been visibly disrupted: sprayed black, unessential parts (like the keyboard) removed and reinterpreted using metal grills instead of mass-manufactured plastic. Each tablet holds the same content, but physically may differ in shape and look, due to Cairns collecting the different e-readers over time, rather than buying in bulk.
The work presented on the device is Cairns’ LDN series, originally started in 2008 and consisting of three parts, photographs taken at night in his hometown of London, with the last two letters in the title, LDN EI, standing for ‘electronic image’. The images themselves are also damaged, the artist taking his 35mm negatives and only partly developing them before solarising, bleaching and manipulating them in other ways, these imperfections contributing to, according to Cairns, their unique charm. Ian Jeffrey’s essay on the work states that that image “isn’t perfectly realised, but is marked by the demands of the process, by fingerprints, droplets and blisters.”
The use of E Ink complements the artist’s black and white, night-time shots perfectly, shifting tiny pixels and polarising swiftly every time the ‘page’ is turned.
Kindles use ‘electronic ink’ (E Ink) to form black letters or figures on the screen, a form of low-energy, high-contrast display. This use of E Ink complements the artist’s black and white, night-time shots perfectly, shifting tiny pixels and polarising swiftly every time the ‘page’ is turned. It is sometimes difficult to tell if the image is in negative, as Cairns’ manual manipulations are even more mysterious on digital paper.
In the bustling city of London, Kindles are a common sight, particularly among commuters on the underground or bus, pushed up close to the face of professionals catching up on the latest novel, wedged into the carriage during rush hour. This bruised and remodelled version adds another layer to the proliferation of ‘street art’ – now so common in London that there are walking graffiti tours. The city’s walls are spray-painted, the lampposts are plastered with posters, and now… even the e-readers are defaced.
Cairns’ work pushes the boundary of what a ‘book’ really means, reworking the definition even of an e-book by appropriating the hardware it exists on. A labour of dedication and rebellion, LDN EI combines vandalism and art into a perfectly realised, if somewhat battered, e-reader, resulting in an old object transformed into the truly new. LDN EI has been produced as a handmade numbered edition of 200 copies, each with 244 images, 2 reviews, 2 essays and an interview with the artist.