The Book

Permanently installed at Mississauga Celebration Square May 2016.

The Book is a painted steel sculpture with two pages torn away from its spine. The spine is perpendicular to the ground, the covers are open, and the pages appear to blow in the wind animating the space between the Central Library and the Civic Centre at Mississauga Celebration Square. Viewers would see a book that looks as if it were lifted by the wind and oriented towards a sheet that has already escaped and is blowing towards the Central Library. Because the scale of the book is enlarged, the sculpture becomes anthropomorphized and appears to be performing a choreographed dance with the escaping page. The rigid steel plates look animated because of the pages’ articulation as rolling forms suggesting a drama between pages and books, readers and words, languages and alphabets, as well as writers and ideas. One can see the sculpture as a representation of a literary struggle: despite the attempt to bind ideas together, a page of thoughts escapes from the edge of Celebration Square and blows towards the Library.

Although most books tend to be read from front to back, The Book’s gesture can be absorbed by viewers in an instant as they pass by the installation. However, viewers who have an opportunity to get closer to the site will recognize that the holes in the steel pages form clusters of words. The clustered texts link the letters of the Latin alphabet to its predecessors, which include the Phoenician alphabet that emerged from Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Phoenician letters that developed from Egyptian hieroglyphs were used to represent syllabic sounds of Semitic languages dating to approximately 2000 B.C. Carvings of a twenty-two character Phoenician alphabet from 1000 B.C. have been linked to earlier carvings from approximately 1750 B.C. (known as the Wadi el-Hol script) that have been inspired by particular Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Each cluster of letters on the page ripping out of the book are symbols that were developed from architectural and technological innovations. The letters on the freed page were derived from parts of the human body. As light passes through the outlines of the characters in the book their projections continue to change and the letters and symbols shift into forms that are less familiar. The future imprints of text on a page are dependent on their ancestral roots as well as the symbolic languages, codes, and alphabets that are evolving out of our contemporary society. The steel book is a monument poised between eras in the evolution of thought.

Ilan Sandler 2016

Notes on the Origins of the Latin alphabet

It is surmised that members of a Semitic tribe, possibly working as mercenaries or scribes within the Egyptian army, developed a notation for purely utilitarian purposes: in order for the mercenaries to communicate amongst themselves and keep track of the names and other information pertaining to captured troops, they developed a kind of shorthand notation that was syllabic in structure. Since the hieroglyphic system contained over three thousand characters and was therefore difficult for outsiders to learn, the idea of simplifying the writing system into a syllabic system allowed language to be more simply expressed phonetically. An example of the evolution of a letter can be seen in the Latin letter B. In order to make it easy for someone to remember that a certain symbol represented a ìBî sound, a shape was used that originated from a hieroglyph that began with ìBî. In ancient Hebrew for example the word BAYT means house, and thus from an Egyptian hieroglyph of a floor plan of a reed shelter a symbol was derived that over a thousand years came to look like a Phoenician character of a triangular domicile with a pillar attached to it. The modern day form of the letter B evolved through a number of civilizations that included Greek and Etruscan writing systems.

Sources for further reading:

Sacks, David. Letter Perfect: The Marvelous History of Our Alphabet from A to Z. Broadway Books. Random House Inc. USA. 2004

Albright, William Foxwell., The Proto-Sinaitic Inscriptions and their Decipherment. Harvard University Press. USA. 1966