Polish artist Pawel Piotrowski creates the Sandwich Book, a delightful piece of artistry aiming to spotlight the many angles there are to seeing a book.
Like all seemingly commonplace things, books have a long and convoluted story behind them. Since the dawn of time, history was written on clay tablets, then papyrus scrolls, followed by parchment and all these coexisted peacefully for a while with the codex. Made of separate sheets of regularly-shaped material stitched together, all encased in a protective cover, the codex sure rings a bell, doesn’t it? Anyhow, it should, because ever since the 1st century AD, says prof. Richard Clement, the shape of the book as we know it, remained very nearly unchanged. Or at least until now.
While more often than not white sheets have been replaced by touchscreens, 3D stories, sculptures carved through pages or glow-in-the-dark books don’t cease to astound the conservative bibliophile. What is more, following these micro revolutions, the traditional status of the book as a cultural object has changed, its meaning being negotiated by looking at its content as well as its form. Polish artist Pawel Piotrowski created the Sandwich Book, an object of art that plays skilfully with images and senses; how the reader, or perhaps better said, the seer, experiences his creation, makes one wonder about the fixity of definitions. Most likely, every single one of us feels completely differently about what books are. And because Pawel was kind enough to share his thoughts with us, we’ll see how the artist himself feels.
How would you describe your work as an artist, in a nutshell?
For starters, I am a freelance photographer, illustrator and graphic designer. And despite the recent recognition I received for the Sandwich Book, I deal mainly with reportages, documentary photography, street photography and portraits. Also, I am a member of the Un-posed Collective, a group of Polish photographers promoting not only our own work, but also the history of Polish reportage, street and documentary photography. Since 2008, I am shooting a long-term photographic essay about my community, named ‘dobre życie’, meaning ‘life is good’. I am also working on a series of other sandwiches. Still, being a young artist means you’re almost always tilting at windmills, especially while looking for a permanent job. During a recent conversation with the manager of an advertising agency, I was told that as distinctive as my work may be, they need more of a mainstream approach!
I can’t imagine that made your day! And still, artists are free spirits; you’ve proven it so well with your brilliant sandwich. How did you come up with the idea in the first place?
In 2010 I was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, Wroclaw and I was given the task to create an unusual book. For a long time I thought about how exactly to fashion something interesting, but simply no idea was good enough! But I remember the moment the idea of a Sandwich Book came to me clearly: it was breakfast time with my girlfriend Irmina. We were making sandwiches and talking about how strange can the form of a book be. That’s how it all started.
What was your mode of execution when working at this sandwich, because that fantastic-looking lettuce stayed on my mind for a good couple of hours after seeing it?
The main idea was that the book should look like a sandwich and that it was absolutely necessary for the layers to be different. As the Book is handmade by me, I kept its size to about 21x15x2,5 cm . While the interior of the hardcover is ‘smeared’ with butter, the inside is made of several different layers printed with things like tomatoes, onions or rough slices of cheese, each one made having differing weights and paper textures. For the lettuce I used fibrous paper, with each card being very carefully crumpled up to obtain the appearance of lettuce leaves- this was the biggest challenge! Also, for the fried egg I tore pieces of paper. I remember how laying it all together and then sewing it gave me great joy.
Did you have any special purpose in mind for the Sandwich Book? Was it made for aesthetic joy only or was there some cryptic message to it?
For this project, I didn’t use unnecessary ideology. I tried to make an unusual book capable to draw attention through its unique form and encourage people to think about books in a way different than before, not just a set of pages filled with text or pictures. Also, the good thing is that being so pretty and colorful, it looks quite appetizing, doesn’t it?