This post originally appeared on the LAIP in 2014. We love Ms. Johanns’ work so much we had to bring it back for another round!

We love book art here at the LAIP, and every once in awhile I like to mine the internet for all things book art, just to see what fabulous things can be made from discarded texts.  Today’s feature is Ragnhildur Johanns, a captivating artist I stumbled across on one such trip down the rabbit hole. Her beautiful sculptures, which combine book art and poetry, are not to be missed! Enjoy! ~Erinn


The library at the Iceland Academy of the Arts has best librarians ever. They have a disco ball and a record player and a completely different approach to the library that is fresh and fun at the same time. ~Ragnhildur Johanns

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work!

Ragnhildur Johanns (RJ): I was born in Reykjavík, Iceland 1977. I graduated with a BA degree from the Art Academy of Iceland in 2010 and I have been working on art and writing since then. I work with text, with performance, and more, but I do seek to work with poetry in my art.

The object book is the possibility of a poem and I have been generating poems from the books that find their way to me. I do not need for the poetry to be readable, but it is sufficient to me that the possibility of the poem is visible through the object. Each and every word pulled out of the book is carefully chosen to form a context-free romantic/erotic poem. The poems are extracted from the books, the sentences never leave the books and are not glued in, just pulled out and left there, and the book itself becomes part of the poem.

In addition to my work as an artist I run the website, which covers the Reykjavík art scene in a visual way. I also publish a magazine on contemporary art in Iceland with a group of friends called Endemi.

LAIP: What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

RJ: At the moment I’m setting up my new studio and that is taking all my time for now– but it gets me so excited since I quite love the space and can’t wait to start working again

LAIP: How have libraries informed your creative work?  Tell us about the first library you remember playing a part in your artistic development.

RJ: I would say that the library at my hometown of Hafnarfjörður in Iceland had a lot to say about my upbringing in an artistic sense. I was not brought up to read for my amusement in my house, but I knew early that I really enjoyed reading. I was quite young when I started using the library regularly and I did read a lot. I remember going from one shelf to another trying to figure out what I wanted to read and even though they say “never judge the book by its cover” that is what I did because I had no idea what I wanted to read at the time.

As a teenager I knew what appealed to me and I started reading a lot of poetry and I haven’t stopped since.

I’m sure that this sort of an upbringing in the library as a young child has a lot to do with my fascination with books and not just the written word but the book as an object.

 …my fascination with books…is not just the written word, but the book as an object.

Syn og sanser, books b

LAIP: Can you describe a particular library-incubated project for us?  

RJ: The work entitled “SemSé” started as an idea at the library. I saw a lot of books that were being given away, books that no one wanted to read anymore and were taking up too much space at the library. The work consists of 100 books that were not wanted anymore, not only from the library but also from people that wanted to clean out their bookshelves.



LAIP: As an artist, what would your ideal library be like?  What kinds of stuff would you be able to check out, and what could you do there?

RJ: My ideal library is located at the fine art department at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. It’s full of many awesome things– books on arts, artists, artists’ books, and theory texts, but it also has the best librarians ever. They have a disco ball and a record player and a completely different approach to the library that is fresh and fun at the same time.


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