When Micah Bloom biked to work at Minot State University in the fall of 2011, he saw ripped and flood-damaged books everywhere: hanging from tree branches, strewn along the roadside.
"They looked like bodies that were exposed to the elements," said Bloom, an assistant art professor and a passionate book lover.
It was that sad sight that led Bloom to direct and produce a film titled "Codex," which follows Bloom and a team of student volunteers over 15 months as they rescue hundreds of books from the banks of the Souris River. The film incorporates performance, video, photography, and sculpture, involving friends and students as artistic collaborators. He is now trying to raise money via a crowd sourcing fund drive on Kickstarter.com to complete the film. He needs to raise $3,200 by Dec. 7 to finish the film and, as of Thursday, had raised $3,104. He is hoping to raise more money than his original goal and to make the film, which is scheduled to debut at Minot State's Northwest Art Center on March 5, even bigger and better.
Andrea Johnson/MDN • Minot State University assistant art professor Micah Bloom edits footage from the film “Codex” in his office on Thursday.
For Bloom, the film is a metaphor for the many losses Minot experienced in the flood as well as for the decline in popularity of the physical book.
Books are nearly alive for Bloom, who said he couldn't help but be affected by the sight of so many books damaged by floodwaters and the elements, ripped by bulldozers or gnawed on by worms and muskrats, used as nest-building material by birds.
"When I was a child, my parents instilled in me a reverence for books," he explained. "Books couldn't be stepped on, sat, or abused, because they contained something mysterious and powerful, beyond their mere, physical composition: wood fibers and ink. In a magical way, they were carriers of that which was irreplaceable; they housed an intellect, a unique soul. In our home, books were elevated in the hierarchy of objects; in their nature, deemed closer to humans than furniture, knick knacks, clothing ... because of my upbringing, I couldn't ignore them, and they pulled me into telling their story: a story of necessity, loss, neglect, obsolescence, progress, privilege, excess, ignorance and valediction."
Some of the books he and his team of MSU art student volunteers found were set aside to be displayed later in an artistic exhibition, carefully encased in a wrapping, labeled and categorized. Others were buried. Still others were given an honorable send-off befitting a Viking warrior. Bloom described launching a boat full of books on the Souris River and then setting it on fire.
"That was kind of a fun scene to shoot, too," Bloom said.
Some of the books will be preserved and shown in an art exhibition at the college next spring.
The filming has been done, but Bloom said there are hundreds of hours of footage that must be edited. The money that is raised will be used for production costs, including camera equipment rental, construction (sculpture) and the film's score and post-production costs, including mixing and mastering audio, color correction, and photo editing. Some of the money will be used to compensate MSU art students who are working on the post-production of the film, said Bloom.
Bloom said he also hopes the film will resonate beyond Minot and hopes to show it in other settings.