The beauty of being busy is thriving through this Masters. This week has been specially diverse and I feel like I am on a path to something very specialized, niche in fact. This has its benefits and its downfalls, however, for now I am concentrating on the doing. A reflection on the week's activities starting on Saturday the 7th November (day after Oxford Brookes visit) to Friday 13th is due.
Saturday 7th - Visit to Small Publishers' Book Fair
Just before I went to the Small Publisher Book Fair it occured to me that this would be one of the perfect opportunities to do a bit of networking, and really, the best way to do networking is when you actually have something palpable to talk about. This way I quickly turned my computer on and quickly designed a banner to distribute, publicizing my book launch at Waterloo. It was a great decision as it alllowed people to expand on their own practice and me finding out more about them, as well as talk about the book's concept and receive some 'light' feedback.
The SPBF was much more gripping than the Poetry book fair (back in October), and I was gutted I got there a little too late to catch a talk on a really interesting book by Uniformbooks 'Unshelfmarked' by Michael Hampton, which is supposed to be another history of Artists books, a more contemporary one. Uniform books is also a very interesting publishing house as they are interested in cultural aspects of the world, hence their interest in history (of the book).
The range was incredible, from £4 zines to £350 etched editions and it was interesting how there are a few faces that start to be familiar in the circle. From all the stalls I will mention only a few, which are relevant to my practice or of whom I particularly enjoyed their work.
Philipa Woods - The caseroom press
Philipa has created a book before from a very simple question (Oh Yes, questions are the engine of our brains!) to women: what do you not have time to do? and this gave way to producing http://www.the-case.co.uk/ThereIsNoTime.html this beautiful book. However, at the SPBF, I had the opportunity to see the newly released male response to it, and I must say it was much more full of wit and bookness. I loved the fact that the book's size dimished by the page, as if we were running out of time. The comments were a bit more varied and the format more reemblent of a watch. This is a great example of a book which speaks to us in a very well humoured and physical way about sometimes personal issues revolving around our stressed life styles.
Heather Hunter - Hunter books
Another very interesting book, specially for those who are fans of cracking codes (me!) was Heather's triangular shaped Rebus puzzle. Now, I remember using a simplified version of these as a tool to learn a language, not so much for fun, however I was delighted to learn about these strategems in which one has to make use of spelling, memory and visual intelligence. A challenging and also physical specimen, made for fun. It's interesting, my books are always about serious things, but I seem to always enjoy the fun ones the most (something to think about, because really, I do enjoy making serious things). This one also plays with areas of my interest, being language and quarky handling shapes - eventhough I didn't ask her why the triangular shape, which when flat open created a square. I am not entirely sure about the choice of material thread and the finished aspect of it, but these are minor issues in a book that requires you to think more than to look at it as a precious object.
Heather also had a variety of hand-cut books, in a series style - each of the books were different but made in exactly the same way and format - which was most graceful and peaceful. A change to the obiquitous lazer cutting one see in books these days, it truly reminded me of a window seat and made me reminesce of cloudy landscapes given that all the pages were white. But that little viewscape, a poetic stretched eyehole was a silent ode to nature's observation from a window seat.
Collective Investigations - Chris Gibson
Fresh out of the Camberwell MA Book Arts the artist Chris Gibson spoke about his practice and referenced different realities being that of the existent book, the created book and the book in the reader's mind. He also mentioned site specific installations, namely at the Cambridge Philosophy University, which I would be inclined not to call an installation, but hey people can call whatever they like to their work. Having said that, I much enjoyed their book creations, they had a strong and focused conceptual tone to them, as much as an ethereal yet peculiar outcome. One of their books, rather of Chris' books, was a reflection on tour guide books. From exerpts of a guided book he then counter related actual happenings that occured in those places. An excellent mix of reflection on books and place. A situationist in the making I'd say.
Corbel Stone Press
This duo impressed me a lot. Not only their books and journals were beautifully produced, they truly portrayed what I consider to be an artist's investigation. It was really pleasurable to speak to someone who is really involved and deeply in tune with what they are making as a process, as an ever expanding, developing and intrinsic art practice to them: they touch music, books and prints. Their books are formed of language at its best, it describes studies and ethereal experiences put into concrete poetry and scientific facts together. A dreamscape for the Art investigator put into book form. 'Memorious Earth' is particularly rich, but also their Journal 'Reliqae' which description I quote from their website: 'Reliquiæ is an annual journal of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, translations and visual art, edited by Autumn Richardson & Richard Skelton. Each issue collects together both old and new work from a diverse range of writers and artists with common interests spanning landscape, ecology, folklore, esoteric philosophy and animism.' What a wonder, the perfect mix between surreal and real!
The lovely Lina Nordenstrom showed me around her guests' books and not only all of them were of superior quality, her work was also of very delicate peculiarity. The aspect I most enjoyed about this stall was its collaborative aspect. GG is a print studio who invites artists to produce in-house whilst producing their own materials as well, they are very active in the book printing/making world and that echoed in the quality of the books exhibited, including that of Lisa Chang Lee, a printmaker fresh out of the Royal College of Art. This was one of the stalls I enjoyed the most, their simple and neat yet varied thus inviting display also played a part, but knowing of their approach to artists even more so.
Jacqueline was also a pleasure to speak to and to understand more of her practice. While her books lacked typographic skill, they certainly didn't lack coherence, dynamism, colourfulness and meaningful playfulness ( a lot of nouns in this sentence I know!). Her themes are inspired by science and she is talking about serious stuff, and she talks about it with full research backing it up. This is something that I really appreciate. It's all fair to do fiction/poetic books too, but I do ask myself why is it that within the artists' books' circles non-fiction/factual books are not as popular, or at least not as pursued by the artists themselves and this niche public? I do vouch for Jacqueline's approach: grab an interesting/peculiar informative part of knowledge and lay it out the way you see it, using your creative juices. It was also sooo refreshing to speak to someone who hasn't got an Arts background, the simplicity of embracing your creative juices doesn't have to be availed by an institution (but that is talk for a whole article), and she is great proof of it. Her books felt like proper books and I was very engaged with them.
Last but not least, with all merit, Nancy Campbell was holding the main stage's exhibition which celebrated not only her works in general but also her investigations in Greenland, northern countries and Antartica. There were two stricking aspects to this, the conceptual element that linked the audience to the work via public interaction and the plentitude of books that resulted from these. I feel Nancy is very prolific and I suspect that writing is the way in which she channels this energy, that then it's on a fire ball that is unleashed via the production of artists books.
The interactive aspect of the audience was what is most relevant to my practice (along with such involvement in her topic of research) : because the Greenlandic language is disapearing, she was asking people to give-up on a word and swap it with a Greenlandic word taken out of a bowl. Well, I have always felt horrible when saying the 'c' word, so the opportunity presented seemed perfect for its abandonment. So there, I cannot say the 'c' word ever again. Instead, I am allowed to use the word asingavok, which means pale, or loosing colour. Now there is a 'I will never know' twist in this: did she mean for us to use this new word instead of the word we abandoned, or did she mean for us to use the new word when the opportunity for its meaning would present itself? Either way, I had to make a choice and nowadays if you hear me shouting 'asingavok' to a taxi driver pushing me off my bike, now you know why!
As my own investigations proceed, I found various elements that are worth investigating visually. So at the moment what I am trying to put together with artist Benjamin Sebastian, who I met on Monday, is a performance in which I direct two performers into colliding books, following emotional responses to the content of these books through a choice of movements that mimic the movements of tectonic plates. We discussed possibilities and practical ideas it seems that projections of some of my visual material is crucial to the response of the performers. So the next step is making these visual stimuli, schedule the blocks of the performances/visual investigations, source materials/gear and venue.
I did get an intensive kick out of having someone willing to collaborate in my visual investigation. I was pumped with adrenaline, and in fact, I do believe that this has a lot of potential.
Tate Britain's collection visit
Assunta Ferrera kindly layed out a room containing 4 tables full of artists books. They had a historical arrangement, which was really nice to see grouped as clearly the printing techniques, the themes and interests were perspicuous. The first table displayed books from the 60's and 70's, the second table 80's and 90's, the third 21st century and the 4th was dedicated to journals, serials and other items.
During this visit, I felt that I am starting to recongnize some names and also their style of work. Also the historical arrangement was most useful for this recognition to be even more atuned. Again the funny ones were the ones that drew my attention, but there were some nice surprises in the sense that I saw two peculiar concertina books. First one, 'My twelve steps', 1997 Emil Martin. This concertina was made to unfold a staircase, which really worked as the hard cover's architecture allowed for the back of the book to stand allowing the staircase to rise. This book is interestingly similar to my current woodcarving project in the sense that I will have the steps printed with words. 'Take a deep breath' 1999, Sari, this was actually more complex than a concertina, it was actually the bellows of a concertina. I kept closing and opening this book, as the bellows hissed this breath to my ear. The only word in the book was one of the longest words in the English language, hence the author advised the reader to take a deep breath before saying it. It is a good concept, however, because the execution of the paper technology was sooo good, she could have explored that beautful - unexpected - result which is the feeling of actually playing an accordion, or the feeling of watching an air machine pumping air into someone's dying body. The air comming out of those bellows was enchanting and I kept pestering my classmates with it onto their ears! Another funny book which made me laugh out loud, 21st century, was the 'Him book, 101 Hims' by Robert Gordon. Funny transformations of one guy. Another book, that I nearly fully read was - again - based on one simple question (the engine of the brain): 'Have you ever done anything illegal in order to survive as an artist?', Ginny Lloyd's, Blitzkunst, 90's. One single question, a zillion laughs, a thorough investigation. (TBC)
Lot's of problems with registration, but by the end of the day, I sorted a system out.
Book binding with Clare Bryan. Lot's of useful information about materials and good tips on how to be precise without measuring everything.