What does doing do to my art practice?

But really, this off term wasn’t really off term: I wrote a 5000+ word essay (Institutions and Ethics), I made a whole new book (Free), I made an installation (Shaleopoly), and made a mock up for another book (Shale and you). I have started preparing a new film piece (Melt and Spill) and yet a third book performance piece (In the beginning) and an advertising campaign (the Beauty of Shale).

I applied to a few opportunities: The Art and Environment Residency in Yorkshire (got shortlisted); Book Works’ 6 artists’ publications; the Arts and Humanities Research Film Awards. These are good opportunities to settle ideas down in a formal way, whether they are bursting (new) ideas or matured ones (some preparation has been underway). Once you formulate an idea and articulate it to the extent of writing an application, you somehow know that you believe in that idea (otherwise why would you bother spending so long in one single application?) and it helps you see with more clarity what mistakes are you making when you look back at those applications. It also means that they are noted down in your sketchbook to be picked-up at any time. In Portuguese we say: working ahead avoids bustling. Trabalho feito nao mete azafama. Applying for residencies, awards and opportunities also took a considerable amount of my time, but I find that – although tiresome and tedious– the maturing comes in again as a principal and important, weighty factor in the equation of growing.

I experienced a Bookfair by myself and another with the MA group in which I sold 3 newspapers and more importantly a copy of ‘Th(d)e code and sense’;

This was important because I experienced different audiences within a short amount of time and both were ‘niche’ type of events.

At the London Radical Book Fair the audience was interested, chatty, not too busy, felt like a fair amount of networking was going on and not many sales (well, it’s a socialist, radical and anti-capitalist fair, so it kind of makes sense). But I met some really interesting characters, one of which academic, the other two from the old-guard of bohemian literary and political movements – dead (or not so dead)’s poet society type, the kind that still meet up in hotels for ‘tertulias’ (parley).

DiY Cultures was really satisfying because I managed to sell pieces to people who were interested in my work and to whom I had the opportunity to speak to and talk about my work. It was double gratifying because people seemed generally interested in my work.

Also found out about a really interesting course at Holloway university MA Creative wiritng practice, which is a little like Book Arts because they produce their output themselves and consider form and content in similar ways, but it's more focused on writing than our course.

At DiY Cultures the oddest thing happened to me. A guy, out of the blue, who did not see my work at our table, passed by, running, and threw a small pamphlet at me. Whilst running away, as if not to be caught by any possible questions that would follow the intervention, he uttered: ‘Read it, you will find it interesting. Read it!’. As soon as I took my eyes of the pamphlet he was gone, not to be seen in the middle of the crowded place. The strangest thing about this pamphlet is that not only is talking about oil and it is damaging our world, but it is expanding that by means of a geological theory of the writer’s own creation. This is amazing, because it is opening new questions for me, as well, as confirming that the universe is somehow connected. My question is not only related to the obvious one – which I don’t think it matters but I will proffer it – How did he know I was looking into this? (This is quite impossible, let’s move on to a more possible one). Why did he only give this pamphlet to me, out of all the stalls in there, and then disappeared? (As far as I could see he didn’t hand it out to anyone else, but maybe he did earlier when I wasn’t watching him). How on Earth am I receiving this information out of nowhere, information which is going to help kicking my research and making again? (no comment). There is a website, but not an email address. I must say, a mystery in life is better than none.

I went to a protest to protect the libraries of my borough;

This was an interesting event but whereas I went to this one because it felt to me like it was going to affect my direct community and also would be more socially orientated and personal, it was quite the opposite. Not in a pejorative way, but the protesters failed to mention in their speeches the fact that libraries are home to unemployed, low-skilled community members who seek support, help and sometimes shelter amidst books and the people who work in these places. So, to me, the main idea behind saving libraries is the fact that they are needed to keep our communities educated and minimally literate. The protest was chiefly against government cuts and the loss of employment, fronted by the Unions. This is all true, needs to be voiced and I find it ok. I just don’t find it ok that the users of the libraries’ voices weren’t heard or mentioned.

On the other hand, it was most curious to see the variety of protesters and their styles of protesting. Some wore their headphones all the way of the march, some didn’t have any signs (like me), some brought their children and had them making signs themselves to parade, some were fully equipped with banners from the start, some were caught in the way by the march and instigated to carry a sign – which he did right till the end – all styles and ages, we all supported books and the non removal of these valuable institutions that libraries are. I do ask myself, if these 4 libraries are to be demolished for luxury flat building, what of the books? Are they going to be burnt, given away, transferred? What happens to them?


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I witnessed a social event which promoted social consciousness and was highly educational on the subject of noticing the elderly. Very simple, but highly educational, it placed elderly in the middle of the square and because they are humans and some people must know them in any case, dialogue was initiated and awareness raised to the fact that they need support. Highly educational and slightly jarring to see ill people in a hospital type of bed ono wheels in the middle of a public square. But well done I thought.

I went to a workshop which reminded me that I am a person and need to exist no matter what is my occupation. But at the moment I cannot disconnect from this Masters, it’s my life, I think I am slightly obsessed and because I am not normally an obsessive person (in fact I am kind of against that as a principle) I feel emotionally drained all the time, because it’s my life, it’s all I think of at all times. This workshop reminded me of techniques that I use in my daily life to cope and survive, but brought awareness and somehow control into the equation. It also reminded me of the unconscious as a tool and the art of building with Lego. Who says Lego says anything else: you just let your mind drift away while you think of your subject matter. Drifting in the mind helps relaxing, drifting physically helps relaxing and they both have an intimate relationship with automatic writing which is a technique I used to practice so often. It liberated me. Nowadays, I feel the pressure of the course hovering over my free spirit: can’t go party wildly, don’t have time for sports, don’t have time for long journeys, don’t have time for activities that are deemed more ‘hobby’ or even ‘relaxed’. It sometimes, feels like I self-imposed this regime of constant work. But this isn’t healthy. I need to take advantage of knowing better and knowing that giving the brain a true break is worth it.

I learnt about photo lithography and I am currently learning both plate and stone litho. This means that I’ll end up having learnt all 3 types of lithography instead of 2 as I thought I was. This is because I did not realise that one can draw directly on the plate. When I enrolled at City Lit I thought that plate litho meant photo litho (exposure techniques like in silkscreen) but it actually means drawing on the plate like in stone litho, with the greasy crayons. It’s an interesting process, all based around the idea of saponification, Senefelder found, which within the lithographic process means that grease, water, resin and acids work together to form a memory on a plate. This memory is protected, allowing for ink to be deposited and then reproduced.

I have really enjoyed the results of photo litho, it being a rather quick and safe printing process, much freer from hazard than etching for example, and quicker than traditional lithography. It also allows for photographic imagery, which is not possible with traditional litho. On the other hand, the beauty of traditional litho is that all mark making gets to be printed, so you get this hybrid of craft and industry on paper, a sight that can be easily deceived as it is really hard to tell what technique has been used as it so truly reproduces the mark making. I am really looking forward to print my drawing (which is still in progress) but more so, so get to know how to prepare a stone – even if I don’t get to print on it myself.

I suppose that the off term was going to peak, for me, with the talk I delivered at LSBU. First, it was the first time I made an academic and professional contact in my ‘field of expertise’ with another University other than within my own, or the one my friend used to get me gigs at (which by unfortunate coincidence was the same university – different campus – I used to go to for my degree).

I launched ‘Free’ in this event. It was really quite good timing, because I had a tutorial on Monday, to which I brought the final mock-up/version and I had to have the book delivered on Tuesday afternoon. This allowed for those details that I wasn’t so sure about to be cleared on the tutorial and gave me enough time to make the final version of the book.

The talk was about my work and how one of its ramifications became freedom of speech. I was slightly caught by surprise when the organiser, paula roush, told me that the afternoon’s talk had a theme, ‘Photography in the materiality of the photobook’. However that fitted quite well with my work, so it just meant that I had to readjust some parts of the talk I had prepared.

Even though I was really excited and genuinely looking forward to talk about my work, there is always an element of inward nervousness, because you prepared something, it is your intention to say certain things, and then it’s all a matter of delivery. Can you step up to the stage and actually speak out all those elaborate thoughts you have been formulating for the last 7 months or so? I was really lucky, because I felt that my audience was less knowledgeable than me so I felt at ease and as if I had nothing to prove. Had the shop been filled with specialists in Book Arts, I would have shat myself I bet! It’s really different to talk about your own work to a public than to carry out a job. I speak to people I never seen in my life for a living: being a cover teacher, and I truly feel at ease about it. The difference between these two situations is the fact that: 1) I am not used to it yet (talking about my work) 2) because it is your personal work you feel more vulnerable when it comes to judgments, so anxiety dominates your emotional status because you want to find out what people think about it – if you don’t explain everything exactly like you dreamt of, there is a risk that the audience won’t interpret facts like they ‘should’ and therefore you will feel misunderstood, which defeats the whole point of having prepared for the presentation. Anyhow, during this specific experience I had to think about, on the spot, my relationship with photography and how does that translate into the materiality of the book. I had thought about both of these topics before, but isolated from one another, and it was nice to put them together somehow in my mind and out loud. There is also something extremely satisfying about talking about your work: it’s something you believe in, it’s something you are excited about because you are constantly discovering and it’s something you do, something you are a little specialized in. It made me notice that I am making books for 10 years now (first one that I keep a copy of dated of 2006, first book installation dated 2005).

Another peak of this break was the residency and exhibition at RAUM Gallery, which even though I worked harder than I had anticipated in organizing and liaising between classmates and curator/coordinators of the gallery, I thought it was a great experience, and certainly helped my installation work to affirm itself again in my artistic vocabulary.

The piece was described as strange and some of the people who watched the development throughout the week said that the beauty was gone when I installed the logos. Some people did mention a problem that I foresaw, which means that I need to be careful with this.

The most pertinent question of the private view was: ‘Do you not think that this piece is illustrative?’ To my mind, the way in which activism is deemed efficient is illustrative, specially when it comes to raising awareness. So that’s how I responded: I said that the illustrativeness of the piece corresponded to the carefully though out proportion of how much of it is art and how much of it is activism (being activism the illustrative substance in the piece): a proportion of 45% for activism and 55% for Art. I think that I managed to respond well to the question, but, this, to me, confirmed the fact that I need to find strategies that are less direct and not worry about the ‘direct’ educational factor.

It was nice to experience working with the group, I felt that there was a well webbed symbiosis of work taking place. It was also really nice to have a mural in a gallery, which was a first, as all my other (small) murals are in private homes or on the streets (probably covered by someone else’s work now). This installation is currently the foundation for a book that I have been so looking forward to have started since the beginning of the year: a lithographic book about rocks and how rocks affects us.


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