Wednesday, 27 July 2016

leaf, leave, leaves


A book is a set of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of ink, paper, parchment, or other materials, fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is a leaf, and each side of a leaf is a page.1.

The word "page" comes from the Latin word, "pagina", which means a "column of writing" or "to arrange vines in a rectangle"; "pagina" is derived from the word "pangere," meaning "to mark out the boundaries" or "plant vines in a vineyard."2.

The idea of a page as a boundary is an interesting one and is quite fitting for this post. As we are beginning to rethink the role of the blog and what form it might take in the future. We will begin to wind down the regularity of the posts. They will still continue to appear, but instead of a weekly offering there will be a more in depth output. The blog may even become physical as we extend its boundaries further. We have built up a great resource here and great connections with guest post writers and to do this justice we have to evolve it. So watch this space. 

An interesting fact about the blog, though you could probably guess, is that the word ‘Book’ appears 1236 times (not counting this post). So thats an average of 12.5 mentions of ‘Book’ per post. Thats a lot of book chat. So it’s obvious that we will be talking about books for a long while to come, at least to get our 12.5 mentions of books a week. Which I hope will still happen.  

So as we leave you, though we are not really leaving we are still going to be leafing through books. So as not to bring down our average I’ll leave you with this:

book, book, book, book, book, book, book, book, book, book, book, book, bo

2. Emmanuel Souchier, "Histoires de pages et pages d'histoire," dans L'Aventure des écritures (History of Pages and Pages of History" in The Adventure of Writing), Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1999

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

MA Book Arts show & South London Gallery - a few WOW moments of one day

As were walking across Camberwell, Chris, George and myself were talking about how exciting it is to see something new: new, meaning an unexpected arrangement of old building blocks, which makes you go "WOW, clever/nice/beautiful/thoughtful/etc.!". We were talking about that as we were walking towards South London Gallery and Camberwell College of Arts MA shows.

This post is a about some of the WOW moments of that day.

1. Luis Camnitzer Art History Lesson no.8 @ South London Gallery

Empty slide projectors arranged around the room casting irregular rectangles of light onto the wall in a seemingly random sequence. Art history (as well as literary history, or any other history in fact) is written by those in power, and tends to exclude certain accounts (including Latin America’s). The work’s empty projectors present viewers with a space within which to imagine and, potentially, write these “other” narratives. Don't you think it is a particularly bookish installation?

2. Tim Burrough Silver on Gold @ Camberwell MA Book Arts Show

Tim's final work consits of an installation and a book Silver or Gold, which address the layering of memory and the impermanence of those layers though a volume of text, printed across  pages with only one layer (book) or one word (installation) visible at a time. The whole installtion, in fact

3. Wenjing Mou Sun in Smog and Under the Mask @ Camberwell MA Book Arts Show

Wenjing's final work considers pollution in China as it’s main subject. Photography is essential to her works - the viewer navigates though sequences of images establishing the connections between the space of the book and reality of what it represents. Wenjing uses Chinese paper, articulating fragility of the environment and reinforcing the cultural and spacial associations. Here is a nice interview on the subject

4. Lena Wurz 
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, -line
out_ -                            @ Camberwell MA Book Arts interim Show

Lena's work is different. Beautifully simple yet visual, it consists of layers of papers with only remnants of textual symbols visible from behind the corners. The absence of text is very much there. It speaks of the relationship about the presence, the assumed, the supposed, the expected and balance between them all.
Lena is not graduating until next year. Very intersested to see what her final show will be like! 


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Fantasy as Truth as Book

Truth is fundamental to fairy tales and fantasy fiction. If you look beyond the otherworldly settings these stories teach us something about our lives, they ask questions and throw light into the dark places of the world, holding up a mirror to the things we hide from, bury or ignore. Coming packaged in fantasy makes these truths easier to accept and to learn from. Fantasy fiction is not the sole property of literature. The visual arts have the same power to create and tell fantastical stories; stories that ask questions and pierce through our perceptions of the world and ourselves. 

My newest work, The Ellentree, is a short fantasy story through text, photography and the book form. The narrative follows Evelyn and his encounters with unnamed character You. Evelyn slips between our world and another following a path of leaves left by the mystical Ellentree. Central to both the story and the greater questions behind it is the saying ‘Seeing is Believing’. This idea is threaded throughout the book, particularly in my use of photography and text. 

I could not photograph the imagined other world in which Evelyn finds himself. Instead I chose to construct a surreal reality, making, installing and photographing hundreds of origami birds in various natural landscapes across the country. It is through the contrast between image and text, the space between what we are seeing and what the text is describing, that the fantasy world is constructed and the story told. The text brings to the photographs new readings not contained within the image, these readings are fantastical ones that state categorically that what we are seeing: origami cranes and copper piping are actually a fantasy tree in another world. The surrealism of the photographs aims to make this fantasy easier to believe. When aided by the text the origami becomes a symbol for something other. Rather than paper birds they become the impossible leaves described as belonging to an impossible tree. This reading is steadily built upon as the origami is used repeatedly throughout the book. Appearing each time in a new location or season this symbol of the other world is able to drive the narrative journey forward. The birds anchor the reader in the imaginary, allowing me to use real world landscapes as a springboard for the reader’s imagination. 

Telling this story requires the audience’s active participation: our assumptions, expectations and most importantly, our projections. We complete the narrative almost instinctively, filling in the blanks from image to image, connecting the dots from text to photograph. This process needs a space to be enacted, the story needs a space in which to be told, contained and encountered. The artists’ book is the perfect space. The book can encompass the meeting of mediums, ideas, stories and questions. As a form the book is an intimate thing, one we are at once familiar with and yet still willing and able to be surprised by. It is also a structured space, and one that can act as a foundation upon which these different elements can be built. The Ellentree is a book of duality and contrasts: between the real and the fantasy, third and second person, photography and text. It is through the design and structure of the book that this duality becomes harmonious. As we turn the pages of The Ellentree we encounter and re-encounter photographs, page layouts and font colours, discovering a rhythm and pattern intended to that acts as signposts through the story and the questions it asks us. The relationship between the text and photographs depends upon the white space of the page to link them together. Our eye travels across the page, reading across both forms and so blending them together, reading them as one. They become part of the same thread, one that we are able to access through the quiet intimacy of the space of the book. This intimacy is important for the questions and emotional story; it is why The Ellentree was always intended as a book. The story of The Ellentree is at once uplifting and thought provoking, sad and happy, real and not real. Whatever truth, whatever mirror might be found within this fantasy story is made possible by the contemplative, intimate, contained yet limitless space of the book.

Rosie Sherwood is an artist, scholar and independent publisher. At the heart of Sherwood’s interdisciplinary practice is a fascination with time and a desire to tell stories. In 2012 Rosie Sherwood founded As Yet Untitled and Elbow Room, successfully crowd funding to expand the publishing company in 2015. Sherwood graduated from Camberwell College of Art with an MA in Book Arts in 2013. She has delivered conference papers and University lectures across the country. Sherwood has taken part in both group and solo exhibitions as well as artist book and small publishers fairs. Sherwood’s works can be found in special collections including The Poetry Library, Tate Library and Archive and the National Libraries of both Victoria and Queensland, Australia.



Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Three Unconventional Narrative Structures

Narrative takes a central role in most, if not all of my artworks. I am often to keen to tell a story, something that develops over time. When it comes to site-specific works that I have made, the narrative might even be driven by details from a place.

Recently, my artwork has been becoming more stand-alone and often a narrative will be confined to just one book (as opposed to a series) and because of this I have been keen to think how I might escape the linearity of the form. Instead of looking out there at other book-objects, I will look at three works in different media to see whether ideas from those could translate across.

Journey Into Fear, Stan Douglas
Journey Into Fear, Stan Douglas
The first is a video installation called Journey Into Fear by Stan Douglas (2001), which I saw at the Serpentine Gallery many years ago. The work is a single screen projection which at first glance appears to be a feature film; some kind of drama set on a ship. The film is mostly made up of exchanges between characters inside the boat - these scenes are interspersed with exterior shots or views of the ship at sea. Except for the exchanges appearing a little cryptic and the dialogue jarring slightly, as if it has been dubbed, the film seems like any other thriller of the genre. Things begin to change however once the viewer sees the same scene repeated, but with the characters saying different dialogue. It turns out that the scenes loop randomly and have several possible dialogue tracks for each, changing the nature of the interaction and subsequently the flow of the story itself. A viewer would have to watch the film for 157 minutes to witness all the possible permutations - this in itself means that each gallery visitor is likely to have a slightly different experience of the artwork, as they are unlikely to see the entire work.

Her Story, Main Screen.

The second example I would like to talk about is Her Story; a video game (Android and Apple) where players must assume the role of a detective, watching interview footage from a case in order to work out the details and solve it. On the surface the game sounds straightforward, but compared to others, it is pretty unique. When you first open the app you are presented with the desktop search terminal from a police computer (circa 1994) and apart from viewing the 'Read Me' files on the desktop, all you can do is enter key words into the search bar and view the footage that is returned.

Her Story, Interview Footage
Each interview clip is short, only giving you a partial scene, so you are forced to think up different key words (terms that you think might appear in a dialogue) in order to piece the scenario together. This technique makes the game mysterious, but compelling, as the player has to listen and look out for clues that might suggest a key word or phrase that might broaden the search. As clips are sorted by key words and not date, the player might be hearing interview footage from any part of the enquiry. Playing the game makes you feel like you are creating a huge jigsaw, but without knowing how many pieces you have left. This narrative device is fascinating and hugely compulsive.

Still from Imitation of Life.
Imitation of Life is an imaginative music video for the group R.E.M., which features a crowded scene at what appears to be a party. The camera zooms in and out and the footage plays backwards and forwards throughout the video, highlighting snippets of action at the party. The thread that ties the video is that characters in the midst of actions at the party appear to be lip-syncing the words to the song. The technical devices used make us unaware of the real duration of the events we are seeing, and the constant refocusing of the frame tease out new narratives, making us think of the endless possibility in each moment.

Still from Imitation of Life.

Is there scope for this type of story telling in the book form? Could the author replay scenes but with different elements as Stan Douglas does, or could a reader be guided through a book in different ways in order to discover different events first as in Her Story? Or maybe the reader could pick a new narrative out of an existing one like Imitation of Life?