This blog is to document the process of an installation work I am currently making for the exhibition ‘Home from Home’ curated by Louise Atkinson of the Artist Book Collective and showing as part of Leeds International Artists Book Fair, 11 – 18 March.
Spent the last couple of days folding and cutting the instant books for the Home From Home show, and stamping the paper bags which they go into.
Have gotten a huge amount of joy making these books for the show and even making the donations and please do not touch signs.
Realised that this is the first group show in years (maybe even since my degree show in 2005) where I haven’t been involved in curating as well as showing… So just making the work, and not having to worry about anything else, has been pure pleasure. There’s gonna be more of this…
Preview tomorrow evening – before I’m going to catch some of The International Contemporary Artists Book Fair which is on tomorrow and Saturday…
Installation day yesterday.
I set out from Cross Roads with my pasting table and contents, struggling on the bus and train with it, bumping into lots of people, apologising profusely. Its less portable and much heavier than I thought but I made it to Leeds and the exhibition house just about in one piece. Was totally excited to see the house – a 3 story red brick building right on the main road next to the Met Uni.
I met the curator Louise Atkinson, who is doing an amazing job, curating and coordinating such a large exhibition -over 80 artists involved – in such a short period of time. Highly admirable. Though it was just the first day of installation, already the house is looking intriguing, as a few other artists were there putting up work in the rooms,which are broadly themed. I can’t wait to see the Madwoman in the Attic room when its ready.
Got a great spot for the pasting table installation – on the top floor, next to the window. It took 4 hours to install – a lot longer than expected, but it was so nice just doing it slowly, meeting other artists dropping by, and just hearing the sounds of a show being put up as the sun shone through the window- hammering, discussions, running up and down stairs… calls for pollyfilla…Kind of maximal pleasure really.
The piece looked quite different from how it had in the home studio – different room, different light. Although the placing of the image and text elements are pretty close to what I had, it somehow looks and feels different. I ended up discarding most of the photographic elements and the found text from the childrens books. I worked more simply with traced images and typewritten text from 3 song lyrics which are significant to me.
The piece has turned out very differently to how I originally envisaged, but I am happy with this. The images and text ‘disapear’ into the map pages and they have to be discovered and searched for. I like this.
What I wasn’s so sure about was how these elements ‘sat’ on the surface physically – they are not dead flat and there is an awareness when you look at the piece that you are looking at ‘bits of paper’. If these were ‘stuck down’ it would e much more of an integrated, collaged piece, but I have resisted this as it felt important to have them free floating and provisional.
I don’t see the piece as a finished work, but as a work in progress. I am hoping it will evolve more after this first outing, and to use the format to make site specific work for other group shows. Private view on Friday eve – will be good to get some feedback then.
On Friday night I had a dream that at the exhibition people were putting dirty teacups on the pasting table installation.
On Saturday night a dream told me to take everything that was colour off and start again. That sounds weird, but true fact.
so I did. The table is now fully desaturated. The piece is now its looking very different and is working in a completely different way from my initial conception. Its a more subtle thing – overlaying tiny fragments of image and text and trying to hide them in the maps and streetlists. You have to look closely to find anything, and I’m liking that at the moment.
Finding things – secrets – stories – in the fabric of everyday domestic life – childhood, books, imaginative escape through stories but always fractured, interupted by the mundance, familial realities of home.
I have a fantastic old children’s encyclopedia from maybe the early 20’s – I found it in a charity shop for 50p – and I love everything about it. The illustrations, the writing style, the design, but most of all the grandoise page haedings and footers – these will be utilised.
The ghost of Henry Darger is hanging around as usual but also today I am thinking about Chris Hipkiss – a living breathing artist who was in the fantastic outsider art show ‘Intuition’ at the Whitworrth Gallery in Machester last year. He is reluctant understandably to describe himself as an outsider artist. His work is incredible – huge, pencil drawings, of weird fanasty worlds, incredibly detailed and incredibly beautiful. Love, love, love them.
Not a good day at the pasting table.
Its all looking too tight, forced, its not doing what I want it to do,
Feeling moderate to high levels of frustration and rage.
I need help. What would Henry do?
I turn to “Henry Darger” by Klaus Biesenbach and find the page that makes me feel better:
Diary entry April 16 1968
“Had trouble again with twine. Mad enough to wish I was a bad tornado. Swore at God.”
If Henry can carry on then so can I.
Morning spent at the pasting table fiddling with bits of paper, which was pretty joyous. I go into some kind of trance and move things around till the placing feels right. Worked in some photographs of my mum when she was a young woman, and me when I was a kid – into the growing collage of forests, cut up illustrations, traced characters and fragments of found text.
Working with these old photograps got me thinking of essays I have been reading recently in ” Family Snaps: The Meanings of Domestic Photography”- Eds Jo Spence and Patricia Holland. There is some superlative writing in there – especially an essay by Annette Kuhn.
I like this:
“The struggle over the past continues in the present. The struggle is now, the past is made in the present. Family photographs may affect to show us our past but what we do with them – how we use them – is really about today,not yesterday. These traces of our former lives are pressed into service in a never-ending process of making, remaking, making sense of, ourselves – now.”
The simple act of putting a photo of myself and my mother into a jumbled fictional collaged world which I’m making up every day feels kind of transformative. So much more to explore here. The piece also feels everyday more and more like a homage to Henry Darger, whose work I am obsessed with.
This afternoon I went into Keighley and rampaged round the charity shops with my friend Bella who like me gets near hysterical at piles of old musty books in the Watergate shop. I got 4 books for £2 – a Secret Seven story, a National Geographic, a book of Elizabeth Taylor photos and a 70’s first Aid book which a fantastic cover and fabulous illustrations. some of these are going to be butchered and added to the work – not sure how yet.
In town I got a couple of my instant books for the exhibition colour copied, which was exciting. A pretty dang good day.