An exhibition of artists’ responses made in tribute to the short story ‘Watching God’ from Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville is on show at UWE Bristol’s Bower Ashton Library throughout April 2018.

As part of the exhibition, World Book Night on 23 April will see the launch of a collaborative artists’ book containing all text and image responses sent during March 2018.

Miéville’s story is related by an unnamed narrator living on an isthmus where the inhabitants assume that ships visit to carry away their fears and desires. Ships that founder appear to form a ‘sentence’ which the inhabitants attempt to decode in both words and intentions.

This is the eighth iteration of the ‘World Book Night United Artists’ annual project, which grew from an initial collaboration between myself and the poet/artist Nancy Campbell in 2010.

Our first artists’ book was a tribute to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley, and the experience of working together inspired us to open up future collaborations to artists and writers anywhere who wanted to read and respond to a set book.

Each year an open public call is announced inviting artists, writers, students, librarians, etc to join in sending in artworks or texts for an artists’ book. We receive contributions from all over the UK, Europe and the USA each year. Previous artists’ books have included BOOKISHNESS in 2017, Serena Joy (2016) in tribute to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Post Office for Charles Bukowski (2014).

This year’s book will be produced as a paperback ‘ur-text’ in keeping with the contents of the town’s library in Miéville’s short story; our title Their Eyes Were Watching God is of the book searched for but never found.

The book’s content includes image and text works such as embroideries of a golden ship (Helen Westhrop), fauna for your next life (Gwen Simpson), and charts created from call numbers of books about boat building, boating, and shipwrecks (Erin K Schmidt). There’s also letterpress printed concrete poetry by Gen Harrison, and a handmade book ship model by poet/artist Leonard McDermid.

If you can’t visit the exhibition in person, artist Chrystal Cherniwchan has made an Instagram page for the project. To join in future World Book Night projects please do get in touch.

Exhibition continues throughout April 2018, Bower Ashton Library, UWE Bristol, Kennel Lodge Road, Bristol BS3 2JT

1. Book ship 3D model by Leonard McDermid of Stichill Marigold Press, made in response to the short story ‘Watching God’ by China Miéville, for World Book Night 2018.
2. Text response by Gen Harrison, to the short story ‘Watching God’ by China Miéville, for World Book Night 2018.
3. From the short story ‘Watching God’ by China Miéville: ”The vessels usually sit motionless in the waters beyond the edge of the bay … lit up from within, portholes glowing … until they sail away with our wishes.” Detail of embroidery by Helen Westhrop for World Book Night 2018.
4. Detail: ‘Complicated microcurrents’ by Rachel Marsh, Semple Press in response to the short story ‘Watching God’ by China Miéville, for World Book Night 2018.

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