I’ve been very busy in my job for the last few weeks, but, hey, I work in the arts and sometimes the spheres of my life overlap. One of my colleagues is the artist Becky Campbell who has an interest in text and language which sometimes manifests in her practice in enigmatic ways. I have a lovely piece of hers which is a delicately sewn blank notebook and I’ve seen other work of hers that uses punctuation marks in a suggestive patterning, or has letters very carefully cut out of existing texts. There’s something stifled in these works that doesn’t get allowed to reach the point of articulation in speech maybe?
Anyway, the reason she’s ON MY MIND (apart from the fact she’s on residency in Athens and I’m excited for her and missing her!) is that she kindly asked me to contribute to an artists’ book project she’s set up called The Detour Library. It tells you a bit more about it on her blog for it but the general idea is that she selects artists/poets to make a book (broadly defined) and deposit it in her ‘library’ which she shows in different contexts, eventually giving each book to a chosen new owner. It’s a lovely idea and I was pleased to take up the challenge of contributing.
It was a challenge because, as a Gemini(!), I’m told that my natural behaviour is to start things but not finish them. Maybe true. Certainly, I like working with words partly because of the immediacy of getting the ideas down on a word doc or page fairly impetuously and comprehensibly. In the instances where I’ve published on paper, I’ve been uber happy that someone else undertakes the tricky process of making physical objects and works out how to get them to places.
I had a sort of concept for my book but didn’t much like having to recut the paper for the xth time after I’d yet again cut too much off for the cover, or unpicking staples after they’d gone in the wrong place, resaving the word docs as PDFs after going back in to fiddle with the alignment after I’d realised that the text on adjacent pages was out of line. I DIDN”T LIKE THAT BIT!
But, I LIKED the end result once I got there and I retrospectively feel glad to have done all the fiddly stuff that I’ve (hopefully) learned from. Hell, I might even do it again. I certainly liked the control it gave me of how the end product looked. And yes, I think I’ve responded to the challenge of making an artists’ book in which there’s an essential part of the meaning conveyed through the physical form of the book.
The book contains a short sequence of poems about the San Michele cemetery island in Venice. I’ll probably write more about the content later, but the form of the book tells some of the story as you can see in Becky’s fab pictures. The book is stapled into empty plastic flower wrappings – I love the bright yellow of them and it works nicely with the lime green Murano paper inside. There were some happy accidents along the way, like my ageing printer making the photographs I took resemble the faded photographs glazed into the gravestones.