30 September 2012

Next project

Some months back I signed up for the Al-Mutanabbi Street Project - the commitment is to make three books by December. Free of other commitments (indeed of all attachments, it seems), I need to start - and have been doing a lot of thinking about it (but not much actual research yet).

The photo of charred remains of the street - the historic centre of bookselling in Baghdad - after the car bomb exploded was what got me thinking about making "inky books" - which look burnt. The ink also affects the paper so that they look buckled and fragile, but the ink seems to make the paper stronger; I'm not sure whether this fits into or works against the concept behind the aesthetics of what I'm trying to make here...

What to start with, though - what structure, what materials? and what to put "in" the book, apart from ink - words? marks? pictures? Before inking-out-the-ink I could use graphite to add the words or marks - which would take a lot of labour but I like that densely laborious element, it adds aura. And the quantities of ink needed for the obliteration increase that denseness.

One possibility - which I'm drawn to "because it's there" - is to reuse some of my morning-pages notebooks, thoroughly inking out all the previous/tedious writing. This is a personal obliteration, a willful forgetting - which may or may not fit with what I see as the societal obliteration of knowledge through destruction of books and the structures that support their dissemination. Which is something that almost seems to go without saying ... I don't feel I have anything new to say about this, at this point ... I just want a reason to make some books, to have to stretch a bit.

One of my reference points is this piece by Claude Horstmann-
you engage with it by moving your body to get the light right so that you can read the text. Similarly in a book you not only have to turn the page but might have to have the page at the right angle to read it - a motion that quickly becomes automatic.

Such wonderful books have been made already. Here are a few, among pictures of the street itself -
I feel I have a long way to go with this - and that it will indeed stretch me. Several friends from the bookarts course are also taking part.

Greenwich Park

My aim was to do some healthy walking, but the shadows were long and the wind was nippy, so I stood in the sun under a sweet-chestnut tree to warm up, and with a little spontaneous choreography, made some tame, ephemeral, barely noticeable, soon-to-be-erased-by-wind-etc "land art" -

As well as good views of the Thames and the London skyline, the park has some wonderful huge trees -
They include a "Queen Elizabeth oak", which is thought to have been planted in the 12th century. For many centuries it was hollow, and even used as a lockup for miscreants disobeying park rules. It was held up by ivy until it all collapsed in 1991 -
In 1992 the little tree behind it was planted; it's now about 20 feet (6m) tall. Give it a few hundred years...

Greenwich is of course famous for the Prime Meridian, and for the Old Observatory (the building on the right) -
I wandered round an "introduction to astronomy" display in the building on the left and encountered some interesting meteorites, more of which later perhaps.

And some seasonal flowers - great swathes of them, marvellous -

29 September 2012

London views

Two different views of the London skyline, taken about 12 hours apart - looking downstream at dusk from the National Theatre, on arrival at THE leaving-do of the century, in terms of the BMJ at least -
The view of "downtown" includes St Pauls, the Gherkin, and closer to hand, the Oxo Tower. The gaggle of revellers are my former colleagues ... it was great to see them again, and I was amazed to realise that it's nearly four years since my own farewell.

The next morning found me&camera at Greenwich Park, looking upstream in the morning light -
"Downtown" is way off to the left; the tall buildings are Canary Wharf/Docklands.

Two things intrigue me about city skylines - the familiarity and reassurance of the skyline of the city one calls home (hence, another layer of distress for New Yorkers when the twin towers disappeared); and the relation of the buildings from changing viewpoints. Cities seem to have their "official" skyline diagrams, showing off iconic buildings.

This view of the London skyline during the Blitz comes printed on a teeshirt -

This next is pretty much the usual 21st century version, with the Millennium Wheel, Big Ben, St Pauls, NatWest Tower, BT Tower, Gherkin, Tower of London, and London Bridge (no Shard yet) -

This version has clarity and wit -

28 September 2012

Bear with me

Tiny bears made by Karen Apps -- they are transitional objects in more ways than one, she explains on her website. They have moveable joints - one is made of mohair and the other was once a map - 
MapBear was destined to home with me (thank you so much, Karen!). Sitting, he measures 55mm (1 3/4 inches), and my photo doesn't do justice to his expression, a mixture of bewilderment and grumpiness (vraiment, c'est moi) -
I've been delighted with Karen's tiny bears ever since seeing them; as a bookarts course project she made one out of a chapter of Winnicott's "The child, the family and the outside world".

Found art Friday

27 September 2012

Market, Arles

The Saturday market is huge, all the way down the long main street and up a few side streets too - food at one end, "stuff" at the other, and people shuffling and jostling all the way down. 
"Barbary pears"
Jeans, of course
Linen, 10 euros a metre
Sisal bags, perfect for the suitcase-overflow
 I was pleased to find some "ananas" tomatoes - the dense yellow ones - they're amazing (but expensive) -
Elsewhere, ordinary tomatoes were less than a euro a kilo.

"Lost and found" textile exhibition, London

... by students in the Advanced Textiles class (tutor Louise Baldwin) at City Lit. 

Sue McKay
Moe Casey
Sue, Moe and I met in textile classes at City Lit last century.

A small selection of others' work -
Anita Burns uses found papers
Britt Proudlock
Pavement, by Ashokashri
The show is at WAC Gallery, near Waterloo, until (and including) Saturday.

Mannequins, Arles

They appear in the Saturday market
 some sad
each scarier than the last

Some can be seen in hotel windows
This one doesn't really qualify as a mannequin
Much more pleasant!

25 September 2012

Domestic landscape

It's always strange to get back from holiday; you see everything as you left it, and wonder why the physical landscape of home hasn't changed at all, because your mental landscape has been totally Other while you've been away.

My domestic landscape has undergone some radical changes while I've been away. The "it'll do" bedroom 
is being turned into something wonderful - warm and wonderful as insulation is added, the radiator moved, and that eaves space (all 3.4 metres of it) turned into storage. And I'm really looking forward to having smooth walls (goodbye woodchip wallpaper!) and the orange wood shelves becoming white. 

This transition isn't being achieved without pain. You might be able to see 6'5" Thomas folded up into the far end of the future storage space, attaching plasterboard -
There's obviously a lot more plasterboard needing attaching in the rest of the room. The electrics and pipes are all in place - the rest "will be pretty quick to do" - apart from time needed for the new plaster to dry.

Meanwhile I can start sorting out what will move from the studio (/carpentry shop) up to the storage here. Is there room for a sewing machine in a corner?

Windows and doors

My selection of doors and windows in Arles to photograph tends towards the time-worn, rather than the grandiose.

Though this one dates back to the 16th century, and there are lots of "old bits" around in walls.
Not to mention the Roman stuff, for which it's on Unesco's heritage list.

24 September 2012


So picturesque - the gently-faded colours and traffic-free streets ...

 Though it can get to be a bit claustrophobic -
We went there for the photography exhibitions ... and saw lots of those! I'm still digesting....