25 April 2014

Revisiting "Seepage" and erasure

"Seepage" was the result of many hours in the letterpress room at Camberwell, wrestling with keeping turned-over type properly upright so that the blanks would print cleanly - onto tracing paper, which is not very receptive of ink, making it slow to dry. I printed lots of pages, each by each, and put together a handful of books.

It - or rather, all my remaining copies - came out of the drawer in order to be entered for an exhibition about "text". Of course, with books, one big question is always - "If people can't pick them up and look through them, how do you display them to show them to advantage, to give a sense of what's inside?" I got as far as realising the spines could be clamped upright so the pages fell open, and my son suggested getting a block of foam and slashing it to hold the spines, which works brilliantly -
Pity the photo isn't as lovely as the real thing ... this is about my fourth try, in different lighting conditions. And there always has to be an artist's statement; I tried to be straightforward and use short words -

As the text of “Seepage” itself gradually reveals, its obliteration doesn’t obscure its meaning but rather is a kind of bandage for preserving it. Instead of being blinded, the obliterated words are kept safe, and the words that remain on the page are those “that have seeped out”.

Printing started with a page of blanks (the underside of the metal that carries each letter), which were gradually turned over to print subsequent pages. As the blanks are turned over and the letters are uncovered, the words seep in, developing different meanings as they become more plentiful.

The text is by Mary Reufle, a poet whose book work consists of erasure - obliterating text to derive new meanings.

When not displayed, each "Seepage" book fits into a sleeve that is also made of translucent paper.

Working with the book format both sculpturally and conceptually, Margaret Cooter subverts the function of "the everyday book" with arrangements of text, erasure, or over-writing.

(Actually that last para, written somewhat tongue in cheek, could happily be the agenda for a good few years' work.)

It was the fickle finger of fate that put Mary Reufle's essay on how she works into my bag on the day I went to the letterpress room to start a project. I was just fooling around, using this text, and it turned out to be perfect for this process - was it the text that led to the format, or was I planning to do some other sort of erasure? It's all of two years ago (only?) ... who can remember?

In any case, it still intrigues me that the work is self-referential - rather like having a camera on view in a photograph. So I dug it out and sent it along, without great expectations, but with pleasure of revisiting it - and discovering the recent work of Mary Reufle, an erasure called "Melody", which you can see here (which also talks about other artists using erasure):

"To flip through the pages of Melody is an intimate experience. The hand of the artist is in evidence on every page–in the smears of white-out, the fingerprint smudges, the playful, colorful swirls, the vexed, heavy black marks that transform text into a gaping void."

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