Text message from TM to PW 21.18, 8 May 2017
Catalogue William Windham’s correspondence by constructing/extracting an inventory of recipients. Deadline 22 May
When I first read the second instruction set by T, I wanted to gain a clear understanding of the meaning of inventory, rather than making assumptions, therefore I chose to work with the
interpretation of an inventory as a tally.
Colour coding the individual recipients seemed an obvious way forward, but I wanted the colours to have a resonance with each person; taking inspiration from T’s previous working methodology I started to research all 36 recipients. Whilst Wikipedia was a quick, invaluable resource – many of the recipients were impossible to find, so it became clear that finding a colour that was relevant was going to be a challenge. After studying the work of both Karel Martens and Irma Boom, I started to consider how it maybe possible to combine graphic shapes or pattern with colour; to develop this idea further I turned to the letters themselves for visual clues.
Reading the paper by Kathy Corcoran (subject cataloging workshop, ARLIS/NA, L.A., 31 March 2001) entitled: ‘Many intricate and difficult problems that torture the mind – words of wisdom for art cataloguers in the real world’ – I was mindful of her statement:
Besides knowledge and skill at interpreting and applying rules, we need to call on our judgement,
experience, and intuition, and even occasionally our sense of aesthetics and of what ‘looks right’
Although written in relation to library cataloguing I chose to adapt the same approach – this gave me the necessary freedom and flexibility I needed to develop a colour coding system that was more abstract but still had some form of significance (however tenuous).
Whilst part of our research is to determine whether or not working independently will affect the outcome, by the second instruction I am conscious that because we know each so well, and talk regularly, it is difficult not to be aware of T’s various approaches and be influenced by her methods.
The opportunity to share first sample pages face to face enabled scrutiny of the given theme, analysis of our decision making process to date, and the format of the book to be finally confirmed. Ideas were exchanged and initial concerns around the scale of the typewritten key in contrast to the cross stitch transfer page alphabets were talked through and solutions were found collaboratively.
We have decided to revise both independently found cross-stitch books by transcribing the text from one book onto the pattern transfers from the second book using a typewritten key-based system. The key will be printed onto both sides of the transfer paper utilising the grid format in the original book which will result in off set printing when the pages are viewed together. The scale of the transfer pages will enable us to construct two new double page spreads from each sheet which we plan to insert into the first book. In this way imagery and text, original substrates and outer book covers will all intersect.
Sections of first sample pages provided further ideas about other outcomes which may possibly enlarge sections of given and intersected pattern.
In response to the first instruction I began by exploring the meaning of each given word and became drawn to the word deleted. Synonyms listed included: obliterate, erase, cross out and drawing a line through it. Further synonyms listed for cross out included: squash, stifle, suppress, rub out and shade. I began to consider the idea of erasing text perhaps through the use of an ink rubber or sandpaper to remove the printed text from the surface of the paper. I also became interested in the notion of crossing through text with a line and considered possible options open to Windham if he made a mistake in his original letter writing. This in turn led to some research around Windham himself and his family home.
I read about the gothic library of his family home, Felbrigg Hall, filled with books he had brought back from his Grand Tour and further claims that books were both his lifetime passion and the cause of his untimely death! Alongside stories of his fluency in French, Italian, Greek and Latin were stories of his sporting achievements, political inconsistency and his ghost! Allegedly his ghost has been seen seated in a chair by a roaring fire reading a favourite book! I began to think it would be interesting to make use of letter forms in some way and looked at the work of artists who use text in their work in particular the multiple letters, scribbles and scratched lines used within the arts practice of Mira Schendel and Cy Twombly. Schendel speaks of blurring the processes of drawing and writing and exploring the visual qualities of words so that sometimes only a single letter is used repeatedly within a piece of work. One article talked of multiple letter L’s repeatedly formed to look like legs marching across a page.
Gradually I began to think about how I could use multiple letter W’s to obliterate and shade the letters he had received. I considered using black ink but felt this may create surfaces which couldn’t be worked into at a later date and so returned to the idea of erasing. I have now begun the process of responding to the first given instruction by using lines drawn in Tippex to represent the angular lines found in a letter W together with white printed letter stamps to delete sections of text.
Following our Facetime discussion two weeks ago, we have both divided and sent our
respective half books to each other, giving us an opportunity to examine and reflect on
potential directions for Intersect. Having identified that both books used colour keys, tonight’s discussion centered around the idea of applying a similar process to that of the Windham
Papers, through the development of a key-based system.
The challenge with the cross-stitch books is that they are both largely image based, so we came to the conclusion that by using the text matter, which is more limited, we could allocate a typewriter symbol to the five vowels. We did this by a process of discussion and elimination resulting in the following key: a + e* i= o: u/
The key will enable us to interpret the text through the development of a series of patterns typed on top of the existing book. Due to the sometimes dense nature of the pages, each pattern will be typed in red in response to whatever space is available; to enable a greater sense of hierarchy, headings will be letterpress printed in a different colour using the same key. We’ll each attempt a sample page before we meet in a week’s time. A decision regarding the schedule and book structure will made once we are satisfied that the idea is feasible.
Text message from PW to TM 12.40pm, 21 April 2017.
Only letters sent from William Windham to be treated, therefore received letters to be ignored/hidden/deleted. Deadline 4 May.
Having made the decision to develop the Windham Papers through a series of rules that are open to interpretation, we have agreed to write about our individual responses, but we will not share the work with each other until the end of the project, instead just hints or glimpses of our progress will be uploaded to the blog. We are trying to examine whether the rules will hinder our creativity, and if by working independently without influencing each other, this will affect the overall outcome.
In response to Rule 1, I made the decision to fold the unwanted letter pages in half, although this decision immediately highlighted various issues; firstly I did not take into account the fact that there could be a letter from Windham (which had to be kept) sharing a page with a
‘received letter’– this meant having to adapt my system – so cutting the page horizontally enabled just a portion of the page to be folded. Secondly was the problem of multiple short letters – there could sometimes be 3 unwanted letters sharing a double page spread with 2 wanted letters, therefore folding was not an option and an additional system had to accompany the folding. Blocking out using xxx was applied to anything not able to be folded – but as result another system had to be put in place for the way in which the xxx was positioned… having two separate systems was not ideal, but having committed to the folded pages there was no going back. I took the decision to work directly onto the book without testing out ideas first… perhaps a misjudgment(?), however I wanted to make an immediate response to the ‘rule’ and not over-think the process; as a consequence I made several mistakes that will have to remain, or perhaps these could be embraced or highlighted in some way?
The folded pages have forced the book to start to fan out, which may or may not cause problems when working on the pages in the future, and although the book no longer closes properly the overall look is not displeasing!
A pre-arranged FaceTime conversation enabled the exchange of first ideas gathered independently in response to our new projects. We are keen to continue with the methods of making established in our last project which are rooted in Serial Art and talked around a range of possible starting points.
Inspired by the purchase of 2 cross stitch books, first research into this craft has revealed rules and conventions around restrictions with image placement which could be interesting to make use. A potential colour palette is listed within one of the books with particular symbols linking to specific colours. The symbols have some reference to the patterns we created using the typewriter in our previous project and the making of these links with the theme of Intersect. The process of making a cross stitch also links Intersect and also offers further potential to divide pages into two parts, cut across, overlap and criss cross. Whilst these are interesting ideas, first examination of the two books presented challenges in how to connect them. Eventually we have decided upon sending half of each book to each other for further examination. This will involve taking the books apart and some independent decision making which may provide new ideas
We considered the idea of using text messages to instruct each other in the production of art work and both liked this idea initially although were unsure of how this would lead to an outcome. P shared ideas making use of found books and experiences from the recent Artist Book Fair in Bristol (BABE) around working on editions and one-off books from the same starting point. We discussed first ideas for the Windham papers and P will initiate this process by texting the first rule that we will undertake on our individual volumes of the book.
With many potential ideas to consider we have fixed a second Facetime conversation and a meeting within the next 3 weeks in order to move both projects forward. Prior to these we have agreed to send each other half of our cross stitch books and share links to first reading.
Removing the papers from my cross stitch book to send to P has revealed 9 sections with each section having 3 double pages. The remaining pages are glued onto the binding – perhaps these remaining pages can be the starting point for the the new book?
So it’s time to start thinking about our next projects. The altered book exhibition that relates to the Windham Papers is currently on hold, so there has been no sense of urgency to start this project; with that said, there has been a brief email exchange with a proposal to get the ball rolling. Following on from thoughts blogged several months ago, and an awareness that neither T or I particularly like the altered book genre, we recognise that to make the project worthwhile, we need to find a suitable approach that both challenges our current working practice but enables us to enjoy the process and play to our strengths.
In review of the working methods adopted throughout our last project we note that working to rules and given conventions provides a further focus to our making. Previous blog posts acknowledge that given restrictions within scales of working, image placement and colour choice provokes discussion, stimulates ideas and extends our practice. A systematic approach to making artwork is developing which we are interested in continuing. Recent research into the concept of Serial Art, artwork produced by Sol LeWitt and Tam Van Tran has further consolidated these ideas. With this in mind, the current proposition is to collaboratively devise a set number of rules that will then be applied to our individual books using whatever method we decide – this part of the project will be undertaken independently.
Alongside this we will develop another project on the theme of intersect – a call for entries from we love your books – this project is likely to be based on two chance purchases that we made independently, but on the same day. Both books contain guidelines and patterns to produce cross stitch and one is inscribed:
Antonia, Hours of Happy Needlework Caroline 22.06.76
It is hoped that both these projects will offer different challenges in terms of our collaborative practice and enable us to develop new working methodologies.
The penultimate parcel arrived from T this week. This enabled me to collate and complete half of the 12 book edition. When viewed as a set the bias-binding belly bands effectively reflect the coloured band at the top of each pattern envelope, although interestingly, this wasn’t apparent when we made the decision.
Drawing upon the framework of collaboration we established throughout the original Meeting in the Middle project, we have achieved the completion of 6 books 8 days ahead of the deadline. Integral to this process has been a well structured, but realistic schedule which acknowledges both our separate work commitments and distance apart. In response to this, we identify with standpoints made by Gates, Kettle and Webb and Ravetz within Collaboration Through Craft (2013) and value the importance of negotiation and shared making to increase productivity. Time spent on the co-ordination of meetings has enabled effective decision making and opportunities to talk through any difficulties together.
The creative practice undertaken within this project has offered opportunities to build upon the approaches to visual communication begun within Meeting in the Middle with autonomy alongside being mindful of each others input so that an overlapping of knowledge and skills is developing. A shared focus to making work and sense of responsibility to meeting deadlines is very much supported by shared interests within the production of artwork. We have begun to reflect upon this practice in preparation for next projects.
Despite the 103 miles that divide us, smart phone technology enables us to send and receive images and messages, and subsequently make decisions, almost instantaneously. Starting at 09.49 today, here is a visual journey of a conversation that took place regarding the ‘container’ of the book; it was accompanied by 24 messages and concluded at 10.40am. It resulted in us resolving the final problem. Each element within the 10 photos was made as an immediate response to our discussion, and sent within the 51 minutes of the conversation.
The following emojis supported our conversation 😬☺️👍🏼😬😂😂😬👍🏼😀 !
Another Facetime meeting enabled us to discuss and make decisions regarding a few of the unresolved elements of the project, namely the addition of the bias-binding and how we can attach it effectively and easily, the making of the bag versus belly-band to contain the book and the inclusion of teachers names. We have two weeks until our BABE deadline, so once we have completed some further tests, we will base our decisions on what we can achieve in the time available.
The working methodology that we have adopted to develop this project has proved to be highly effective, especially in relation to time management and division of tasks. We have worked to each other’s strengths and the method of sending work backwards and forwards, apart from a slight postal hitch(!), has kept the project moving at a steady pace. The process of receiving the project without knowing fully what to expect, and then adding to it, and returning it has been one of the unexpected pleasures of this project.