project development

Thrift & The Button Box

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With first research around the theme of housekeeping completed individually, a pre-arranged Face Time conversation enabled the joint consideration of these. Emerging areas of interest were identified, and further detail exchanged through free-flowing conversation and recalled anecdotes. As research sources were discussed, we spent some time reflecting upon how content gathered to inform this new project may enable challenge to our working methodologies and individual practice alongside the avoidance of repeating earlier projects located within similar themes of social history and domesticity.

Drawn to the notion of specific moments in time, we reflected upon the marriage bar, changing roles within the household and the identification of specific tasks assigned to these for our parents, grandparents and self. The routine and rotation of household tasks through the fortnightly turn-out were discussed and linked to some extent to our own experiences. Some consideration was given to taking this theme forward through the collection of data from friends and their families.

Continuing to explore notions of thrift, we discussed the teaching of domestic skills and the saving of buttons from old clothes within the button box. The button as an evocative object was considered through the research and writings of Lynn Knight, and the potential for collecting our own real and imagined stories considered.

With some consideration of potential timings and deadlines for this project, we agreed to spend August undertaking further individual research around The Button Box through reading and the collection of real and imagined stories. This will form the content of the project and enable September and October to be allocated to design and production.

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To Bordeaux and Back

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A pre-arranged visit with friends presented the opportunity for a face to face meeting to make sense of first ideas in response to our new project. The time afforded enabled free flowing conversations, in which we questioned content and context with a particular focus on overlaps with previous projects and our interest in continuing to challenge working methodologies and individual practice. Object led memories were discussed as we exchanged stories around childhood, parents and grandparents, and similarities were noted with ideas beginning to be formed linked to keepsakes, evocative objects and the house and home. Interests in family photographs, clothing and shoes emerged as we spent some time sharing details around favourite items and specific moments in time. Keen to establish our next step, we considered potential timings for research,decision making and realisation and began to construct a series of first points of enquiry focussed around the selection of evocative objects connected to our grandparents. As we discussed these in more detail, common themes around keeping house emerged and we became interested in the notion of housekeeping, ‘housekeeping money’, and routines and rituals linked to these roles across generations. In response to this, we agreed to each undertake first research around the theme of housekeeping in order to clarify our question of enquiry prior to gathering stories and memories.

New beginnings

In the past two months work commitments have impacted on any opportunity to discuss our collaborative pratice; however a pre-arranged FaceTime meeting offered us the chance to
reflect on what is important to us individually and to bring these thoughts and ideas ‘to the
table’.

The discussion started with what could be deemed as the ‘failure’ of our most recent collaboration, The Blue Book, however it was clear that we could take some valuable lessons from the project; it re-iterated the fact that the ‘altered book’ is not our favoured genre and starting a project with no particular purpose, or emotional (or personal) attachment to it, hindered our commitment to the process. Therefore our first decision was not to explore this type of project again!

T expressed concerns around returning to known practice, and producing books that, although may have commercial appeal, may limit our making to repetitive/expected outcomes. We both agreed that it was important to continue to challenge our working methodologies.

We articulated the need to address a particular aspect of our individual practice – whilst T had enjoyed the research and process element of previous projects, she felt the development of imagery had not always been as successful, therefore it was important for her to address this. P recognised that recent projects had led to an emphasis on book content rather than book structure, and therefore it was important to explore and develop this further. We recognized that this could be the starting point of the project and started to discuss a range of themes which included: the ‘Hear her’ radio series, keepsakes, hidden messages within garments (inspired by the Phantom Thread film), cataloguing aspects of our meeting in the middle project, inheritance, domesticity and MA practice.

It became clear that with our new individual aims, we could still explore our joint areas of interest without compromising the integrity of our practice; therefore we will look to develop a body of work based around the idea of evocative objects and the memories we attach to either the object or the original owner of the object (namely grandparents).

Cataloguing colours within my Blue Book revealed 127 individual references to just 10 colours with black and white being the two colours used most frequently. In the majority of instances each colours is used as a metaphor, with references to age and emotional states being the most common. I have become interested in this symbolic approach to using colour linked to a specific parlance through time and place. Perhaps this is an approach to making with meaning which could be applied to stories and subject matter concerned with domesticity and the everyday?

In order to combine page 99 of both Blue Books, I began by alternating sentences. Whilst not altogether successful, this did get me started, and I began to see the body of text as individual pieces similar to that of a jigsaw. By cutting out words, and smaller phrases I started to group similar words and look for potential stories within the text. Small sentences began to emerge, almost as extracts from some bigger story. Whilst these are a combination of words from both books, I struggled to make one sequential piece of text and instead made 10 short stories taking inspiration from the reference to chapter 10 within P’s book.

Counting and Cutting

As I undertake the two set tasks, I am still finding it difficult to connect with this project. There is no set outcome at the moment – but this isn’t the problem, it’s more that the project seems to lack depth and I wonder if we are trying too hard to find a solution to something that just isn’t there; should we have considered our book choice more clearly and selected a topic around domesticity? Would this have given us a clearer sense of direction? However, there is the realisation that if we DO manage to produce a body of work from this project, then this method of working could enhance our current collaborative practice and become a foundation for developing further work.

Despite the negative comments above, I am enjoying the process of discussion, and the subsequent setting of mini-tasks to advance the project. In terms of the current tasks – listing the colours, although a little tedious, is easy, my final tally is approximately 380; however working with the texts from our respective page 99s is proving to a lot harder than I expected. I have tried various methods of combining the texts and at one point even resorted to an online story generator, which also failed! I am aware that this could be an abstract narrative and so I looked at the work of Raoul Hausmann and Dada poetry – including the Tristan Tzara method of ‘How to make a Dadaist Poem’ – and although this uses a very basic system to produce a narrative, I didn’t like the methodology or outcomes that it generated.

dada sound poem

However, I was interested in the idea of applying a system, which is something that began recurring in our work during the Windham Papers. I began by looking and analysing the texts, noting similarities, highlighting pronouns, and isolating specific aspects of the narrative until I developed a system that enabled me to produce a new text. The finished piece doesn’t use all the words as the task required, but I could keep going through the text and apply different systems until they are all used up!

 

The Blue In-between

We have had a month to catalogue our respective blue books using the categories we developed through discussion and debate. A FaceTime ‘meeting’ enabled us to report our progress, along with our findings and reservations. We have both found the process of cataloguing rather tedious and repetitive, and have started to question the purpose of the exercise; this meeting came at an opportune time and enabled us to voice these concerns, and subsequently talk through the issues that the process has highlighted.

P: I felt it was important to start by questioning what we wanted to achieve with this project. Was it to further challenge our collaborative practice and working process, or merely an opportunity to produce an edition of ‘sale-able’ artists’ books? Also did the book have to have a purpose? As we started to talk through these topics it became evident that we were both struggling to find a point to what we were doing. T suggested that this could be because we had no personal connection with our particular books, which had been purchased at random, and subsequently we were struggling to relate to the subject matter. Was there then a way forward that would enable us to find an area of common interest?

We discussed and rejected various methodologies, including producing a haiku version of each book; of the 10 categories that we had mapped, we had both gravitated towards ‘colour’ – therefore it was decided to take a more abstract approach, and to start listing each colour with its corresponding page number and any relevant descriptor attached to the colour. In conjunction with this we discussed a project that I have recently completed called Page 99 – there is a theory by English writer Ford Madox Ford, that if you open a novel at page 99 then ‘the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.’ Using this premise we will both use the final sentence on page 99 as the title of our respective books. To enable us to consider a narrative, T suggested that we send each other a copy of page 99, and both attempt to combine the text of these pages to form a new ‘story’. This is not dissimilar to the work of Graham Rawle who wrote an entire novel using words from vintage women’s magazines.

http://www.grahamrawle.com/womans-world-book.html

These decisions will now enable us to take the project to the next level, and hopefully by undertaking this set of instructions we will start to gain a greater sense of what the book may become. Without knowingly setting out to develop our practice using a new methodology, by default the nature of this project – and our disconnect with either the text or author – appears to be leading us in a new direction.