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.
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!
P and T: Following a visit to Windham, we took the opportunity to determine our next project. A face to face meeting enabled us to exchange books and view first hand commonalities. We questioned if there were any? and if we wanted to alter, combine or produce by-products of these volumes. A leading issue was the discovery that ‘Twenty Years A’Growing’ is considered a seminal work documenting the Irish language which presents some challenges in making responses which haven’t previously been considered. This, together with some initial reservations around the author of ‘Venture to the Interior’, resulted in the decision not to focus on the main characters in the book but to search out something new.
We started to talk about cataloguing, and how we had both really enjoyed the inventory aspect of the Windham instructions. We were reminded of the Vera project, and spent some time talking through how we had catalogued the seemingly random collection of broken jewellery and the subsequent value this had given to 5 miscellaneous pieces. This seemed to give us a way forward. We questioned – why we can’t catalogue these books in the same way that we catalogued Vera? This could be a new way of looking at the books – a visual examination of the whole rather than the narrative or the leading character. From this point, we began to generate a list of categories to catalogue. These became: colour, transport, animals, clothing, food, drink, occupation, climate, building, equipment (domestic or otherwise).
We agreed on a system and will plan a FaceTime conversation on 15 March to review emerging ideas.
Initial research around the notion of oratory brilliance, in response to instruction 8, led to articles claiming that the content of successful speeches informs, entertains and offers immediate audience engagement often employing chronological or alphabetical organisation. I read about the value of charts and tables to convey data and the use of visual imagery to make the speech more powerful. Alongside this reading, I reviewed the book itself and began to consider how I could respond to this instruction and affect the whole page at the beginning of each section. I observed that volume 1 covered the first 45years of Windham’s life and that within key content outlined at the beginning of each section there were multiple references to the colour blue. From shades of blue representing Windham’s education (Eaton Blue, University of Glasgow blue, Oxford Blue) to the blue of Windham’s political beliefs. I noted all links to the colour blue within the introductory text for each section and used the copy machine to re-print this in the single colour blue. By increasing the scale, I have attempted to add further importance and value to these links. I constructed a table of the numbers 1 – 45 to fit on a single page of the book and reprinted these using the copier machine to achieve 7 shades of blue to convey a significant happening within each section – these became: Eaton Blue, Dublin Blue, Sky Blue (to represent Windham’s assent in a hot air balloon), French Revolution Blue, Pastel Blue (to represent the clothes favoured by Marie Antoinette), Tory Blue and Navy Blue (to represent the Royal Navy). Beginning with a black and white and reversed negative image I produced each of the shades I blue I had selected by altering the density, choice of single colour, depth of saturation and altering the colour balance functions on the copier machine within the colour/image quality options provided. By removing specific years which each table I have identified the relevant years written about within each section, and attempted to draw upon some of the issues identified as strengths within successful speech writing.
With no margin marks at all within Volume 1 of the Windham papers, I was initially unclear about how to respond to Instruction 7. Reading around the notion of markings in books led to articles in celebration of marginalia, claiming that this process enables a heightened form of engagement in which the reader can collaborate with the text and mingle with the author on some primary textural plane (O’Connell, M; The Marginal Obsession with Marginalia 2012). Whilst previous readers had not engaged with the process of making marks, I had observed occasional thin strips of additional paper within the inner page margins dotted throughout the book. These presented a contrast to the printed page of text and I began to consider that these could be the margin marks which I identify in some way. I think that these strips are connected to the insertion of illustrations within the book which seemed to link to standpoint O’Connell presents in which margin marks retain something of the former owner’s presence, in this case the former owner may have made the book! In order to identify these strips of paper, I inserted sequential numbers in the top left and right page corners to highlight the quantity and positioning throughout the book and then marked up each strip in black. I contrasted these with blank white self-adhesive labels in the corners of all of the pages which contain no additional papers. Interestingly the addition of so many labels has increased the thickness of the book and produced a slight tonal change to the colouring of the page edges.
Completion of Instruction 2 enabled first investigation of the locations from which Windham wrote his letters within Volume 1. Of the 49 letters he wrote, 25 included listed addresses from 10 different locations, 4 of which were from his home of Felbrigg Hall in Norwich. Taking the idea that Windham would have departed and returned from his home at Felbrigg Hall, I used this as the starting point, and began by listing the distance of each town recorded from the Hall. When only streets were listed, I used known information about the life of Windham to determine which town the street may be from the list of options provided on Google Maps! This resulted in addresses in Glasgow, where Windham was a student, the Netherlands, and a further 2 in London, including one of the oldest Gentleman clubs in London!
Utalising this system of distance, I constructed a network of lines radiating from and back to the library windows at Felbrigg Hall to catalogue additional places of writing. The original library stamp from Christ Church, Oxford provided an opportunity to present a key to each location and record the number of times that a letter was written from each address.
Taking an idea from the given word connection, I began by exploring potential links with previous responses and reflected upon the similarities and differences within this instruction and the last. I considered how I might draw upon making practices employed within my response to instruction 3 to undertake instruction 4. The similarity of scale and placement of the portraits enabled a returning to the idea of the Oxford frame. Within this response I chose to remove the shape of the frame to amplify a lack of connection to Windham. I also returned to the idea of printing multiple initials to decorate the back of the portrait pages embellishing these with gold leaf to further illuminate the gaps in between the individual letters which I had previously filled with the initials of William Windham in instruction 3. With a further reference to the notion of illuminating, and historical illuminated letters, I made use of the paper removed from the book in cutting out the Oxford frame and embellished these with emerging connections with Windham’s life, loves and letters. These are placed decoratively within the original portrait and will be made use of again to embellish the list of illustrations at the front of Vol.1
In response to the third instruction, I once again began by gathering a list of connected synonyms. Alongside this, I observed that each portrait is contained within a single page with blank paper surrounding it and considered constructing a frame around each recipient to decorate this empty space. Drawing upon the idea of decorating, adorning and adding ornament, taken from the given word illustrate, I explored the idea of what a frame could be and came upon a historical style called an Oxford frame in which the sides cross each other and project out at the corners. I noted that this was considered a popular style for framing prints and that it is similar to the Oxford corners used by printers in which a corner is formed by a ruled border which cross and extend slightly beyond each other. I had never heard of either term before this research and was drawn to the connection with Oxford, historical eras and printers!
Having already altered the book in response to instruction one and two, I have decided to employ techniques used within this earlier work to form the frames that I construct. This will enable relevant individual ingredients to be mixed together around each portrait. Colour will be taken from the inventory constructed in response to instruction two and I also plan to make use of paper cutting, letter stamps and repetitive mark making found within the work of Mira Schendel and Cy Twombly.
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.
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?