Catalogue

[work 1]
SCOTT MYLES & EDWIN PICKSTONEScott Myles’s practice is strongly gestural and consists of sculpture, painting, printmaking, artist’s books, photography and performance-based projects: a kind of reactivation of ideas relating to the value of art and social reality by means of reusing already established codes. Recent work includes a number of projects and sculptures wherein Myles allegorizes symbols which have become ruins, ranging from large-scale sculptural works to dematerialized artworks within site-specific locations. Myles’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions across the UK, Switzerland, India, France, Japan and Germany; and featured in group shows in the UK, Germany and the USA. He was awarded two Andrew W. Mellon Research Fellowships at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Richmond (2016, 2019).

Edwin Pickstone, Imprints Project Co-Investigator, is Lecturer, Typography Technician and Designer in Residence at The Glasgow School of Art, where since 2005 he has cared for the school’s collection of letterpress printing equipment. Focusing on the material nature of print Pickstone uses letterpress technology, collaborating with artists and designers on a wide range of projects. His work spans academic, artistic and design worlds, with particular interest in the history of typography, graphic design, the physical nature of print and the book.


Beware of First Hand Ideas
2021
Silkscreen on paper, 70.7x100cm.

The artists would like to refer you to the following three passages taken from ‘The Machine Stops’ by E.M. Forster, first published in The Oxford and Cambridge Review, November 1909:

‘Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the centre, by its side a reading-desk — that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh — a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that the little room belongs.

An electric bell rang.

The woman touched a switch and the music was silent.

“I suppose I must see who it is”, she thought, and set her chair in motion. The chair, like the music, was worked by machinery and it rolled her to the other side of the room where the bell still rang importunately.

“Who is it?” she called. Her voice was irritable, for she had been interrupted often since the music began. She knew several thousand people, in certain directions human intercourse had advanced enormously.

But when she listened into the receiver, her white face wrinkled into smiles, and she said:
“Very well. Let us talk, I will isolate myself. I do not expect anything important will happen for the next five minutes — for I can give you fully five minutes, Kuno. Then I must deliver my lecture on ‘Music during the Australian Period’.”

She touched the isolation knob, so that no one else could speak to her. Then she touched the lighting apparatus, and the little room was plunged into darkness.

“Be quick!” she called, her irritation returning. “Be quick, Kuno; here I am in the dark wasting my time.”

But it was fully fifteen seconds before the round plate that she held in her hands began to glow. A faint blue light shot across it, darkening to purple, and presently she could see the image of her son, who lived on the other side of the earth, and he could see her.’

‘…He broke off, and she fancied that he looked sad. She could not be sure, for the Machine did not transmit nuances of expression. It only gave a general idea of people — an idea that was good enough for all practical purposes, Vashti thought. The imponderable bloom, declared by a discredited philosophy to be the actual essence of intercourse, was rightly ignored by the Machine, just as the imponderable bloom of the grape was ignored by the manufacturers of artificial fruit. Something “good enough” had long since been accepted by our race.’

‘And even the lecturers acquiesced when they found that a lecture on the sea was none the less stimulating when compiled out of other lectures that had already been delivered on the same subject. “Beware of first-hand ideas!” exclaimed one of the most advanced of them. “First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by love and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element — direct observation.’


[work 2]
STEVE RIGLEYSteve Rigley is a designer, lecturer, and writer based in the Department of Communication Design at The Glasgow School of Art. A recent graduate of the MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, Steve focuses his practice upon the relationship between writing and typography and how these may function as a tool for exploring design history.


Neue Jugend revisited: into the forest with John and into the city with George
2021
Laser engraved acrylic sheet in black valchromat with toughened glass cases, 64x52cm [2]

This work revisits an issue of Neue Jugend published in Berlin in June 1917 under the creative direction of John Heartfield and George Grosz. Outspoken in their criticism of both the war and bourgeois salon art, the pair had, by this time, formed a dynamic, creative alliance; anglicised their names in protest against prevailing anti-English sentiments; and, along with Hülsenbeck, Höch and Hausmann, introduced Dada into Berlin.

The June issue, which would prove to be the last, was published a month after Grosz had been discharged from the front, and his written contributions offer hint of a troubled soul grappling with the sharp edges of modernity. Set in a variety of typefaces, weight, and colour, Heartfield’s handling of Grosz’s essays could be interpreted as a celebration of the city, yet suggest, on a deeper level, a sharing of trauma; the suggestion that both were traumatophiles seeking to avert shock through the creation of shock.

As a child, Heartfield and his three siblings had been abandoned in a forest by their parents, who they were never to see again. Raised by a local family, John was a lover of the countryside, yet prone to bouts of sudden anger: a trait he was to channel into his work. In contrast, Grosz was suave, urbane, and comfortable in the city. Yet, when he returned from the front, he would reflect how life in the trenches had ‘split his nerves in two.’

The format is derived from a double-page spread of Neue Jugend, as it may have sat on the print bed, with the ‘American’ format of 640x520mm larger than the ubiquitous Berliner. The left-hand page – into the forest with John – adopts the structural form of a familiar Brothers Grimm story and is built from fragments of text, with sources including Schiller, Goethe, Goebbels, Breton, and Tzara, as well as a well-known German nursery rhyme. Set in code, it anticipates how Heartfield and Grosz – both pioneers of emerging technology – might handle such content today. The right-hand page – into the city with George – presents passages from the Grosz essays published in the June issue: Kannst du radfahren? (Trans. Can you ride a bicycle?) and Man muß Kautschukmann sein! (Trans. You have got to be a rubber man!). In these texts, Grosz calls forth the future artists: those ‘rubber’ men and women adept at navigating the city, adapting the signs and strategies of advertising to their own, politically charged agenda.


[work 3]
AVANT KINEMA (SARAHJANE SWAN & ROGER SIMIAN)Scottish interdisciplinary artists Avant Kinema (Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian) have collaborated since 2010 on an eclectic body of work: experimental films, installation art, alternative music, writing, photography, sculpture, artist manifestos. Their films have screened internationally. The hand-processed Super 8 short Boy and the Sea was exhibited for several months at the Royal Scottish Academy (part of an SSA/VAS/Cutlog exhibition) and was awarded the Pauline Fay Lazarus Prize for work using the human form. Songs (as The Bird And The Monkey) have also aired frequently on BBC 6 Music. Grants received: South of Scotland VACMA, Creative Scotland and HopeScott Trust.


Every Thought Generates a Throw of the Dice
2021
Intermedia: moving image, printed works (art book, booklets, deck of cards), photographic art, writing, sculpture (shells, feathers, driftwood, rope), sound and translation work
Variable

Every Thought Generates a Throw of the Dice is an ambitious project containing multiple forms: film, music, sculpture, photographic prints, a deck of tarot style cards, a full colour art book, copies of a 60 page booklet and a textual literary translation. There are various materials and dimensions involved in this work, from the A5 printed booklets and cards to a 62 centimetre wide kinetic sculpture made from seashells, wood and rope.

By taking a polymathic, ‘Total Art’ approach with this project, Avant Kinema have set out to answer the question, ‘How do you translate the untranslatable?’ In this case the ‘untranslatable’ work referred to is the French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s final poem Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A Throw of the Dice Never Will Abolish Chance).

Un coup de dés was a typographically ground-breaking, free verse precursor to the experiments of the early twentieth century avant-gardists. It was designed by Mallarmé to act on the senses more like a work of visual art or a musical score than traditional poetry intended to be recited aloud or learned by rote. Mallarmé’s words are scattered across the pages, like casualties from a shipwreck sent adrift, untethered from the safe anchor of traditional metre and form.

With this work Mallarmé has set out to rewrite the etiquette of how a book should be read. Instead of digesting each page as a whole, reading from top left all the way down to bottom right, before moving on to the next page, he often demands that we read back and forth across the full width of the book’s open spread. The way space, layout, structure, font sizes and italics are used throughout the pages lends the poem a musical flow, with discernible melodies, countermelodies, rhythms and even descending arpeggios.

When first approaching this innovative but near-unfathomable Modernist poem, Avant Kinema instinctively knew they should move beyond a mere literary, two-dimensional translation of the original. Much can be lost when translating French poetry into English, especially Symbolism which is already wilfully distanced, often employing words, images and meanings cloaked in veils, masks, mist, foam, smoke, leaves. Mallarmé is universally regarded as the most difficult of Symbolists and Un coup de dés is by far his most challenging and complex poem.

For Every Thought Generates a Throw of the Dice Avant Kinema have taken a fully interdisciplinary, multi-dimensional approach to drawing meaning and sensation from Mallarmé’s poem, utilizing film, musical pieces, sculpture, still image sequences, Sarahjane Swan’s visual translation of the original pages in shells and feathers, Roger Simian’s new poems and fiction, and the duo’s ‘redaction and subtraction’ of a 1919 book on Symbolism using Tipp-Ex and marker pens.

By attacking Un coup de dés from so many angles in this way, engaging as many of the senses as possible, Avant Kinema have set out with the dream of expanding the parameters of literary translation, opening up routes through the rough terrain of twenty-first century art towards new, pioneering modes of practice.


[work 4]
ANNA CHAPMAN PARKERAnna Chapman Parker graduated in Fine Art from the University of Edinburgh, later gaining an MA from Wimbledon College of Art, London. Her work is concerned with immersive experiences in landscape, exploring how we record or report such experiences in an increasingly mediated context.
Recent exhibitions include Sonikebana (with composer Martin Parker) commissioned by Edinburgh College of Art for Edinburgh Art Festival, and I sat till I could see no longer at Fife Contemporary Arts, St Andrews. Her writing has been published in MAP magazine, Rake’s Progress and Happy Hypocrite.


Monday or Tuesday / an hour in long grass
2021
Ink and gouache on paper, 61x89cm [2]

Sliding into sleep I’m aware of entering a new terrain, a terrain vague, some ambiguous space outside the known and useful. Stagger toward the window – what’s the ground beneath it – only this will identify which house I’m dreaming from – the earth outside. Weeds are uncurling from the bowls of consonants, blades of grasses peeling off the cusps of serifs, sepals lifting from their brackets, reaching out from the paper’s pitted surface, but towards what?

*

On my desk: a yellowing paperback (1991) held open with my elbow at page 137 – Monday or Tuesday. On the screen above two photographs of the same short story, but in the original Hogarth Press edition printed in the Woolfs’ dining room in 1921. I’m looking between the two accounts, one backlit, smooth and near-vertical, the other a rough, curling paperback, its cracking spine becoming linked somehow with the awkward ache in my elbow.

The paperback’s text is much more reasonable than the 1921 edition; it fits the whole story on a single page, and its justification of the type forms an effortless rectangle, calmly spaced. The Hogarth edition has all the dynamic vagaries of letterpress; and why should vowels, words and the gaps around them appear with measured consistency in print, when they never do, uttered aloud? Each letter has arrived via the choosing and pressing of a metal object; each dot is deeply black, a point stabbing harder than a line. Spaces between words are wide and uneven, making the sentences read breathily. Most breathless of all, Woolf’s em dashes dive off the page, growing longer and blacker and wilder as I look. Each dash is a leap suspended in mid-air, a holding of breath –

*

I sit an hour in the grass drawing the weeds that lurk in the sward: selfheal, yarrow, silverweed, clover. Back at my desk I scan the drawing in and print it out in pieces, enlarged back to life-size. Would weeds, with their usual opportunism, take root in those gaps amidst the text? From ivory depths words rising shed their blackness, blossom and penetrate. I overlay the printouts against my screen. Stems of consonants and plants entangle, blacken the page. The dashes sprout lines of ryegrass on the diagonal. Is the word truth less definite or reliable if its outlines are porous, globular, standing on uneven feet? If truth is threaded to the word above via a blade of grass, does it feel more connected to what’s gone before? As I work, the letters begin to forget their purpose and drift in the direction of the rye. Near the bottom of the second page, a shadowy image bleeds through – hands folded in a lap. But the weeds have taken over now, and the gesture recedes into the grass.


[work 5]
CHRIS KOHLERChris Kohler is a writer and artist based in Glasgow. His written work has been published in Gutter, Egress, The Stinging Fly and Dark Mountain. His visual work has been published by 3:AM Magazine, O Panda Gordo and GENERATORprojects.


The Book
2021
Collage, A3 [6]

In Bruno Schultz’s short story ‘The Book’, (in Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass) the narrator describes a childhood memory of a vast book whose white pages wear away to reveal hundreds of colourful images hidden beneath the text. As he attempts to find the book in his father’s library, he is met with confusion and obfuscation, his father tells him that The Book (as he has begun to call it) is a myth, that its pages are scattered across all books. But down in the servants’ quarters, he finds a few tattered pages, and a servant who says, ‘It has been lying here all the time; we tear a few pages from it every day and take them to the butcher’s for packing meat or your father’s lunch.’ Our narrator resolves to ‘collect these allusions, these earthly approximations, these stations and stages on the paths of our life, like the fragments of a broken mirror. We shall recreate piece by piece what is one and indivisible – the great era, the Age of Genius of our life.’ He aims to recreate The Book from the parts which lie scattered through history, through literature and through his own life.

The first three collages here, in black and white, show writers amidst rubble. The chaos of crumbling traditions, and the destruction of the streets, precarious assemblages of brick and concrete. A headless man faces a street of crocodiles. The street winks, or grins, or stares dumbly, teeth shattered, eyes empty. Hands poke out from holes in the rock, anonymized by the rubble, their heads hidden, or gripped. They write anyway. A writer sits at his desk, head heaped with shattered brickwork, doorways that lead nowhere. A man looks over his shoulder, and many hands contend for his pen. His eyes look in two directions. Letters are cut into stone. Mikhail Bulgakov claimed that manuscripts don’t burn. Schultz’s only novel, The Messiah, wasn’t burnt, but was lost. He claimed to have posted a copy to Thomas Mann.

The last three collages simulate the bright pages of Schultz’s book. A domestic diorama of bedcovers and blankets becomes a bucolic landscape, by way of a scatter of clothes pegs. Then a street scene on the right, a bike on the left, a bride, a kissing couple, a stomach, a pregnant belly beside it, and scattered over the image, a strewn shopping trip. Syrup and honey, eggs, lettuce, potatoes. The sleeping couple from the first image, maybe they’re married? In the last scene, the colours give way to dark images of crowds. Snow covering their caps. Inverted crowns. Bayonets, conflicting with a procession of priests. Amidst it all, another glimpse of our sleeping couple, the back of a neck, an arm draped across it.

Who is our protagonist in each image? The young child taking a telling off? Or the young man in bed with his girlfriend? Or one of the faceless, disembodied arms, the hands reaching out to one another?


[work 6]
JOEY CHINJoey Chin is an artist and a Pushcart-nominated writer and poet. Her work is located at the intersection of text, narrative and visual art, staged through poetry, acts and modes of reading, and various disruptions. In her writing, she explores etymologies and language use of the Chinese and Greek language through the English lyric and prose. 

Joey holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the City University of Hong Kong, and her work has received scholarships, grants, and awards from numerous organisations including Arthub Asia, the Asia Europe Foundation, the Royal Over-seas League Arts (United Kingdom), the Dorothy Cheung Foundation (Singapore), the National Arts Council (Singapore), the Run Run Shaw Library (Hong Kong), and the Society for Humanistic Anthropology (US). www.joeychin.com


Tend Butts
2021
Mixed media, 33x21cm

Surprise and outrage were the more common responses from friends reading Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons.

  How and why was this written?

   Nonsense. (Literally, not the literary genre.)

  Easy to write and difficult to read.

  Over a century has passed since Tender Buttons was written; yet time does little to change initial reactions.

   I speak English as virtue of being born in the postcolonial trading post of Singapore; Mandarin due to the diaspora; and some Greek, the only language I learn out of choice. Reading Tender Buttons was an experience and experiment in camaraderie, humour, and sometimes, coincidence and universality.

Reading the segment on CHICKEN, various Chinese slangs came to mind. A female prostitute is chicken, while a male prostitute is another bird: the duck. Sex, paying for or paid, comes with connotations of peculiarity and the taboo. In that sense, sex and bird, Chinese and English, well, ultimately, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, literally and literary: as a conceptual metaphor, they are all birds to me – it may not be impossible that you and I read the same.

Someone mentioned Tender Buttons was written as though as it was churned out by a creative writing generator: random and strange. These writing generators are often sites for short stories, artist statements or poems with fields for words to be entered by the user. The results are sometimes hilarious, appalling, accurate – to be taken as seriously as a horoscope found on the newspapers (or not). Today, in the age of erasure websites, media, algorithm, electronic and code poetry, what is the role of a poet?

Using predictive messaging from my mobile phone and using the list which opened Food, one of the texts in Tend Butts is a patchwork and cacography poetry of Stein’s vocabulary, textonyms, and user-sensitivity (mine). Some words that were suggested included “Adela” a colleague I was most recently communicating with, “green bean”, “soup”, “milk tea”, “rice” – a large part of my diet.

Tend Butts is housed within the artist’s book format of the zhenxianbao. Meaning needle thread bag in Chinese, the zhenxianbao is a traditional domestic object used by the Dong and Miao minorities in China. Made of paper, it would consist of numerous pockets with the purpose of storing sewing-related items like buttons, needles, thread, patterns or other flat objects.

With the numerous containers in Tend Butts including a self-recording sound module chip, erasure and predictive text poetry, a mini pocket of fabric and buttons (“tender buttons”), surrealist collages, and a scratchboard amongst other discoveries, I imagined that the zhenxiaobao would open up to the numerous rooms and surprises towards language and writing, expanding the definitions of a “book” and ultimately, a new way of reading.

It takes a long time to return to the start of that bridge we first stood at before our acquisition of syntax conventions and rules that defined, and later, narrowed how we decipher and read.

  Returning to the comment of Tender Buttons being stupid, writing something as strange is difficult. Indeed, it’s not easy at all.


[work 7]
SAM WINSTONSam Winston’s practice is concerned with language not only as a carrier of messages but also as a visual form in and of itself. Initially known for his typography and books he employs a variety of different approaches including drawing, performance and poetry.
Operating at the intersections of visual culture and literature he has exhibited his work in museums around the world. Tate Britain, the British Library, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C and MoMA NYC, among others, hold his artist’s books. Larger projects have taken place at institutes such as The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Courtauld Institute of Art, and The Whitechapel Gallery.


The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs and Experiences No. 2, composed by John Cage, from Between noise and sound
2019
Giclée print on 188 gsm photo paper from graphite on paper, 186x139cm and 186x161cm

of painted ears and listening eyes
2021
Artist’s book, 24x20x3cm

Winston created a few hundred drawings in response to John Cage’s album As It Is. In the album, Cage took modernist texts by James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and E. E. Cummings and presented their words in his own sonification of literature.

This boundary crossing – a breaking down of the listening and reading space – mirrored concerns in Winston’s own work. The artist writes:

‘I listened to Cage (so in turn Joyce, Stein and Cummings) and used drawing as a way of doing that. I used asemic writing and drawing as a way of hearing. When the music started, I made marks in response to it. Sometimes the marks were in response to the tone, or I might start writing about the context in which the music was being played. Each category represented a different quality of awareness. Things like voice, composition, environmental noise, bodily sensation and emotional tone all appeared. I wasn’t trying to wrestle Stein back from Cage. Rather I was using a pencil as a way to expand what I could hear from within it all.

Thought often gets hijacked by language. Language is brilliant in its clarity, but it can become literal. A lot of deeper thought occurs away from words. Drawing is my way of thinking without being literal.

Cage worked with silence and he was very much questioning the cultural assumptions involved in music production. This to me seemed to be very similar to what Stein, Joyce and Cummings were doing in their own fields. They were pushing against what was being left out and inviting in more of their lived experience.

My hope is that when the reader engages with the work, they’ll sense an echo – one that has travelled from the turn of the last century through all this different work and is handed to them at the start of this millennium. This could result in revisiting forgotten modernist works that are now in the public domain or in creating their own responses, perhaps akin to how I’ve been working. What I really hope is that people get a sense of this expanded listening across time.’


[work 8]
GILL PARTINGTONGill Partington is an academic, writer, and not-quite-artist interested in unconventional uses and misuses of the book. She was recently Munby Fellow in Bibliography at Cambridge and is currently based at Exeter University, compiling an index to a book that doesn’t exist. She writes for the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, and co-edits (with Simon Morris and Adam Smyth) Inscription: the Journal of Material Text. Currently she is writing a book about strangely shaped pages as well as making a series of flick books for an upcoming exhibition at the Boolean.


Reading/Handling/Editing: Pale Fire
2021
Digital printing on paper, 13x20x2cm

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire insists we read over the shoulder of its narrator, the misanthropic, possibly deranged ping-pong afficionado and literary scholar, Charles Kinbote. Taking possession of the late poet John Shade’s final work in the form of an index card manuscript, Kinbote appoints himself its editor. His footnotes get longer, wilder and woollier as he grind axes, settles scores and gradually inserts himself and his elaborate delusions into the poem. Could he really be the exiled king of Zembla? And was the unfortunate Shade caught in this mysterious country’s political cross-fire? Probably not. But in the end it’s difficult to prise apart the layers: where does Shade’s poem end and Kinbote’s fairy-tale begin? What really happens in the novel? What is fantasy and what merely fiction?

This reworking of Pale Fire gives the plot another, more material twist. Kinbote’s story is obscured by yet another presence: not so much an unreliable narrator as an unreliable reader. Where Kinbote is given to erudite if prolix digressions, this reader is ham-fisted and oddly literal, struggling not only with the book’s narrative complexities, but its physical challenges. They take Kinbote at his word, cutting Shade’s poem out of the book with scissors, and then following his footnotes doggedly, apparently unsure whether Keats is more or less real than the kingdom of Zembla, and finding the Internet no help. This is a distracted reader, too, attention flitting between snacks, sms conversations and the novel itself, as the page vies with the smartphone screen.

It’s a tangle of footnotes and hands, index cards and index fingers. These reading hands are not well-behaved and inconspicuous aids, but make their way from the margins to the centre, clumsily sharpening pencils, eating bananas and spilling drinks: mise-en-page gives way to mess on the page. Perhaps it’s possible, still, to read the novel, even if it becomes increasingly difficult to follow. But strange things seem to be happening, confusing the narrative and the scene of reading, what’s on the page and what’s on the page.

Reading has always involved the hand as much as the eye, of course, although the former is supposed to behave itself. Learning to read comes with all kinds of dos and don’ts about how to handle and turn: not to bend the spine, deface or dog-ear the pages. Hands are supposed to leave no trace, but ironically, it’s these traces that allow book historians to piece together what long-dead owners and readers did with their books. How and where did they peruse them? How did they treat them? It’s the undisciplined readers who are most help: those that wrote in their books, doodled, spilled wine or wax, cut up the pages, or left the scissors to rust between them. Hands do all kinds of things with books, but it’s not often they’re caught in the act.


[work 9]
ANE THON KNUTSENDr. Ane Thon Knutsen (1984) is a Norwegian artist and designer specialising in letterpress. Knutsen works multidisciplinarily at the intersection between graphic design, art, research and dissemination, currently working on graphic adaptations of the works Virginia Woolf wrote and typeset. Knutsen exhibits internationally, and her works take form as installations and artist books. Knutsen is associate professor in graphic design at the Oslo Academy of the Arts, where she defended her practice-based PhD on Virginia Woolf’s work as a typesetter and self-publisher. Knutsen has won several awards for this work. She owns, and works from, her private letterpress studio in Oslo, Norway.


Blue & Green
2020
Ink on 48 gsm newsprint, 29.7x42cm [2]

‘Blue & Green’ was published in 1921 in Virginia Woolf’s only collection of short stories, Monday or Tuesday.

‘Blue & Green’ is just two short paragraphs, considered as sketches. However, they are clear examples of Woolf’s ambitions and attempts to paint in prose. Virginia Woolf and her sister, the post-impressionist painter Vanessa Bell, had a very close relationship, both as artists and sisters. On many occasions they are closing in on the same topics, Woolf through prose and Bell through painting, and as Woolf wrote in a letter to Bell, ‘painting and writing have much to tell each other.’ In a later reflection Woolf writes ‘One should be a painter. As a writer, I feel the beauty, which is almost entirely colour, very subtle, very changeable, running over my pen, as if you poured a large jug of champagne over a hairpin.’

This work is part of ongoing artistic research into Virginia Woolf’s self-produced short stories. I am looking at how her writing have been influenced and developed by the fact that she taught herself to typeset, print and publish books on her own press, The Hogarth Press, in 1917. I find it evident that typesetting has had a reverberating effect on the development of her very phenomenological style of writing, as typography lives between fantasy and reality, between thought and speech, subject and object, word and image. In my adaptation I have reprinted the paragraphs by slightly changing the tint of colour for every new composition, starting from a yellowish-green, adding more and more blue. In Blue I’ve started from a clear blue adding more and more opaque white. I consider this project as a reflection on Woolf’s use of colours, and that colours, when described in prose, like how we understand words, are subjective. I can’t be sure if the colours imagined by another reader are the same as the ones I see, or make. I’ve cared little about what colours Woolf might have pictured. The form of the two books breaks up the narrative and zooms in on the imagery of words, punctuation, and colours. The edition of five will eventually end up as books, but according to the venue, some books will be displayed as installations.


[work 10]
BECKY BREWISBecky Brewis is an artist from London now based in Dundee. Her drawings, textiles and installations explore how the past permeates the present, psychologically and materially. She is a winner of the 2021 Degree Show Purchase Prize at ECA where she has just completed an MFA, having previously studied on the Royal Drawing School’s funded postgraduate programme. In 2018-19 Becky was artist in residence at the Centre for Philosophy and Visual Art at King’s College London. She was selected by Tina Keane for the biennial moving image showcase Visions in the Nunnery 2018 and was shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017. She has been awarded residencies in Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands and at the Space Studios in Hackney, London.


A Haunted House and Other Stories
2021
Pencil on paper, A3 [4]

These drawings are a record of all the copies of Virginia Woolf’s A Haunted House and Other Short Stories that were available in Edinburgh libraries in May 2021 – a time when many libraries were still closed, or else in use as Covid vaccination centres. The title of the 1944 collection is the premise for exploring, in a very localised way, a material history of modern reading; the book as a thing haunted by its readers, and the text as a work in progress.

I have always liked to check the ‘return by’ slip at the front to see the borrowing history of a book, and the drawings are a tribute to these increasingly obsolete relics of an analogue age. With barcodes and laser scanning replacing date stamps, we are now in the process of losing an aspect of a book’s unique materiality that has been part of book borrowing throughout the twentieth century. While this is part of the much bigger picture of digital technology replacing paper record-keeping, in the context of this exhibition the drawings also draw attention to the book as a physical object of social exchange.

The drawings make use of materials with links to analogue methods of printing and reproduction, incorporating a mix of graphite surface transfers, tracings, and carbon paper copying. They explore paper as a repository for signs of physical handling. Different sorts of text are integrated into drawings that flatten out the layers of printed labels, handwriting, inserts, and barcode stickers into a single image with a complex surface.

When they become redundant as due-by reminders, date slips become curiosities. Browsing the inside covers of books in Edinburgh University Library, where barcode scanning replaced date stamping a few years ago, you struggle to find evidence of anyone borrowing anything since about 2015. As the gap between these dates and the present day widens, yesterday’s readers will increasingly seem to belong to the past; to a period in the life of the book, and in the history of the modern library.


[work 11]
CAROLYN THOMPSONBeyond the UK Thompson has exhibited in Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Turkey and the USA, in galleries and institutions as varied as Center for Book Arts, New York; Scola Internazionale di Grafica, Venice; MAK Vienna; National Technical Library, Prague; and Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne. Her work can be found in a variety of collections including Penguin Books, London; and MGLC International Centre for Graphic Arts, Ljubljana.

Recent projects include Silenced (2021), commissioned by Nasty Women Connecticut and Yale Institute of Sacred Music, a work comprising a copy of Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale with the word ‘silence’ repeatedly written over the printed text, included in the exhibition Silent Fire and The Last Walk Home.


Food Lovers
2020
Found book leaves, human hair, 16x11cm [5]

As a visual artist, Thompson’s research and practice are grounded in the materiality of printed matter, both as an object and as a medium. Using books, found texts and images as source material, she explores the content or narrative of the matter through manipulation and appropriation, developing it into new visual and textual versions in the form of altered books, text works, drawings, prints and/or installations.

These adaptations are visual versions that reflect the stories, histories or language of the original ephemera. They are hybrids that lie somewhere between conceptual art, experimental writing and more traditional craft, encompassing the ideas or skills of all three.

Food Lovers has been created from five pages of the Penguin Modern book Food, a publication which consists of the ‘food’ section of Gertrude Stein’s larger text Tender Buttons. Excerpts of the text have been edited into a new voice (or voices) in order to further explore the experimentation in Stein’s writing while examining an expansive form of editing.

Each page has been adapted by stitching replacement typewritten words of Thompson’s choice over some, but not all, of the original text. Using this method she transforms Stein’s words into new versions that refer to love, hate and the extremes of romantic relationships. The human element of the editing process, that is more often than not hidden from a reader in final texts, is here laid bare, signified by the use of human hair to stitch the new words into place.


[work 12]
BARBARA BALFOURBarbara Balfour is a Toronto print-based artist and Professor in the Department of Visual Art and Art History, York University. Her practice involves the relationship between the textual and the visual, with research into text-based art practices and print’s multiplicity informing her artists’ books, multiples, and print installation. Her critical writing includes the essay ‘The What and the Why of Print, in Perspectives on Contemporary Printmaking: critical writing since 1986 (Manchester University Press). She has exhibited internationally, most recently in the group show Caution: Artists! Text messages in art, curated by Jürgen Olbrich, at the Kunsttempel in Kassel, Germany (2021).


Too Early for Stars
2021
Silver metallic text on two sheets of Japanese paper, with selection of loose papers including: watercolour colour tests and other watercolour images on paper, a swatch of silver metallic vinyl, and two small facsimiles of The Wander Society’s Pocket Library version of Woolf’s essay.
47 x 62 cm when open; 24 x 10.5cm when folded.

A keen car enthusiast who never succeeded in learning how to drive, Virginia Woolf wrote about the car as emblematic of modernity in the essay ‘Modern Fiction’ and several of her novels, notably Orlando. In her essay ‘Evening Over Sussex: Reflections in a Motor Car’ (1927), Woolf draws an analogy between a drive and the span of lifetime, transforming the ostensible account of a pleasant evening outing into a sobering reflection on mortality within the context of the everyday. She writes: ‘I said to myself: Gone, gone; over, over; past and done with, past and done with. I feel life left behind even as the road is left behind.’

In my response to Woolf’s essay, I have severely edited the text to focus on different qualities of luminosity in relation to her reflections on mortality, in particular the transition from twilight to artificial light and starlight. To emphasize the fleeting, spatial sense of Woolf’s narrative, excerpts from her essay are arrayed on map-like folds of paper, evoking movement through the unfolding countryside and occasionally reflecting ambient light as the viewer shifts to read the text. At first considering a leporello format, with paper folded in accordion or concertina folds, I decided the work would take the form of a map, allowing one’s eye to follow the text as it travels over the hills and valleys of the paper structure

Responding to the oscillation between natural and artificial light when it is ‘…still too early for lamps; and too early for stars’, I chose to set the metallic silver of the printed font against the natural fibres of washi (Japanese paper). Loose paper artefacts tucked under the sides of the pair of maps include watercolour sketches of the colour of the sky at twilight and the colour of stars, a swatch of silver metallic vinyl, and two small facsimiles of The Wander Society’s Pocket Library version of Woolf’s essay (presumably at a scale one could carry on a journey).

My highlighting of instances of light and dark in the text, as well as the pervasive awareness of mortality throughout, is a representation of my idiosyncratic reading of Virginia Woolf’s essay. Over the years I have read and re-read this text many times – never tiring of it, always finding new connections. I offer Too Early for Stars to the reader not as an analysis of Woolf’s essay, but as insight into myself as a fellow reader.


[work 13]
BRASS ART WITH SPENCER ROBERTSBrass Art is the collaborative practice of Chara Lewis, Kristin Mojsiewicz and Anneké Pettican, lecturers at Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Edinburgh and University of Huddersfield respectively. They explore notions of time, uncanny doubling, embodiment, and liminality, in practices of sculpture, installation, drawing, sound and digital technologies. Their work centres on the creative and performative potential of shadow-play to capture an embodied response to site, often using laser-sensor technologies in place of cameras. Their extensive Shadow Worlds | Writers’ Rooms project engages with the domestic and creative spaces of the Brontës, Sigmund Freud, and Virginia Woolf, to create immersive moving-image works. www.brassart.org.uk
Threshold
2020
Kinect data and video.
Variable.

Brass Art scanned themselves within the interior of Virginia Woolf’s writing shed at Monk’s House, in an effort to articulate the multiple, fragmented versions of reality Woolf herself perceived. The artists’ performative gestures, digitally captured using Kinect sensors, produce defamiliarized figurative forms within this domestic-sized space. From this footage Brass Art developed the artwork Threshold, that not only mirrors the temporal concerns of A Haunted House, but engages broadly with Woolf’s writing process, and the transmission of fluid, speculative ideas.

The resulting footage from Woolf’s writing shed presents the artists as spectral revenants in a 360-degree space. This technology, and its potential to fully rotate any given scene, collapses time frames and has the effect of both revealing and peeling back the domestic architecture, amalgamating the artists’ digital bodies with the traces of Woolf’s own occupation. The ‘digital pointillism’ of the footage also creates a visual dialogue with Vanessa Bell’s cover artwork for Woolf’s publications To The Lighthouse, On Being Ill and The Waves.

Brass Art recognise similarities in approach, both in the methods of performing and post-production, to Woolf’s writing strategies of stream of consciousness, aspects of atemporality, defamiliarization, and moments of awakening. In Threshold, figures are seen adjusting a set of mirrors, which simultaneously transform their heads into portals and reflect light around the interior of a rotating scene.

The artists have collaborated with Spencer Roberts to manipulate the monochrome sensor data and introduce colour, sourced from Brass Art’s photographs and video of the writing room interior and selected redolent materials. The ‘pulse of colour’ (Stewart, 1985) in Woolf’s writing, is articulated through a remixing of phone camera footage with the Kinect laser footage to form shifting intensities. These extend the material-spectrality of Brass Art’s engagement with the space, further emphasising its instability and permeability. As the data from the scanner opens out architectural structures and the walls that divide the space, the colour from the camera ‘escapes’.

[…] it seems sometimes as if movements and colours, shapes and sounds had come together and waited for someone to seize them and convert their energy into art; then, uncaught, they disperse and fly asunder again. (Woolf, ‘The Cinema’, 1926)

Reference: Stewart, Jack F. “Color in To the Lighthouse.” Twentieth Century Literature 31, no. 4 (1985): 438-58.

Brass Art: Threshold (2020).


[work 14]
ELOISE BIRTWHISTLE & ANE LOPEZAne Lopez (she/her) is a creative practitioner with a background ranging across curation, design and marketing with a focus on film and Anthropocene aesthetics. Ane is currently working as Programme Assistant for UNFIX, the Glasgow based performance and ecology festival, and she has recently curated a film programme for Femspectives 2021’s online weekender.

Eloise Birtwhistle (she/her) is a poet and community arts practitioner who is interested in interactions between visual art and writing. In 2019 she ran Double-Take, a project that invited artists to explore this intersection. She is Director of the Survivor Arts Community and her own poetry has been published in various journals.

The Blue & Green Project
2021
Digital work
Variable.

The Blue & Green Project explores methods of communal editing and the ways in which creative response can be used as an expansive form of annotation. We are inspired by existing communal editing projects, such as The Cantos Project.* However, rather than gathering traditional, academic annotations – with the purpose of factually informing the reader – the Blue & Green Project considers editing as a form of participatory arts practice.  

Academic annotation is undoubtedly interesting and useful. Yet, at the same time, it might narrow interpretations of the text to a received reading. As Hockney says of his etchings that accompany another set of cantos, Wallace Stevens’s ‘The Man With the Blue Guitar’, these annotations will not be ‘conceived as literal illustrations of the [text] but as an interpretation of its themes’.** We hope that this website will visualise the multitude of readings that a text offers, encouraging a reader to think both expansively and personally about the text in a way that factual annotations may not elicit. When many creative annotations layer onto the text, it can become a site where new connections form; where a community resides. ​

‘Blue & Green’ is one of eight short stories published in Virginia Woolf’s 1921 short story collection, Monday or Tuesday. This book – Woolf’s only short story collection – provides us with the bridge between her early novels and her later experimental modernism. ‘Blue & Green’ takes the form of two complementary prose poems that allow colour to expand and develop into association and imagery. This short story ‘sees Woolf develop her interest in fusing literature with techniques borrowed from other art forms. Evoking a painting or an artist’s eye, ‘Blue & Green’ uses colour to conjure a chain of images and associations.’*** It is a text that offers so much possibility for interpretation across artforms; an obvious choice when selecting writing that lends itself to creative annotation.

The Blue & Green project was conceived by Ane Lopez and Eloise Birtwhistle. Initially, seventeen artists working across seven different mediums (including illustration, sculpture, creative writing, and musical composition) were approached to create annotations. These artists are: Judit Sanchez, Rebecca Gill, Maria Sledmere, Bärbel Praun, Emma Hislop, Ane Lopez, Ines Gradot, Sean Patrick Campbell, Li Yawen, Zoë Birtwhistle, Finn Arschavir, Lucy Maria, Tania Cimatti, Jonny Walker, Julia Syrzistie, Eloise Birtwhistle and Desmond Clarke.

The annotations are exhibited on The Blue & Green Project website. This online platform uses hyperlinks to mimic the experience of following footnotes and our hope is that The Blue & Green Project will continue to expand. We have an open submission for creative annotations, which will be reviewed quarterly. If you would like to submit an annotation yourself, please go to https://www.blueandgreenproject.com/submit to find out how.

* https://thecantosproject.ed.ac.uk
** David Hockney The Blue Guitar: Etchings by David Hockney who was inspired by Wallace Stevens who was inspired by Pablo Picasso (New York: Petersburg Press, 1970)
*** British Library “Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf,” https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/monday-or-tuesday-by-virginia-woolf]


[work 15]
MARIA FUSCOMaria Fusco is an award-winning Belfast born writer, working across the registers of fiction, performance and theoretical writing. She holds a personal Chair of Interdisciplinary Writing at the University of Dundee, and her texts are published internationally and translated into ten languages.

Her most recent work is Mollspeak (2021), an eleven-channel sound installation in the Museum of Home voiced by Maxine Peake, and latest books are Give Up Art (2018), collected critical writings, of which Lisa Robertson has said ‘Fusco’s scintillating mobility invites us to savour a new kind of critical empathy’, and Legend of the Necessary Dreamer (2017) an ambient novella described by Chris Kraus as ‘a new classic of female philosophical writing’. mariafusco.net

Sarah and Alice
2021
Sound work, 5 minutes 10 seconds

Sarah and Alice is a new sound work, written and voiced by Maria Fusco, which will be played twice a day in the gallery space, using as its starting point durational readings of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love.

Julian of Norwich was an anchorite, acknowledged as having produced the first book written in English by a woman. Anchorites were medieval religious solitaries, one of the most extreme of the religious lives of the Middle Ages: it inspired awe, and holds a fascination for modern observers. It was a life of strict and irreversible enclosure, usually in a cell attached to a parish church, entered into through an elaborate ceremony during which the last rites were administered, and at the conclusion of which the door to the anchorhold was walled up.

The sound work is a secular investigation into medieval anchoresses and the spaces in which they produced their proto-feminist treatises, exposing the female voice’s role in trans-chronological heritage historiographies through a durational and spatial investigation of specific site and location.

Imprints of the New Modernist Editing
Art Editing Modernism