Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Creative Conference Day

Yesterday I attended a 'Creative Conference Day' at the Quay Arts Centre in Newport, Isle of Wight. This day was designed to accompany the exhibition Transmission, a show by graduates of Southampton Solent University's School of Art and Design. The exhibition itself was fairly interesting, in that a conscious effort had been made to embrace all the courses at the University; Photography, Fine Art, Film, Product Design, Illustration, Graphic Design, Fashion and Textiles, Interactive Media and so on.This was the third iteration of the exhibition, which had been re-curated several times; unfortunately I had missed the previous versions of the show, though I was able to see photographs during one of the talks given during the conference day. The quality of the work was somewhat mixed, as you would expect from a student show, but generally interesting; the fact that it was properly designed for the Quay Art's slightly unconventional space makes it definitely one of the more interesting shows I have seen there in a while.

For me by far the most interesting part of the day was a talk by two members of the art collective Borbonesa, who produce artist's books and other related self-published endeavours, such as zines and small boxed multiples. During the afternoon I also got a chance to have a conversation with them and show them Vectis. We talked about possible options for publishing, funding and how to bring down the cost of each individual volume. I also got a chance to talk about specific technical aspects of their work, mundanities such as the kind of glue they use, folding patterns, methods of cutting and so on. We also talked about book fairs and good places to go and see collections of artist's books in the South of England, particularly Winchester School of Art and Portsmouth University, both of which I plan to visit at some point. The whole session left me inspired, and I have formulated a short term plan of action to run alongside my research and allow me to begin producing some work. These are the things I plan to do over the next month or so, as well as read and respond to books:

1. Make collections of utopian and dystopian imagery, and create two large collages or mood-boards from these.
2. Make a large mind-map around the themes of utopia and dystopia
3. Prepare the collages and mind-maps as fold-books printed on a single sheet of paper.
4. Produce a number of other small books.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Utopia Wordsearch

One of the first ideas that came to me in thinking about Utopia/Dystopia was the Utopian wordsearch, a first draft of which sits below:

Dropbox download link

The Utopia Wordsearch operates much like a normal wordsearch except that words cannot cross over or share any letters. Thus, choosing any words will block out certain others; each competing vision of utopia is incompatible with all other visions. In order to construct a utopia, differing points of view must be excluded. The methods that might be used to exclude these viewpoints blur the lines between utopia and dystopia.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Exhibition: E Book Show at the Hansard Gallery Off-Site

On Tuesday I took a trip over to the city of Southampton with a friend to do the standard array of exciting yokel in the big city things; book shops, galleries and so on. Apart from the Southampton City Gallery and the Bargate Gallery, both of which were fairly interesting but not very relevant to the project, I also went to the Offsite location of the Hansard Gallery, which had an excellent exhibition on called E Book Show, an exhbition of hand-made and self-published photobooks, some of which can be seen (shown in video form) here.

I regrettably did not have much time to dawdle in the exhibition, though I leafed through a good selection of the books, and the net result was a reignition of my interest, almost completely waned during Vectis, of binding books. I abandoned the physical act of making books, as a process of craft as opposed to one of design, during the last project for the simple reasons of cost-efficiency and time. I felt that I could accomplish Vectis best using the limitations of print-on-demand. The additional level of creative control that could come from printing and binding my own work, and the additional options this would give me to express ideas through the formal aspects of the book cannot, however, be permanently ignored. One of the possibilities for Utopia/Dystopia is to involve a blank book which can be used by the gallery audience; this book would have to be elaborately bound in a carefully considered way, even if the main book(s) are machine made.

It seems to me that, during the research phase, I should try and re-acquaint myself with the physical craft of book-binding. In my first phase of the masters program, I encountered the problem of a lack of directed focus; I produced many books as formal experiments that seemed to be sidelines, not at all connected with the main project. It should be possible to avoid this by linking all the books I make to the broad central theme of Utopia and Dystopia.