Andrew Roth came over from New York and did a talk about his Artist Book publications under his ppp imprint. This was the final talk in the Xerox show series. And proved fortuitous for me for several reasons. It was a real highlight to see such a big player in the artist book field in Colchester. It has added a lot to my proposed article on First Site. But more importantly It gave me an insight which will astronomically impact on my understanding of the constitution of artist’s books which I will conceal until my 3rd proposed article for UWE about a split which has become apparent to me. This split is fundamental, involves how people consider books and how people ‘make’ books. It reflects issues in the interface between the ‘art-world’ and everyday life. After 45 years poking my nose into ‘galleries’ I detect a definite ‘us and them’, it’s not nuclear physics, it’s obvious. I perceive that folk like Lucy Lippard (see my proposed 2nd article for UWE) spent a life time working to break down the barriers. The world of artist’s books has brought the opportunity and practice which can seal the rift, especially with the energy that emanates from UWE, Bristol.
On the day after I visited First Site to see Andrew Roth I took this photo
of the gallery’s entrance packed with people, a sight for sore eyes which I would love to see more often. However they were there for a church meeting, not to view the art of Xerox on its final day. For Roth’s talk there was an audience of less than ten which is a tragedy when you think that David Jury ran a Book Art MA for several years within 100 metres of the gallery! There are so many folk who should have been there who would have been fascinated by Roth but as someone pointed out First Site’s promotion programme has a high degree of stealth. It’s similar to the USA’s use of stealth bombers. You never hear them as they come and go about their business. This is for me, and I have to say from my viewpoint, a tragedy. First Site has enormous potential for both the local community for national and international art and film and performance and all sorts too many to mention. For some reason it has not yet caught the popular imagination. As a friend of Tate for 40 years, recently withdrawn cos I can’t afford it, I was lucky to be able to go to Bankside when they were preparing the gallery and what an achievement that was. To turn that vast area into a national mecca of art was almost impossible I thought as I looked at the remnants of the old industrial building. It would take a miracle not just of logistics but cultural perception to attract people into such a space. And, they his the ground running and have not stopped since. First Site has been dogged by issues and perceptions which clogged their early years. The controversy over the build, the lack of access for cars, the kids outside commanding the area off-putting potential visitors all contributed to a slow start. Only the dogged have continued to connect. At both talks I went to, Ann Stephens had about 6 and Andrew had about 10 listeners. The gallery itself is reminiscent of an empty church in an isolated village. Usually the wonderful staff seem to outnumber the visitors. This is a tragedy with so many colleges and galleries in the area with good rail links, the town station is literally 5 minutes walk. Within 60 miles you have Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge, London, Sudbury and Aldeburgh, all full of folk who love art etc. Somehow the imagination of those people has to be touched. Somehow they have to be informed about what they are missing. I for one would prefer to travel to Colchester rather than to London. And London based folk need to know it’s only and hour to Colchester if and when the trains are running. Hell, I have travelled to London a thousand times in the last 40 years to see art etc, get off yer asses and travel to Colchester. I’ve been to Edinburgh, Cambridge, Norwich, Bruges, Burnley, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Vienna, Tours, New York chasing galleries etc. Come on, come to Colchester!
And the staff at First Site are great. They have Michelle Cotton as head Curator whose knowledge and daring ideas should be commended. (Feb 2015- I have been told Michelle has been given a curatorship in a big gallery in a big German city whose name I forget. This is sad for us but good for the gallery as it can add the fact that staff move onto bigger things!) Her ground breaking catalogues for the recent shows are a real treat. The choice of exhibition content is designed to put Colchester on the map in quality and subject matter related to the 21st century state of the arts. The attendants who watch over the gallery spaces are always keen to share their knowledge of the work on display. The bookshop is so well stocked with recent books on art. The café is wonderful with good coffee and the food is fresh with nice crisp chips. It is a great space to go.
Back to Andrew Roth who showed us several books from his stable:
Takuma Nakahira ‘For A Language To Come’
David Wojnarowicz, Rimbaud In New York, 2004 ( I loved this book of photos and it was lovely to see his mask of Rimbaud so reminiscent of the series of masks that I did for my end of MA Talk in Colchester on 3rd August 2013.
I was unaware of Wojnarowicz’s mask. Gave me the idea to do a mimic book of me in Colchester etc wearing masks but I have been told I have more original things to finish first.
Daido Moriyama, 71-Ny, 2002 (Apparently Daido came over to NY with Tadanoori Yokoo an artist I studied in the early 70’s and Andrew happily corrected my wrong assumption that he is no longer with us, silly me.)
Leigh Ledare, Pretend You’re Actually Alive
William E. Jones, Killed
All of which may be controversial because of some of their content but all are first class in their production. I am sorely tempted to buy a copy of “In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955” about artists operating at the peripheries of mainstream art-cultures as Roth points out ‘a neglected art-form that is neither artists’ book nor ephemera, but is entirely its own unique object.’