Category Archives: pothi

Kentish Town PA

I drove 120 miles

And got lotsa smiles

Yesterday at the Society of Bookbinders Book Art day in Kentish Town.

After Sarah Bodman had mentioned the 5th of March as the anniversary of the car bomb in the Al Mutanabbi street in Baghdad (https://en.qantara.de/content/al-mutanabbi-street-in-baghdad?page=7 ) I asked the following question but didn’t find the chance to give my reply so here it is:

What are these 3 countries famous for? Iraq? The Sennacherib Prism, cuneiform hexagonal prism with a story on six sides in the British Museum.  http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=295077&partId=1

Afghanistan? Gandharan scrolls of birch bark in pots. http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/SALANC.html

also  https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cJtMBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA109&lpg=PA109&dq=Gandharan+scrolls+of+birch+bark+in+pots&source=bl&ots=lB5rvlZ7ga&sig=IorCCBOdH174U_cpldg3W2gclW4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwipkp3BzKXLAhULWBoKHYJ0DzYQ6AEILTAD#v=onepage&q=Gandharan%20scrolls%20of%20birch%20bark%20in%20pots&f=false

Syria? First alphabet- Ugarit ( The golden age of Ugarit. The most prosperous and the best-documented age in Ugarit’s history dated from about 1450 to about 1200 bce and included periods of domination by the Egyptians (c. 1400–1350 bce) and the Hittites (c. 1350–1200 bce). That age produced great royal palaces and temples and shrines, with a high priests’ library and other libraries on the acropolis. After the discovery of the temple library, which revealed a hitherto unknown cuneiform alphabetic script as well as an entirely new mythological and religious literature.

The art of Ugarit in its golden age is best illustrated by a golden cup and patera (bowl) ornamented with incised Ugaritic scenes; by carved stone stelae and bronze statuettes and ceremonial axes; by carved ivory panels depicting royal activities; and by other fine-carved ivories. Despite Egyptian influence, Ugaritic art exhibits a Syrian style of its own.

The excavators of the site were fortunate in the number and variety of finds of ancient records in cuneiform script. The excavations continue, and each season throws some new and often unexpected light on the ancient north Canaanite civilization. The texts are written on clay tablets either in the Babylonian cuneiform script or in the special alphabetic cuneiform script invented in Ugarit. Several copies of this alphabet, with its 30 signs, were found in 1949 and later. A shorter alphabet, with 25, or even 22, signs, seems to have been used by 13th-century traders.

Scribes used four languages: Ugaritic, Akkadian, Sumerian, and Hurrian, and seven different scripts were used in Ugarit in this period: Egyptian and Hittite hieroglyphic and Cypro-Minoan, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian, and Ugaritic cuneiform. These show clearly the cosmopolitan character of the city.)fromhttp://www.britannica.com/place/Ugarit

I felt privileged to be first speaker out of the blocks and did a rapid show of the several books that I have made following Joanna Drucker’s introduction to the history of the written word  in her Alphabetic Labyrinth which really inspired me to make books of many different historical types and ultimately to do this PA piece (https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=alphabetic%20labyrinth)  Since I started the project it has taken on a life of its own and led me to much new knowledge.

The PA took place at 3pm and I did give a short intro to what some of the moves meant.When I referred to the fact that there’d probably have been copies of the Kabir poem, which I use as inspiration for my project, in the shops that got blown up I felt myself starting to cry unintentionally. Doing PA does touch a chord.

a pete + treeking at SoB black
here’s me about to start my PA piece on 5th March 2016 in Kentish Town. Photo taken and provided by Sonia Serrao.

Happily my Performance Art piece went down well [‘Thankyou Pete for an awesome performance’], even converting several folk who had been sceptical about its fitness for purpose. The attention to detail is quite startling. Whilst watching my PA I realised in the mime about making letterpress print I had forgotten to ink up the  ‘chase’ so I went back and did it (in my mime) and sure enough one lady said afterwards that at the time she thought, ‘He’s not inked it up’, which shows the concentration of the audience. Apparently you could hear a pin drop, probably when I mimed holding the needle to sew the book sections together?

Some members made pleasant remarks about my little new binding of David Jury’s prints of my 6 poems in the Vessel. Well, not so little cos it’s about  20” x 18” and some were amazed at how I had managed to keep such a big surface area from bending. Actually so am I and I told them, ‘It’s beginner’s luck, follows me everywhere.’

In fact it is the result of many years of only sporadically making traditionally bound books, partly because I like ‘alternative’ but partly cos I was always frightened of being judged incompetent. The confluence of my increasing self-reliance and a perceived need to bring David’s beautiful rendition of my words made me so determined to overcome my personal weaknesses and get the darn thing done and done well. The book took a few weeks of research, seeking advice from DJ and ace bookbinders Mike Sullivan & Son (Robert), doing trials and buying the right materials. And taking lots of time and consummate care! So when I finally released the book from under heavy boards last week this was my reaction, “I have just taken the new ‘Vessels’ book out from under the weights and in my eyes it is dang near ‘perfec’. [However, remember the compere in ‘Cabaret’ who sang ‘If you could see her thru my eyes’, whilst looking at a gorilla!]I am over the beautiful waning moon I can see out my window this morgan. Wow. It’s taken several days of tears & sweat but I am glad to say it is good (enough for me, and that’s ‘good’.” Here’s an image of it.

a vessels bound sm
This is the ‘Vessels’ series of letterpress print made by David Jury from my words in 2014 which I have now made into a codex book.

And for those interested here’s my work towards the day:

Visions of Joanna The Ideas behind and Script for S o B.

In a recent interview Yan Martell said he thought that art can bring about changed perceptions by altering your perspective, “to posit a different reality” [to that/those with which you’re familiar]. All my life in art this is what I have tried to achieve. I always looked for a difference. Now in my Performance Art I have discovered a way to animate my vision.

We all know about books. Many of us make beautiful books. But do we all remember the way the word was first turned from an aural thing into a physical thing? At first it was inscribed in clay then a variety of different grounds were tried. We are embarked on the digital age and who can dream of where that will take the book? I look at different book forms and try to create them and their makers using my body and some props and specially composed music. The bark mask is typical of my creative process. I conceived the idea and began to make it using materials I had saved from my work in my garden. As I moved through its making I allowed the mask to dictate to me some of its form hence some rather unusual asymmetrical results with the elements of surprise and a degree of shock.

Part 1

I am standing still, wearing black vest & suit (no shoes), hold up the bark mask, looking at the audience. “I am the book”

“We are all aware that paper is made from trees. But in Gandhara they made scrolls from birch bark and buried them in pots. These are the oldest surviving Buddhist texts ever discovered. (pick from the pot show my scrolls and place as start of the ‘sculpture’ which will be feature of the Part 2.)

As my tribute to those early pots I made my own pot with words around the neck and scrolls hold my words and images. I need to mention Jackie Leven here. He sang a wonderful version of a poem by Kabir which I shall recite as I cannot sing”.

I use music specially written and played by Luke Walker for my Clay Jug.

“Inside This Clay Jug there are canyons…”

Now

“I am doing my piece in 2 parts of 15 minutes each.

This first part I shall introduce a series of books to you and tell the background which is really the history of the book through my own book-making. Then in part two there’ll be no explanations just enactment.

I have produced a book, G BATCH, which explains the project and contains the first version of six poems that I wrote feature which throughout the series.

Whilst doing my Masters I was amazed by Joanna Drucker’s Alphabet Labyrinth book which goes into the way the first words were put onto a surface, the first writing. This was on clay tablets, which I made but not using cuneiform, just English. (Show my yellow one & place in sculpture)

I also made a clay poti, (show and add to sculpture) which is a book form used in the East. Tibetan monks like the Dalai Lama still read from daphne paper potis.

I shall be referring to my Leaf Books here. Which are in codex form. (show and add to sculpture) Later the letterpress was invented and books became more available. I did a collaboration with David Jury with my Earthen Vessel books.

 Part 2

The instructions

Wear black vest & black ‘dance’ pants. Also I shall be using a shawl to add the ‘outfits’. For each part first pick up relevant ‘book’.

(with this movement in between each book:

Foot forward, back, move left, hands up

Move right hand out to right and back

Move left hand out to left and back

Foot forward, back, move right, hands up

Pull hand over hand to left to signify pulling back time)

The PA piece:I was going to recite this but I forgot:

‘Have a care

Beware, it’s best to be wise

If you go down to the woods today

You’ll never believe your eyes

Be careful what you do to the trees

The guardian is in his guise.’

 

Everyone knows paper comes from trees but did you know that in ancient Gandhara  they created scrolls from birch bark? These were found hidden in pots and are the oldest records of the life if Buddha.

The Tree-King is slightly scarey and gives warning that we should care for and treasure the tree.

Performance Art has an unsettling aspect here shown by the Tree-king who sets the tone of the scene. Using an invisible cord I connect with past times and I trawl through different book forms from the past 3 thousand years; clay tablets, scrolls, pothis, manuscripts, letterpress and eventually codex. I attempt to create various historical book forms and their makers using my body, mime & movement with music created by Luke Edward Walker and mark Newby Robson. I shall exhibit and refer to several of my own books influenced by; clay tablets from Ur, pothis from Tibet, scrolls from Gandhara, illuminated manuscripts, letterpress pages and codex. Watch me become the book-makers and the books. Meet the scribes, calligraphers, printers and book-makers from bygone ages.  

 

bark-mask the bark-mask covers most of my face, stand tree like to start. unmask

begin Luke Walker music

‘bow’ to Pot from which I take

Move thru the books-

clay tablet- use one of the clay tablets from poti or the yellow one shawl becomes ‘kilt’, sit upright like the scribes from ancient Ur. Become a clay tablet

 scroll- Take a Scroll from the pot and unravel it, ravel it, unravel it– shawl becomes Tibet style robe, sit cross-legged. become a scroll

 codex- show one of the Leaf Books shawl becomes ‘hood/cowl’. Sitting at a desk become the medieval monks who created illuminated manuscripts. Be a codex book. Here I lay down and ‘turn’ like a book then stand and do it standing, foot out front, to side, out front, down.

Show Earthen Vessel books

 Letterpress-

I become the printer using a letterpress method?

The David Jury collaboration prints first.

Show my new bound book of DJ’s prints.

End pose

Return to the pot, go down into child pose.

I think Sonia Serrao who organised the day did a great job and there was a really happy bustle throughout the proceedings. I met and made friends with a whole new bunch of people. My mate Dave Doughty came up with me and his being navigator got us both safely thru the streets of London. Had I been on my own I wouldn’t have reached the show.

I hope to be able to add more images to the one Sonia sent me when anyone who got a good shot sends them to me.

Now that’s over I can shoot back to London, this time on public transport, to see the Auerbach at Tate. And return some books to the Poetry library.

I’d love to go to Zurich to see my friends Vest & Page, but I can’t. If you can you’ll have to go next week:

VestAndPage & Kollektiv Phantomschmerz kindly invite:

vest & page in their latex suits
Enter a caption

Verena & Andrea dressed up in latex. As Vest & Page they are astounding Performance Artists
in
YGGDRASIL
Fabriktheater Rote Fabrik, Zurich
9 – 10 – 17 – 18 March, 2016, 20:00h

YGGDRASIL, the second production of Kollektiv Phantomschmerz – in collaboration with the Italian-German artist duo VestAndPage and musician Marc Rossier – is the continuation of the search for identity started in their first production Highlight. Following the question “What do you know?”, now they inquire into “What do you believe?”. In a time of spiritual alienation, a journey between conscious and unconscious states ensues through a hybrid of performance art and theatre.
Shows at the Fabriktheater Zurich (Doors open at 19:30)
• March 09, 2016, 20:00 – Premiere
• March 10, 2016, 20:00
• March 17, 2016, 20:00 – Post-Show Q&A
• March 18, 2016, 20:00

Tickets: fabriktheater@rotefabrik.ch and 044 485 58 28

My bookart friend sent me this link to her beautiful contribution to the al mutanabbi street project. This is a beautiful piece.

http://www.chrisruston.com/al-mutanabbi-street-project.html

Advertisements

I tried to change the world

Now I can listen & hear what three wise men,  Krishnamurti, Roy Fraser & the Dalai Lama, have told me, I don’t know why but there it IS, maybe cos am old?a ceramic buddhaithis was Roy Fraser’s little ceramic Buddhai what I drew…

OM MADI PADME HUMMMmm

Like many others of the Sixties generation I tried to change the world these past 50 years. But, like the US forces going into Saddam’s Iraq, I never had a contingency for what to put in the old world’s place. I found out that nobody changes the world cos the world just carries on in it’s own bittersweet way, forever. The world in which we live, or should I say Universe, has been going on for millions of years and will continue with or without us ubeings. In fact if we blow the Earth to smithereens the universe just keeps rolling along with what’s left of the Earth and all who dwelt there re-constituted. We are in fact always re-constituting, part of you and me was in the BIG BANG what made the existence we became aware of. When we die our bodies will re-constitute once more and help make up other things. If we have a spirit or a soul that carries on somehow.

a penned mystic sm

This is my spirit guide

‘This mug is a combination of particles, atoms, quarks [like the old man in the sketch above which is for me maybe the best thing I have ever created. I very rarely draw things from my mind without any visual prompt but this old guy just arrived from my pencil. Like Lennon used to say he didn’t ‘write’ his songs, he was a conduit thru which they came, same with this old guy]. But each particle is not ‘mug’. The same can be said of everything, including yourself. The mug, ‘me’, are merely labels, something we use to describe everyday reality. The mug, me, came into existence because of a complex web of causes and conditions. They do not exist independently [our] existence is dependent on an infinite, intricately linked series of events, people, causes and conditions.’ Dalai Lama in The Wisdom Of Compassion.

One of the Dalai Lama’s teachers was Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and I found a beautiful film about him here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQPmnGTUHYU at about 25 mins in it gets very good, seems we are taken into a Shangrila! I even see them printing off pages of a pothi, one of their bookforms. It’s amazing to me how similar looking Khyentse was to one of my mentors in life, an old friend who I painted awhile ago called Roy Fraser. Roy was also into spiritual searching and I had lots of interesting chats late into the night with him alongside a ‘spirit in a bottle’ called Glenn Fiddich.

Roy F as rinpoche smRoy Frasera kheyntse detaleDilgo Khyentse

If you have a couple of hours to spare, take a look at this Buddhist woman and her take on Compassion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=datWeGjthJU&feature=youtu.be

Both Tai Chi and Ashtanga Yoga help body and mind to gain good health and equilibrium. I won’t bother to explain that here, just believe me.

I was lucky enough to be able to start doing Tai Chi and Ashtanga Yoga with Gareth Chandler http://www.garethchandler.com/links.htm out of Chelmsford about 5 years ago. Like lots of people I didn’t know what I was doing. Now I discover that what I let myself into was an incredible asset for (my) life (and yours too if you want to try it!). I have moved on to learn Tai Chi with Master Ch’ng Lay Seng in Witham. http://clstaichichuan.co.uk/

master Ch'n Lay SengMaster Ch’ng Lay Seng

Both forms do incredible benefits for the body and mind. These couple and inter-relate with my interest in Tibetan Buddhist ideas, zen and meditation. The more I do it the more I learn how much they are so interconnected. All of them have had a profound effect on all that I do.

I read a book ‘Finding Balance in the Midst of Chaos’ by a ‘Peter Strong PhD’ which is strong medicine, in fact it’s too difficult to read without making notes and having a dictionary of sanscrit/pali words handy but I would like to share a passage where he talks about our body & mind’s ability to maintain ‘homeostasis’ or ‘same state’ balance in our life. Our body is regulated by responses designed to maintain physiological & psychological equilibrium by adapting to ‘instability created by external or internal stress’.

The Dalai Lama also says ‘…karma means cause & effect. Suffering (dukkha) is unavoidable [it is a ‘given’ in human- ubeing- life, ed.] it is something we have to deal with. Accepting the situation decreases anxiety. Acceptance gives peace of mind’.

Psychological equilibrium comes when ‘there is freedom from conflict and suffering. This state is called dukkha-nirodha, ‘dukkha’ being ‘suffering’ and ‘nirodha’ meaning extinction. [think of suffrin-eroder, to erode suffering maybe] Before I befuddle you more with Strong’s words I must say that if you look at the writing of B S Iyengar you’ll find the benefits the different yoga moves/positions (asanas) manifest on us ‘yogis’ [a ‘yogi’ is just anyone who does yoga].

Also when Krishnamurti revealed his secret to life he said, “Don’t mind what happens”. This gives us a clue as to how to reach a place where we find our own equilibrium but it’s very hard. His choice of words as always is very clever. He doesn’t advocate not being interested nor taking initiatives, he just says “Don’t mind what happens”, which to me means, don’t ‘attach’ to what happens, don’t cling to memories, things, ideas etc., we all have our experiences and sometimes we get embroiled, we can’t detach and that can lead to all sorts of issues.

[a spurious aside- Like I can’t, or couldn’t detach from the idea that my art was worthy and the world did me a dis-service by not attaching to it and giving me loads a money and praise and love and attachment. Then I look see what those results brought for the likes of Michael Jackson, John Lennon & Elvis the Pelvis and I can see I don’t want loads a money and praise and love and attachment. I am now more ready to give up my forlorn attempts to be up there with the famous ones, or the special one Mourn-inho! I think myself lucky that I never made it. I no longer ‘mind’, even if I did in the past and that’s really an ‘if’. I have had moments, I’ve had positive feedback which has gone into the burner and helped energise me as did criticisms cos often I’d not take them laying down, I’d up and at ‘em. I’d make my next ting beat better. All the time I wanted to improve. Which is funny when you’re running in the wrong direction with all the prizes under your arms, and then they begin to melt or even worse, rot. I had an instinctive feeling when Mourn-inho returned to Chelsea he would regret it, and now he does. Then again, I wouldn’t put it past Mourninho to have manipulated the situation so that he became persona non grata at Chelsea FC just as it was becoming obvious that Van Gaal had underestimated the task at Man U FC and is proving a little short of the required level to sort that old monster out quickly enough for the expectations in a league where measure has become greatly distorted by vast amounts of money?]

Not ‘attaching’ gives us the opportunity to establish and maintain equilibrium so that if we need to assess some situation we can be non-judgemental. Thereby, having no side to take our reactivity is lessened, maybe to nil. We become observers. His mind, in Strong’s words, is “free to respond in the best way possible to resolve suffering (known as dukkha) and restore stability. Strong cites the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics which he states states that all systems seek a state of maximum (thermos) stability and will change (dynamic) if given freedom to change. It’s a battle between habitual reactivity (habits formed thru conditioning & experience) and the natural intelligence which innate (existent but usually dormant within us) in our psyche. Habits so often overrule the intuitive wisdom. Krishnamurti leapfrogs this conundrum by a conviction not to be bothered by what occurs (Am Oi Bovvad?!). I am going to make it my New Year’s resolution to try not to ‘attach’ to trial, tribulation and triumph!

 

The Jug Talks

I am about to do a seires of blArts about the ‘Earthen Jug Project’ I have been working through for the past couple of years. This first one is from old writings about how the project began and some early outcomes. The next couple of blArts I have planned a revelation of the new ‘artist’s books’ which have come out this month, September. So, watch this space man.

A mock interview on my Earthen Vessels Project.

You made an incredible discovery?

During semester three of my MA in Art & the Book I made an incredible discovery – a book about the Karoshi scripts in pots at Ghandara. It introduced me to the pots which inspired the final look painted onto this one. And increased my knowledge manifold. Toward the end of semester four I made another astounding discovery which I shall share with you at the end of this film. Finding it beggars my belief.

How did you come about making your clay pot?

So to begin, I had had a long time interest in the Dead Sea scrolls which were found at Qumran. This was re-ignited by my hearing about a library found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945, the existence of which is not often mentioned, and I wished to know why.

A close friend of mine (DW) sent me a copy of an album by someone I remembered meeting at college in Exeter in the early 70’s. John St. Field. He had since changed his name to Jackie Leven and the song I liked best was called Inside This Clay Jug after a poem written  by Kabir an Indian poet in 1450, 500 years before my birth. The poem as read by Robert Bly struck a chord within me. Recite from memory the clay jug and maybe Tagore’s version. (I could add his worm thinks it a bit odd that humans don’t eat books)

The words flagged up my interest in the way ancient cultures would store treasured documents in pots and hide them away. I saw potential there for a project around which to hang my work for the second year of my MA. I did not realise how much wonder I was about to enter.

The writing was to be gleaned from the work of 6 men who had pushed the boundaries in human thinking; Gurdzhiev, Beuys, Angeli Scheffler, Tenzin Gyatso, C. G. Jung and Hesse. I took the title G BATCH from their names

What is the significance of the number ‘six’?

I decided to base my project around the idea of a six sided shape, the hexagon. You can see my pot has a hexagonal base. And two of my ‘heroes’, Gurdzhiev and Beuys, had bees in their personal cosmologies. Gurdzhiev’s bee was from ancient Armenian legend as the carrier of ‘knowledge’ from one generation to the next, Beuys often used analogies about honey and the spread of ideas. For these reasons I had built in the hexagon as a motif. Martin Bridges, my advisor on the pottery side, told me it is the strongest building block in the universe.

How did you choose the form of your pot?

I began to look at pots. I found myself in Vienna where I met hundreds of pots from many old cultures and new ones too. My favourite was one which was a little lob-sided and dark coloured with images inscribed in it. It turned out to be an Etruscan urn. I found more about the Etruscans who indeed were a mysterious bunch who had a big influence on Roman culture. They introduced the alphabet to Rome and their sages were much respected in Rome, in fact the most famous soothsayer ever was Etruscan, he warned Julius Caesar of the Ides of March. Also, their script remains un-deciphered. In fact a lot of things from the Mediterranean and the Middle East are still a mystery, or at least not widely known in the west. But I digress.

Did you discover anything new about the cultures you looked at?

The urn invited me into their culture and I became fascinated and familiar with more scripts like Linear A which is also un-deciphered. In fact I began to look into how writing began. I must thank Joanna Drucker for that book on the alphabet, it’s a tour de force. http://marjorieperloff.com/reviews/druckwerks/

The Phoenicians were a group of people, called Caananites in the bible, who moved around the Med as influential traders. In fact they built Carthage. They hailed from modern day Syria and it was they who created the first alphabet at Ugarit. They would have helped the spread of the written word because of their movement around the Med. They would have come in contact with two islands which held the most power, known to us as Crete and Thera.  Thera was destroyed in a massive eruption and the tsunami from it would have been more powerful than that at Pompeii. It destroyed the power base of the Minoans and gave rise to the advance of Mycaenan Greece. This is of great importance for many reasons because yet another script remains un-deciphered, Linear A, from the Minoans. I believe that is more important than even the destruction of Pompeii because if we can ever decipher it it would tell us a mass about the ancient world which remains hidden.

So what did you decide to use as a ground for your words and images?

At first it was my intention to put the scrolls inside the pot inside a hexagonal box. I investigated the way scrolls were made, from Torahs to Kerouac’s On The Road in the British Library. On my way to see if there were any Buddhist scrolls that had been found in pots I became aware of the pothi form of book, which I saw on ‘Buddha Of Suburbia’ documentary on a monk who lived in England but went to search for missing potis in Mongolia. I saw stacks of shelved potis wrapped in cloth. I did find evidence of scrolls in pots in the Dunhuang project with thousands of them having been found in caves in China but I never pursued that link yet.

What did you learn from the project about making?

Ok so back to the pot. I asked Martin Bridges how I could best make it with my limited experience as a potter? He said Pete, it’ll have to be a coil pot.  So it is. It took weeks to make it as I could only do about 10cms a day owing to the weight and downward pressure of wet clay over a wide span, it would mis-shape if I loaded too much on. I used letter tools from Martin’s alphabet sets to impress the words from Kabir’s poem around the neck of my pot. So the word became ‘real’ if only in a negative form. I wanted the lovely colours and burnt look created in a raku firing but Martin advised against it, one firing at 1000 degrees was risk enough. Now I had my monster pot on which I left the ‘scratch’ marks used to bind the clay surface, which I had intended to smooth off but folk kept saying they loved it and some said it resembled a bee-hive and that suited my incorporation of the bee as a motif.

pot &2 scrols

Why did you decide to make clay tablets?

I was aware that the Sumerians had written early texts in cuneiform on clay tablets so I decided to create a poti in clay thus amalgamating two early forms of recording words. I condensed words for each ‘mystic’ from hundreds of pages of notes from my readings on them down to about 40 words on each. I based the layout on a Tibetan woodblock I possess. I used the same letter tools as on the pot. Once they had been fired I painted them in a colour code for each mystic. I made a wooden top and base on a band saw with Richard’s help. I wrapped it in a cloth Buddhist style. These I handed in with my pot onto which I had painted several hexagons but that was not well received by the markers at the half way stage so I would have to re-consider my design. By chance, which Jung calls synchronicity, I discovered the book about the Buddhist community at Ghandara who hid pots in caves with Karoshti scripts in them, in which there are several astounding, and so well rounded, pots with delicate shades of yellow ochre and pink on them which I decided to use as my pot re-decoration. Some debate had opened up about whether my first hand in constituted a ‘book’. Did it have ‘bookness’? This caused me to investigate how bookness is being defined in the present artist’s bookworld. My ideas had been fed by Joanna Drucker’s formidable work in the USA but now I began to look at what is happening in the UK. I had visited the Oxford book fair during year  one and seen wonderful books like the Barbarian Press. Since 1973 I was aware of the work of Dieter Roth as I had visited his subversive seminal show at the newly opened Hayward Gallery. A major exhibition of his collections of rubbish and films made during the final days of his life showing him sitting making books and prints was on at Edinburgh so I made sure I went up there to take part in the symposium about him attended by curators from big British galleries and some university scholars. This is all documented in my ‘notes’ for semester 3. Roth created ‘books’ on authors who offended him by boiling their books to a pulp and squeezing them into sausage skins as an obvious metaphor for waste products. I wrote an article which is to be published in the September 2013 ABYB putting my case forward that my pot and poti constitute a book. Sarah Bodman liked it and it has joined the debate raging around what Les Bicknell refers to as ‘bookness’.It seems that books take on as many forms as paintings do.

I see you went to the biggest artist’s book fair in the country, did you go for any specific reason?

At BABE Nancy Campbell had advised me on the layout for my scroll pages; an etching set to the left from which your eye could drift across right and find the words. Much better than an etching at the top and writing under it. I decided to do my drawings as brown etchings to signify old ink and the words would be chine colle of elephant font to match those words impressed on the pot in style, only this time I would be able to add lower case letters. These would be printed black with some key words picked out in red. The paper I used for the words was fine Japanese which gave problems when it came to trying to do them under the press with the etchings and I abandoned that idea as impossible. I then blind embossed a space in which I would later stick the words down with bookmaker’s glue. There are two copies of each scroll but every print has a different feel. I also did one set on half width Somerset paper which was to form the basis of the display book which visitors would be able to peruse on a lectern.  This ‘book’ I have bound inside a cover with leaves on it. I kept the pages unstitched as a set of prints but in a set sequence for purposes of telling the story.

So you decided to write a poem to relate their ideas?

I dug into my knowledge base about the six mystics when I went to the BABE show at Bristol’s Arnolfini organised by Sarah Bodman and began to write a poem which was supposed to have the same beat as the clay jug poem. Altho I moved off that beat I did come up with a typical Kennedy ‘poym’.Typing them up was the first stage of editing. I sent the ‘poem’ off to 4 friends who all found it too dense so I knew I had to re-gig it so that folk had roads into my thinking and ideas. Karen Harrison liked the reference to dance and said it reminded her of Keats’ ‘Ode to a Grecean Urn.’ Which must be good as it is about a pot. She talked of my interesting use of repetition. So I did a big re-write. Sent it back and this time it was deemed much better. I had my printer print off some words on Somerset paper with a Hesse illustration but it proved inadequate on his inkjet. I showed the result to Jayne Knowles who liked the width of it and likened it to holding a broadsheet newspaper. I liked her idea of placing something on each side for you to hold and experimented using bay twigs but decided there is a tremendous beauty in simply leaving the scrolls as rolled loose self-standing simple curled papers.

And how do you intend to exhibit all this stuff?

Returning to the focal point of my final show I had Lyn Clarke make me two hexagonal table bases on which I would place the clay tablets emanating from the pot like the spokes on a Buddhist wheel of life. These would be placed between the ‘spokes’ around the pot and would be echoed in the garden by six logs carved with the names of the visionaries. A symbolic light source would be suspended above the pot made into an Archimedean shape, I hope, that is a combination of hexagons and squares.

Do you intend to produce any outcomes which may be saleable?

Hey , did you know i have just published a new book?
Hey , did you know i have just published a new book?

I asked my printer to produce four new ‘publications’ from the work In my project: a cardboard facsimile of the clay poti which doubles up as a concertina book. An introductory book called G. BATCH telling newcomers to the project about some of the ideas that drove it. A Dieter Roth style ‘copy book’ called Enbuk in tribute to the first recorded story in history about Enlil in the Epic of Gilgamesh. A series of banners using the words of each mystic in large capitals in clashing colours similar to the thesaurus paintings by Mel Bochner. My article in ABYB follows in the footsteps of other artists like Smithson and Weiner who also wrote in periodicals like ‘October’ as part of their contribution both as artworks and critique. Originally I intended to make the banners in a pseudo Japanese style but then thought it would be good to have some really modern images. I did a talk in which I used masks and music to create a performance in which the audience will be sculptural parts and the whole will be filmed as another art statement.

When did that happen?

On Saturday August 3rd 2013 at 4pm in the Minories. And your questions will also be art.

You started by mentioning the incredible discovery you made last weekend?

And I have not forgotten. What was it? I was perusing ‘Scribes, Scripts & Books’ by Leila Avrin where I saw an hexagonal prism named after Sennacherib as it was made in his reign in Nineveh about 3000 years ago. It has cuneiform writing on each of its six sides. I could not believe it. This discovery had come to me BEFORE hand in. So I journeyed up to see if I could find it in room 55 of the British Museum. And there it was.

sens prism sm

About 45 cms tall. Now I know what I am going to make next, but AFTER my course is completed. I also saw a small section from a clay tablet ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ story in cuneiform. I shall do six more mystics on Peter’s Hexagonal Prism next. In fact it may be simpler to make an hexagonal prism ‘lamp’ to hang above the pot? I found heaven, whereabouts ARE known, here at home. Inside this old mug.

Since that talk I have done two ‘readings’ from new simpler versions of the poems. Then I simplified them some more and did a book called Inside this earthen vessel, launch date September 2014. Also David Jury and I have collaborated on a letterpress version where DJ prints the poems with an extra sub-text from my other poems. More about that in a blArt soon.

 

Meeting with David Jury, the secret work is out.

David Jury and me used to meet about once a month to chat over coffee. I showed him my new artist book preparation where I was putting my six ‘mystics poems’ onto the page each laid out in the shape of a pot. DJ was just completing an article about writers who did shaped typography and he was intrigued when he saw my new work. On reading them he liked the words and my form of presentation. Being a cheeky fella I asked him if he might write a small crit so that I could place it on the back of my book so that potential buyers may get a gist of what my words were about and he wrote:
“Pete Kennedy’s words are contained in six ‘Earthen Vessels’. But none of these vessels is whole, their bases, by varying degrees, are missing. In fact, it quickly becomes clear that all knowable laws are absent. So what is it that holds the words together?
The more you look the more you read, the more you read the more you look. Their occasional dramatic change of scale: ‘Namaste’ and ‘I Am a Buddha Now’ rightly dominate whilst their additional ‘weight’ causes them to slowly fall, like sediment, towards the bottom of the jar… that does not exist. These vessels are spine-tingling.” Follow that Pete I thought.
Shortly afterwards he suggested that maybe he could do a letterpress version of the poems as pots for his summer project, would I be interested?
Interested, I had been wondering how I could do a simple letterpress version myself to take to the Wayzegoose book fair in Oxford this October and I would be chomping at the bit to see the wayshegoes with DJ’s version and we immediately embarked. My offer to help with the mucky jobs was politely declined as DJ see the process as essentially a contemplative and private one. Miles Wigfield, chairman of the Oxford Guild of Printers, observes that this is not unusual amongst letterpress enthusiasts who like to work on their own. So he began.
The first print took several weeks to complete as DJ had to work out how to get the pot shape I had accomplished using Quark. He asked for one of my drawings of a nice shaped pot and said he’d use it as a kind of template to outline his layout. He was fascinated with the notion that the pot itself although hinted at didn’t ‘exist’. This was in keeping with his own readings of Buddhist books where everything is in fact an illusion. He liked the way the words seemed to accumulate like sediment in a vessel. Vessel is a word I had adopted partly because it denotes jug, jar, pot or any other container which the ancients may have used to protect their precious objects in. Going even further back earthen vessels would have been amongst humankind’s earliest ever artefacts. That age old play between what is attractive to the eye and useful as an object which peaked with the design of Concorde and began with the design of a bowl to drink or eat from, that mix of meeting the designer’s needs in terms of available or newly invented technologies and the users requirements was probably solved earlier in pots than in the drawings of woolly mammoths on cave walls. My interest in pots, triggered initially by my curiosty about the Dead Sea Scrolls opened out to discover that many communities from India to Afghanistan and later into China had incarcerated valuable objects and/or sacred documents in pots then either buried them or secreted them in caves. The first writings were cuneiform on clay too. This led to my desire to create words in the shape of pots because of its deep ancient resonance.
Take a look at a previous blArt I did for more info about my pots: https://apulhed.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/a-change-in-my-habits-i-am-giving-good-notice-of-an-event-for-your-diary/
DJ has a long time fascination with letterpress and has collected some old wood fonts which he had not previously been able to use. Now, with the change of fonts and their size in my work, he is able to blow the dust off and use them. This all benefits my writings for the pots which are always in flux anyway and now have been re-written, almost weekly, to fit the new needs of the collaboration. Working with DJ has been invigorating. Initially I had faced my own challenge to shape the words into pots now DJ took on the mantle for his versions and where I had merely increased the size of the Bodoni bold font to denote important words and phrases DJ began to use very differing fonts to his main Bodoni. I had used full stops repeated to make up some spaces in order that I did not have to re-write or add too much to my original ‘poems’. DJ pointed out that every space is potential for making a mark or statement, every space is valuable. He began to introduce strings of shapes to substitute my dots. He soon saw that the knots or strings were not adequate, didn’t look good. So, he said it’s a shame not to use letters in those spaces, maybe in a smaller font? To begin with he had tried using words like ah and om but that wasn’t enough. Maybe we can put in a ‘sub-text’, do you have any other poems we can use. Well yes, as it happened I was typing up and re-doing some other poems, poems I sometimes write about everyday things, thoughts and observations on the way my life is going or went or should have gone. Much simpler than the mystic poems which were the result of hundreds of hours of study and contemplation, writing and re-writing, reading to a ‘public’ re-appraising starting again and so on. Yes, that sounds great, send some to me and I shall see how they fit. And fit they did. So the first print now has a sub-text too which adds several layers of meaning which ever way you read them. The page as a whole now becomes a fascinating mix of visual and contextual meanings. You can read the poem in its original then the subtext or read the whole of it as one or don’t read it at all just enjoy the visual effect.
Soon enough DJ was wanting the words to break out of the sedimentary base of the pots which don’t exist. Another compositional device creating more interest, more possibilities to ‘play’ and arrive at more exciting results. By print 3 DJ started to turn some of the words upside down or reverse them, now they become multi-dimensional.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Poem one is inspired by the writings of Herman Hesse. Poem 2 by the life of the present Dalai Lama. Poem 3 is about the deep mythological interests of C G Jung.
Although I was unsure when to reveal to the eagerly awaiting world or artist book and letterpress enthusiasts news of our collaboration David had no such qualms and on Wednesday 30.7.14 he gave a talk to a small gathering of letterpress enthusiasts at The Waiting Room in Colchester (which I could not attend cos of my weekly commitment to Ballroom Dancing. One day I am hoping to replace Lewis Smith at the top of the podium, although I am not as athletic, young nor handsome as he I am determined to topple him. You know me, I never let a small challenge overawe my dreams). The talk was well received and I thank Clare Marsh for sending me these two images, one of DJ flying and one of two of the prints we have made already.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I haven’t asked DJ what it’s like working with me but the smile on his face speaks volumes.

Now, on 25th Aug 2014 DJ is nearly finished with his letterpress edition of six of my poems. Each one has gotten more adventurous and it seems he has had a wonderful time pushing the boat out and using wood type he has bought but never used over a number of years. we should be ready to show the world the outcome in September sometime. Each print has it seems come up better than the one before so much so that it seems the first one is almost conservative, almost staid. but not quiet, i mean quiet not quite!

watch out book fairs here we come; whitechapel-DJ’s table 1st

On reading Ezra Pound

Rhody O’Dourke once asked me, ‘Where do I stand-sit now in the world of mice & men? How’m I doing Now?’ I just told him shut up whilst you still can O’D man.

Well am reading Ezra Pound (£) (Agenda 21st anniversary issue) which made me smile where it said his name in Japanese made him smile as it means, ‘This picture of a phallus costs ten yen.’ That made him a Ten Cent Dick Head? Now when I try to read Pound I feel like some folk must do when they try to read me (poems like ‘Six mystics’). But. Nothing comes from nothing. So, to read my work you need to have done some, work. We begin (our development as ‘readers’, writers, artists) at the beginning and layers are laid as we progress or digress or impress. I believe seeing people who are ‘good’ at what they do doing what they do is vital.

On seeing Ken Campbell on stage, back stage, and elsewhere was like watching a diamond glint. His story about a rose by any other name is similar to that one above about Pound’s name.  I saw him at Brentwood theatre where he would run thru his one-man shows first before moving on to bigger venues like The Cottesloe, Festival Hall, London. It was called ‘Violin Time’ and he featured a beautiful Vietnamese violinist called Teo-Wa Vuong. He asked me to do a picture which he used as the climax of his ‘hilarious and mind-boggling trip’ but he gave me no notice and I didn’t even have paper the size he wanted so I stuck together several sheets of A4. He wanted an image of Teo-Wa with a rose between her teeth and one of himself bending down with a rose emanating from his person. He said ‘You are the artist, you can do this for me’. (I had done a drawing which he posed for at the Philip K. Dick convention a few years earlier, sold it to John Dowie at a knock down price) So this master story-teller built the whole show up and it ended with the revelation that Teo-Wa Vuong, when spelt correctly meant something like ‘A face like a beautiful rose’ but if just one or two letters were mis-placed it could mean, ‘A rose sticking out of my backside’. So he said I should draw him with a rose coming from his derriere. I said ok, you bend doon over thur and draw you I shall. So, he did bendoon. About 3 minutes later he said thet’s enough and stood up leaving me to finish it off from memory. I hadn’t completed it when his show began so I snuck in when it were fini and passed it down to the stage from the back of the theatre. He saw it coming and said, Oh, the post has arrived and put it down onstage til he were ready. Then at the end of his gig he delivered his punchline, ‘Here’s a picture of a rose sticking out of my backside’.  It brought the house down as all of Ken’s shows in his later life did.

ken campbell backstage sm kb

(Image of Ken Campbell outside theatre)

Talking of roses, Umberto Eco wrote The Name Of The Rose and funny as it may seem the book is not about Sean Connery and a young apprentice who chooses not to become a monk. It really is about Eco’s fascination with language. He is first and foremost a linguist and a great writer in the field of semiology (he makes Ferdinand de Saussure almost comprehensible!). His ‘Open Work’ is seminal in understanding the place of the arts in our world.

Now, what is so fascinating about the works of Ezra £, Ken Campbell, Eco, Joyce & me is we all ploy wit werds, make witwit wirdz and we cheep-cheap wit littul burds. As also spracht me ole mater matey, ‘If wit were shit you’d be constipated’, or was it consternated? Or complicated? Who me? Not likely me old tatoe-heed. Not that olde chessnot. Brendan O’Carroll (friend of O’Blart & O’Dourke!) what wrote ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ said, ‘If I kept me mustache. I’d look like me mudda.’ And strangely, Mrs Brown’s Christian name is Agnes, The Name Of My Own Long Lost Birth Mother.

And even stranger than that. I was thinking earlier today about a lovely song I heard whilst driving a few weeks ago on the radio, wondering if I would hear it again and it came on Steve Wright in the afternoon. It happen to be by a certain George Ezra (Not £) called ‘Budapest…a bidio’ or sumtin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xipvBh_yyl8

Time ferra poym on my nuisance called O’Blarty?

He’s got an artist’s eye but

Wishes he had two too toot tutu

He has a nostril for words

Smells words out with his nostril but

Wishes he had the nose you knows

Has an ear for a tune but

If he had one more he’d

Be able to write some toons too to to yu.

For those of you who don’t know my ‘what I do’, I once was an artis onceuponathyme, but am all reight now, now I want to make the words rythme too, but they rarely do, that’s so true. I am just designing a new ‘book’, ‘Inside This Earthen Vessel’,  which should be ready for the artist’s book fairs coming up down south in September and Octembre. (At ‘In The Chapel’ & ‘The Wayshegoes’ respectively, may see yu thur?) My printer did a copy on cream paper today, looks wonderful.

a jugman in a jug

But that’s six poems about six mystics, a re-write of the ones I did in my previous ‘book’ G Batch. I’ll get them right one day. They are kind of traditional poems in that they ‘make sense’, have a ring to them and use not a little esoterica. I have written more ‘mundane poems’ over many years, since 1969 in fact, ‘poyms’ which adhere to no rules at all really. Just words jotted together according to moments in my life. They look quite simple and they are. Mostly. A bit like an artist’s sketchpad where they try things out; colour, marks, textures. Just playing with the components, often getting things off my chest. The Mystic’s poems are so much more considered. I gone back to them and redrawn them many times and am still adjusting them. When you see Dylan Thomas at work, or just peep thru the window of that little shed hanging over the cliff side in Wales you see aman obsessed with words and their order and getting it right. Obviously I am not obsessed. I am not sitting here at 05.31 hrs typing up my thoughts on poetry, not me, that’s my nuisance Danny O’Blarty, he’s blooming well insane anyways up.

Kahil Gibran mentioned that poetry is where we juggle with words. And Walt Whitman was adding to and changing his Leaves of Grass all his days. I sometimes associate Whitman (Witmun) with A. Ginsberg as the latter would have read the former (the former would not have read the latter but he did address his poems to him, and all of us future readers). Also, it becomes apparent Ginsberg was present at at least one of Dylan Thomas’s New York readings and I bet his Howl was aware of Thomas. Nothing comes from nothing or as Blarty said, ‘Nuthin cums frum nuttin Nutini!’.

Having seen the ‘copy’ of ‘Inside This Earthen Vessel’ from my printer yesterday i think i shall be doing my ‘final’ print off soon as it does look great in that form. Later today I shall take the one he did yesterday and cut and fold it. I may need to tiddle about with where the ‘pots’ are laid in page but i think it’s almost ‘done’.

Arcade Fire did a wonderful show at Glastonbury. Magnificent. Inspiring. That mix of tight tension in their beat and the zany additions, altho I wish he would enunciate his words more, all I hear is sound, the lead ‘singer’ or should I say ‘drawler’ of Elbow also needs some sessions in speech therapy*. She had a bit of Bjork in there, and as hard as she sometimes is to ‘get’ Bjork must be a top ‘marker’ when it comes to performance.

Now there’s one who enunciates well, so well he pulls his mouth contortedly, Paulo Nutini. His set was sadly cut short but he is incredibly good.

*I had to have some sessions misen back in my teacher training days. They thought I mumbled too much to teach. Luckily the lady what took me had worked in Accrington#. She knew that in that area, they either bark their words seemingly quite aggressively or they speak in a soft mumbly way like what I did at that time. My daddy came from near Mumbles in Welsh Wales so no wonder I mumbly do or did. She taught me to enunciate like a brown cow now. But insisted I keep my accent. Sad that, I never was good at selling my wares.

# Accrington is part of greater Brunlea you know, they say they were all ‘pals’ during the First World War, I am preparing a little artisbuk on it for 2016.

And finally, I wer reading an old sanskrit poem and I thought I’d nick some ideas from it. It says, ‘the realities & truths of existence, the joy of growth, the splendour of action are there in one day’. I want to take that and apply it to some images I made from leaves this week. ‘The realities & truths of existence, the joy of growth, the splendour of action are there in just one leaf.’

spike leaf sm kb

Just one leaf, that’s all it took, yeh. Thank you Hollies, some of whom hailed from Brunlea you know, the drummer came from Pike Hill. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32VWELcZUMM

And that’s Graham Nash who went off and lived the dream in Los Angeles (?).

Shortly after I posted this blArt Brother Mungus* sent these kind words and a little poem: “I love the image of pottihed holding the membrane of the vessel, it is so modern in cartoon form and yet so ancient as well, you could imagine it also having been scratched on the clay 2000 years ago. Here’s a little ditty”:

Pottihed stands ajar
inside the earthen jug
his six-limbed body
holds the membrane tight
between spirit and form.

He sends out
his messenger bees
to learn and relay
the spirit from mind inside
to man outside.

MunGUS Walkerboy

Interesting, cos I related to the ‘jugheaded man in the pic. I see him as the man inside the pot etc. But he is also the man who made the pothis. Pothi man. Last year i mimicked the Eastern way of making books which they call potis or pothis. The difference with mine instead of using daphne paper shaped like papyrus leaves, I used clay with the words inscribed as they did in the earlier cunieform tablets  thus combining two ancient writing forms.

biscuit fired poti page*

and Mungus was an airy man. Funny, as i mentioned  my birt-mama  had me in Glasgui, which was the name given to it by its founder St Mungus and it means dear green place, which it is I remember.

http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3582