This is only part one of a blArt about my new Inside This Earthen Book-BoxITEB
Part 2 will follow in a few days with more images of the Book-Box
A while ago I wrote a series of poems to be printed as scrolls which I placed inside a big pot.
I called the project Inside This Clay Jug after a poem Robert Bly had recited after the original translation by Rabindranath Tagore of a 14th century poem by Kabir. I first heard the recital on the late a Jackie Leven cd. I loved it and was lucky to have known Jackie when he used another pen name, John St Fields. I loved his rendition of Inside This Clay Jug for years and was fortunate to get together with Jackie shortly before he died. The project was as much in memorium to him as it was a celebration of knowledge passed down in ancient times by communities who hid their precious writings in pots in caves or underground like the Nag Hamadi library and Buddhist pots found in Kandahar.
Recently I bound a copy of David Jury’s beautiful letterpress version of my poems in pots into a codex book.
Letterpress print version bound as a codex book
I only made two copies so far, one for me and one for DJ. And I have added a lovely little purple tassle to mine and sent it up to an international competition to see if they like it.
Whilst making the book I made a couple of extra cover and thought one day I’d make a book-box with one of em and put into it every incarnation of my poems for the Clay Jug Project about which I also published a book called G BATCH.
Now I know G BATCH is not the best name for the book, it’d be better named something like Inside This Clay Jug an Introduction. I preferred at the time to take letters from the names of the six men that my poems are about and as a group is also a batch called it a batch, G BATCH. The book is handmade in an edition of 50. It explains my ideas behind the project.
It also has the master drawing that I used for the etchings of the six men.
I re-wrote the poems and published about 3 versions of them, Inside This Earthen Vessel (ISEV) was one version wherein I did the layout of the poems in the shape of pots and when DJ saw them he suggested we collaborate on the letterpress version which he would print. Those prints of the poems are now quite famous. Back in 2014 The Poetry Library at Southbank exhibited their copy in the Open Show of that year. They were recently (June 2017) exhibited at Bath Spa uni as part of their symposium on Concrete Poetry.
I did do a ‘concrete poem’ with the names of the G BATCH, actually more a log poem:
Nowadays the bark is dropping off so I am going to recut the names a little deeper into the trunks to add to the poem’s lifespan along with some clarity.
Here’s some images of the Tenzin Gyatso (Dalai Lama) one when it was first cut.
Going back to thoughts https://apulhed.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/a-lifelong-friend/ on my old friend for 60 years Trev*, initially it would trouble me that my words don’t reach people like him but, on consideration, I have spent 48 years developing my words & ideas which he neither followed nor kept up with my path, why should he? I don’t understand his zone either, he was an accountant, I don’t do money, ask HMRC they’d confirm that. *Good news is Trev got in touch and said he enjoyed my last blArt.
Here’s the first viewing of one of the Apulhed Comix c.1977 that never got published in the 1970s. By 1979 I had created Happy Apulhed, a much more friendly, less eerie character.
When I was doing Apulhed comics at college in the early 1970s my old mates back in Burnley could explain my work was beyond their experience by saying, “Pete’s gone off to college and is full of new-fangled ideas, he’s just a bit strange but we can tolerate that because he’s…” Now nearly 50 years later I have further widened the gap. Not vindictively, just by osmosis, as a result of my endeavours but it still begs the question- If my art cannot reach ‘normal’ folk, am I missing the mark?
Nonetheless folk from all over the world do find my art interesting. yesterday I had hits from Vietnam and Sweden and my total views is fast approaching 10K. Some write and say I write well or the blog is good. But more, I feel that when I do any more Performance Art (PA) I’d need to be able to communicate or ‘get’ to the public’s minds whilst neither condescending them, nor demeaning my ideas of course. There would always be an elephant of surprise and an unsettling feeling in the outcomes I produce to keep the onlookers’ attention. Don’t want youse all falling asleep now do we?
I have been looking again at Verena & Andrea’s (Vest & Page) stuff in the vids on their website. http://www.vest-and-page.de/#!selected-works/caf0 They show by their astounding work that by comparison my work is a mere blot on the floor left by a PABaby in his swaddling bands. (‘Swaddling’ is an age-old practice of wrapping infants tightly in blankets or similar cloths so that movement of the limbs is tightly restricted. Swaddling bands were often used to further restrict the infant. At the moment I feel constrained as if by swaddling bands and only by ‘getting’ my work out there’ will I change my garment, or maybe relinquish [most of] them.) The good news is I’ve been invited onto the Book Arts Day for The Society of Bookbinders on Sat 5th March 2016 in little old London town to do some Performance Art. Right now I’m working on a new piece, ‘Brush’, using words from Colin Lloyd Tucker’s beautiful song ‘Brush’. My friends, the Townsend Twinsare helping choreograph the movement. I may also include a new rendition of Clay Jug after the beautiful poem by Kabir.
And ‘PABaby‘ is maybe another pseudonym for me as it cover the fact that I’m old enough in calendar years to be their grandpa yet in terms of my experience in the field of PA I’m just a baby. In fact whilst at IPA in October a lot of my work brought me, and indeed some observers, to tears. In my case because I was going back into my early experiences and re-living them and also seeing that at 64 years old I weren’t about to have certain experiences again and indeed the inevitability of the changes old age will bring also weighed down on me. I got my crying in first. Some watchers cried in sympathy, some because I touched a chord and others just cried cos they were incredibly tired after 8 days of full-on PA practice with a group of strangers to start with who fast became close bonds. I still find it so daunting to think of what is out there in the Performance Art field. But it’s silly to compare. It’s like comparing a little village’s pub band to the Rolling Stones but there again the greats do look at the new stuff coming thru and like V&P are very encouraging. My mate IEPW told me that David Bowie liked Arcade Fire so much that he requested to sing with them and they accepted his offer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6c9Ejfu-iU
When I heard of the death of David Bowie I thought to myself, they should have a day each year to celebrate him, maybe his day of dying would be the best day for an annual remembering of his creative, original and inspirational, trend-setting (in its purest form) life. Undoubtedly he did set trends.
The Dalai Lama has said, “Usually I don’t consider birthdays something important. In Tibet we consider the death anniversary more important. I think that’s quite wise. A person who made good contributions in life, then after [their] death, remember them in some anniversaries…as a Buddhist monk I believe every day is a new day, every day is birthday. The particles of our body momentarily changing, always become something new. Mental thinking, because of new knowledge & experience, also changes. So every day is a birthday. [If] we use our day in a proper way then the months & decades, whole life becomes meaningful. If you can help other, do it as much as you can. If you cannot do it, at least, restrain from harming others. That’s the essential of meaningful life.”
I’ll drink to that, nowadays my chosen drink is water.
‘May I be Nothing but the peeling of a lotus papering the distance for you underfoot. Tiny yellow bundles bursting like stars Like smiles And the laughter of the bells’ Said Patti Smith on reading her pome to the Dalai Lama commemorating his 6th july 80th birthday forthcoming. Then surprise surprise out he came at Glastonbury! http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e84mxj/live/c9wrbp He cut a cake full of fresh fruit. Then walked out front and did a speech, “We all want a happy life Each new day Birthday In order to be more happy day Keep here (points his chest) More Compassion It creates Honest, Truthful Transference And Trust We are social animals Friendship does not come thru money” Then he let Patti kiss his forehead and he blessed the crowd and was led away.
Patti did a great set, especially her ‘Horses’ and Sir Van’s ‘Gloria’. Other highlights for me were Mike Scott & his new Waterboys. He sang a song about Kerouac & Cassady. He is on the track by Jackie Leven that inspired my Clay jug series. Seems we sing from the same songsheet only I don’t sing/can’t sing. I loved the masks they wore. Also ‘Goat ‘ wore great masks too. I thought my masks were good, but now I must return to the mask-board. Here’s one I made earlier, The Squidgerat King.
In fact I ain’t got no time to mek masks right now am making books and stuff ready for BALTIC bookfair in a couple o weeks. http://balticmill.com/whats-on/artist-event/artists-book-market
Some Implications of seeing Gyatso at Glasto
I seem to have had ‘some deep realisation, some moment of realisation’ (Miller) but be wary too, cos the Dalai Lama warns that nothing is permanent nor as it seems. (And I must thank Auntis BeBe Cee for the use of images they projected to the world over iplayer. Mere fleeting moments of my joy not just watching Patti Smith and her white haired band perform so ‘strongly’ as the Lama put it but also the shock & glee at seeing the man known to his people as The Ocean of Wisdom appear in person at Glasto (something I have never done, altho I did go to its inspiration, The Bath Festival 1970).
Now let me delve deeper. Overnight I slept on what the implications are of seeing two folk I have much admiration for, Patti Smith & Tensin Gyatso, together on stage, two such apparently diverse lives and styles. Like Rabindranath Tagore reportedly said, ‘You and I are artists Dilip, not yogis by temperament.’ So Patti the artist and Gyatso the yogi meet! I had picked up a book I read (reed) but never finish, DALAI LAMA- THE CHANGE INITIATOR published in Bombay 1993 and written in almost pigeon-English by two (very) Indian men, Dr Bhaskar Vyas & Dr D V Nene. Their turn of phrase is of course from their cultural background, their use of English is not quite ‘correct’ but still better than my use of Indian, cos I don’t use it at all. Nevertheless they have written pretty profound stuff and my almost chance picking up this book to browse again has led me to a personal realisation which I shall inform you of. If you can come with me and ‘get’ what am about to try to reveal then you’ll maybe agree it is special. If you are too busy etc, then so be it. Patti’s first line was ‘May I be Nothing’, immediately I thought about Nothingness, termed in India as ‘Sunyata’ the experience of peace, devoid of any content. Also Sunyata is defined as pratit-yasam-utpada dependant arising which the Dalai Lama says is the way everything depends on everything else, nothing is not interconnected. In fact EVERYTHING JUST IS. And in fact every no-thing ‘just is’ too. OK bear with me. Our Indian authors Vyas & Nene in a very short passage in the book mention several renowned spiritual leaders in quick succession, I shall quote directly as it is complex and you will need to read thru several times but for me it makes so much sense: ‘… is best explained in modern [the] modern astrophysical term of ‘Black Hole’. This is where the entire Universe is collapsing into; and all that goes into black hole is reduced into such a density that is hardly exists at all but then the black hole might also be the originator of “new universe” at the other end of it. Sunyata is like a black hole. All phenomena collapse into it and it becomes nothingness; yet, it gives rise to all the phenomena as we see them. Action within or action without ultimately may mean nothingness. But at the same time, it is action that characterises life. We may therefore choose as to what kind of action we may take recourse to, but act we shall have to, so long as we are alive.” Interestingly the Dalai Lama commented on Patti’s form of action whilst he also mentioned her age vis her and group players’ white haired bonnets. He seemed tickled pink by her powerful voice and the strength of her actions (at her age). Then Patti said his voice carries much further than hers. Such mutual respect from so diverse natures. Gyatso is so considerate of others’ feelings yet Patti seems to ride her rude horses slipshod over accepted norms as she swears cusses and spits her way thru her set both are masters of illusion. Neither are what you seem to see. He looks meek yet is strong like a mountain yak. She looks hard yet she’s such a soft internal spirit. I saw her at the Blake society give a speech-reading-recital-sing her own poemsongs and those of Blake. She was so intimate with the audience, so loving and gentle. You must watch it on iplayer.
ps I have decided to send this out to all of youse who are starring at the forthcoming Artists’ Book Market at BALTIC where I have a table under my title Apulhed Originals. I have done ‘Apulhed’ since I created him in 1971, he’s like a weird Rupert/Tin Tin/Snoopy character created to carry my ideas & explorations in graphic form altho nowadays he only makes cameo appearances like in the header above. Apulhed was my alter ego and companion thru the early days of my writing and art-making. I look forward to meeting some of yez at BALTIC.
I hope nobody gets upset at my ‘networking’ to my fellow table holders at BALTIC but I come from the same generation as Pattis Smith and we got the balls to get out there and tell it. But I do not condone spitting on stage, am not going to do that, there’s a limit!
You have a new ‘book’ Inside This Great Jug out in time for BABE, why?
Well, I wanted to complete the cycle of artist’s books which emanated from my love of that poem by Kabir Inside This Clay Jug. It’s the third version of the poem(s) and the last changes which I shall ‘publish’ as an artist’s book in an edition of 25. Although the Beuys’ poem I shall be doing at BABE has already been changed several times since I completed Inside This Great Jug. I have a version which I intend to use at BABE now and that is it! No more alterations or ‘improvements’! And I am shewing that to nobody before BABE, except in spoken form, in practice.
So it follows on from and develops the poems in your second book in the series, Inside This Earthen Vessel. What then is Inside This Earthen Vessel (ITEV) about Pete?
It’s about spiritual harmony, peace on Earth, goodwill, humankind(ness). It’s about some (6) humans who sought to find harmony & answers then share their ideas (whose names make up the title of an earlier book in the series G BATCH)
A Angeli Silesi
T Tenzin Gyatso
C Carl Gustav Jung
H Hermann Hesse
(As it happens only one of them, Tenzin Gyatso the Dalai Lama, is still living in his human body, the others still live on in the ideas they left for us).
ITEV is a search for peace and harmonious existence. It shows six men who pursued practices which encapsulated a vision of what life can mean and how to prepare for leaving the mix of sorrows and joys of this mortal coil…foil…toil…. Coiling, swirling, twisting, trickstering, mysterying, and most of all it’s about dancing to the sound of the Cosmos, to the sound of one hand.
I have made the words in the new version, Inside This Great Jug, are a bit easier for the casual onlooker to understand which will be important if I am going to read any of them in the Arnolfini to people who may never have met me nor seen my work before. The images are also a bit brighter in Inside This Great Jug as I’ve made the portraits more colourful. Whereas ITEV is a more complex package with the layouts of its poems being in the shape of a pot and the pages remain unbound but kept in a little folder. Inside This Great Jug is a concertina folded book with a cover. And it’s a dinky tiny thing which people seem to like and they are calling it ‘pocket size’.
I notice there’s one poem which is very different from the other six?
Yes well that’s from the collaboration I did with David Jury who took the words from ITEV and reset them in his letterpress version. We edited the poems and even added a subtext. That odd one out is from that version of ITEV. It’s handy really because I chose to have it in this new book cos am doing a reading of it in the ‘talk’ at 4pm on Sunday 12th April. Most of that ‘talk’ will feature the life and work of Joseph Beuys because he is the most artist-like of the six men in the poems and of course it’s being done in an art gallery. I won’t be ‘talking’ all the time I hope to be able to answer any questions that folk bring up although it’s only scheduled for 20 minutes. Then I guess they’ll be rushing back to pack their tables if they are fellow stall-holders. Visitors should have an hour to make final purchases and walk, float or fly out of the gallery, depending how they feel after watching my gig! They may even dance all the way home.
My old mate Duncan recently sent his summary of my Clay Jug Project. I chose to emphasise the words which are emboldened:
I’ve been thinking about where you have arrived at with your Clay Jug project ……
You are now presenting and embracing a set of representations of communications of knowledge from six chosen mystics.
In the beginning was the word and yours is represented by the Jackie Leven chant of Kabir’s Inside This Clay Jug , a memory of the oral tradition of conveying knowledge.
Your presentation contains the vocal tradition through poems, complemented by spiritual dance and music in order to enhance the meditative experience; this is a time before the word was conveyed by writing.
Your clay jug containing scrolls represents the first forms of conveying words.
Your self-made books are a next step in the man’s way of representing knowledge, illustrated by drawing and symbols.
Then, you move to type-set books and try and preserve the original energy of the dancing communications, through layout and emphasis.
Even though you can view this as a historic progression of representing the written word, you are trying to maintain and enhance the meaning and rhythm of the original thoughts and vocal communication of the mystics in all its forms together.
You can view your project as a complete set, with no linear sequence, of the different forms of conveying the knowledge of the mystics, they are presented all together and intertwined, so giving more emphasis to the wisdom of the words and the form does not detract too much from the words.
Your presentation and artefacts created, deliver a dancing pageant of art representing the communication of the knowledge of the mystics through the changing forms of communication.
Duncan Walker (14.2.15)
Duncan has been a friend of mine since we met while playing football for the school team in 1961. He has kept a close eye on the way my art and ideas has developed since we were at school. Another old friend who I met in 1969, Ian Woolard, tried to put a comment on this blog last week. He filled in the form on the blog and pressed send, but it never came through. I wonder if that happens often? I mean, there was about a 20% return in ‘views’ from the folk I notified last week, which is great, but never do I get any comments, which should be coming in if only by law of averages. IF you have commented on my blogs and never got an acknowledgement from me then that would be cos it never showed up in my domain. So, you should make comments in emails maybe, then if you wish me to add them to the blog just say so and if I can bear the view expressed I shall add it in. Ta.
I saw that today, 17.2.15, someone had been studying my blog archives and looked at 22 ‘articles’ one of which was this one about what constitutes a ‘book’ I have added some illustrations of books I have made and think it is a good time to reblog this post as it is about what the limits are in ‘bookness’, if there are any. Take a look at Anselm Kiefer’s books if you want to know the limit. There’s lots of folk out there who are befuddled about what the term ‘artist’s books’ refers to who ask me to ‘define’ them which those in the field know is impossible as there are as many variations to what an artist’s book may be as there are artists and others out there to create them so the best way I use to describe them is that they are like paintings, in other words they are whatever the maker can dream up
See blArts below the first is mostly about my creation Apulhed, the second is mostly about my book G Batch.
My first article is due out today in Artist’s Book Year Book edited out of UWE by Sarah Bodman.
I wrote it because I was astounded to find at the end of the 3rd semester of a Master’s Degree course that one of the assessors understanding of what constitutes an ‘artist’s book’ seemed rather, let’s say, antiquated. He was not entirely alone with his view so I decided to take an stretch on what makes or constitutes ‘book’ or ‘bookness’.
my clay pothi book
In the article I look at ‘books’ before the codex bound book which predominates the shops today. I look at cuneiform tablets in ancient Assyria & Ur, the Tibetan ‘pothi’ book form, scrolls and some modern artists books which become ‘book-sculptures’, I show examples of my own take on the 3 forms. So, I put my money where my mouth is and make a…
I am not a Buddhist per se Percy (if that is your name?). I am interested in the ideas of Buddhism but I am also interested in football and rock & roller which does not make me a footballer nor a Rolling Stone. The Dalai Lama is the living one amongst my ‘Six Mystics’, men of ideas who moved human cultures forward (to what I am unsure but to a better understanding of why we are here and to whence we are heading would help), which feature inside my Clay Jug Project. I say project, it’s fashionable to call a plan or a dream a ‘project’ because although it began as a topic in my MA studies it was in fact ongoing before that and it won’t leave me alone. Each of my six mystics has led me on in some way down the path of knowledge and each has signposted some area of ‘ideas’ which I have explored. So Joseph Beuys inspires my ‘performances’, not only because when I don a trilby there’s a slight resemblance but because he had so much gall and you gotta have loads of galls if you’re ‘performing’ art. Also he was a reject. His college did not like his ideas so he created his own college and basically had a ‘sit-in’ at the old Institution and his creation became more widely known than the Institution and maybe more influential on folk like Anselm Kiefer and others. Beuys may appear an odd one out in my 6 mystics but he was deeply into the spirit of ancient Celtic culture and each of the ‘mystics’ is into the spiritual in some way. I have always had this feeling that there is more to life than the everyday necessities. I looked up to the sky at 5am today and it was cloudless and thousands of stars were glittering in the darkness. There’s wonder out there and when you listen to Jung you see there’s wonder inside you too. Most of my mystics say that that wonder is divine. Or like Beuys they are driven by it. Hesse looked to the East for inspiration then he built the ideas from Eastern cultures into his books alongside his knowledge of western monasticism which itself was from the East- Egypt, India etc.
In a way I am talking about grace and empathy, skills I hope I am learning as I grow old-er. My one big example is the Dalai Lama who passed by me several years ago and O I was lucky to get a wonderful snap of him.
I intend to do some more artworks based around him in the not too distant. I did one awhile back and donated it to the Tibet Society and they were so unimpressed by it saying, ‘In Tibet we have a tradition of making images which goes back hundreds of years. We don’t do Impressionist works.’ So there. Get back in yer garret Peter. Here it is. I was quite proud of it.
I copied a photo of some mountains in Tibet with fields running toward them. The stripes running vertically at the back of the mountains are…more higher mountains, and that for me is a portrait of life. I climbed to the top of my mountain, passed my B/Ed degree, and found there was more to do. Now I got an MA too, and a few other things and I have stopped looking for mountains to climb. Not that I am tired, cos I am, but I have decided to enjoy the view more. Am looking back on my life and seeing what I achieved, sharing it with youse, and of course I shall continue to output. But let me show you this where I took one of the mountains and placed an image of the Dalai Lama back in his own country. With a Tibetan wheel of life too. He’s pointing out that behind that mountain is a bigger one and behind that, infinity.
I saw him on tv one night and I took out my paints and I created this
Which am using in my new mask for BABE in April. Am creating a new book with six re-worked masks in and six re-worked poems from G Batch & Inside This Earthen Vessel. One of the most impressive performances I have seen in all my days was the Tashi Lunpo monks doing Tibetan dance and music with these astounding costumes on. I won’t be wearing any costumes like theirs. In fact the skills employed in making them go back hundreds of years.
I am reading a wonderful little book by the Dalai Lama called ‘The Way To Freedom’ in which he explains a lot of the Tibetan Buddhist idea rather well. And I love the image on the cover where he’s got his hands clasped.
I went there on the day he opened the Peace Garden in the Imperial War Museum and I did a drawing for the Tibetans of him and the circle in that garden but they turned it down when I offered it to them. Once again it didn’t fit their ideas. No offence taken.
He’s in his tall yellow hat holding a Tibetan book called a pothi and overlooking the Peace Garden. And I got a yellow hat like what he wears, but I just look stupid in it, innit? Om Man
I have a BIG blart about a local much maligned gallery (of Colchester fame) forming in the pipeline but I need to wait for some replies to enquiries I am making so altho impulse wants me to do it this week the wise, calm strong steady side of me says WAIT. I come not to malign this gallery but to praise it. There’s been enough malignations hitting it already. It needs support and help to develop a better public profile and I’d like to help even more than my occasional blogs about it in the past may have done. Watch this blArt.
*What’s a blart? It’s my bl…Art. my blog, my blathering on, my blaggart.
I stayed at home all day which gave me time to think, to mend a bolt on a gate, chop some wood, scythe some weeds and wash some dishes, twice, and look at some autumn leaves then notice the new thin crescent moon. I did not go for my regular swim, gym, yoga or ought like it but I forgave myself saying you can mend a bolt and all that stuff.
My blArt don’t get millions, neither thousands* nor hundreds o ‘views’ but tens is quite fine by me. 25 views yesterday and several folk wished me an ‘appy Day on my 64th. *Actually my 97 blArts have had 4352 views (average 45 per post) now in about 13 months! TANKS A BUNCH We do have to make the most of all our days cos we never know when the finger will beckon or as Lennon once put it, ‘we move from one car into another’, as he moved from his bullet riddled old vehicle into his new disguise. Of course I ‘get’ that Buddhist ting about acceptance and letting go but am not really into their idea about not leaving a mark as a result of our endeavour. Shakyamuni (Buddha’s tribal title) left a considerable mark and his influence is impacting on my thoughts 2500 years after he released from his human frame. Of course I would like my traces to be predominantly positive and full of humour, laughing, like Chesterton said, at the world’s great jest. So, here’s a little ting in which I am going to appropriate some more famous folks’ words and after Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’ I’m calling this, an appropriation* poem:
Neil Young guesting in DW’s band not playing my ‘Song To My Self’
I was scouring the shelves in the Saison Poetry library at Southbank and came across a poet man called John Peck, and I wish for you to see some of Peck’s words in his poem about existence ‘Anasazi, Ancient Enemies’
I think Peck is talking about the eternal links that exist throughout all time and all things and maybe the need for mutual care and consideration.
Hopi kachinas at Mesa Verda
http://www.cliffdwellingsmuseum.com/anasazi/digging-deeper-into-the-anasazi/major-anasazi-region-and-sites The reference to Anasazis recalls the mysterious people who built those cliff dwellings in Arizona. Peck is harking about how many things are interlocked even though we are unaware of the interconnectedness. He more importantly talks of the mystery of life. ‘One needs to feel the tug of the draft [or waft?] on skin, the drag of process utterly anciently itself… streaming through us, ageless winds’. Here is he referring to the timeless, or eternal, passage of ‘existence’ which goes back to the Big Bang and maybe beyond? And ‘streaming through us, ageless winds’ like neutrinos stream thru you as you sit NOW this minute, time, or rather the process of existence, streams on thru us, we are inextricably linked into EXISTENCE, that and maybe that alone is the miracle. We are here. You are there, wherever you are, some of you who read this are in India, Kazakstan, Japan. We are where we are, we are part of it. Namaste.
A Collaboration between Pete Kennedy & David Jury.
This is a meeting of two minds. Between us we’ve been ‘doing’ art for 90 odd years. Well, odd in my case, meticulous in DJ’s. For David is an artist whirler when it comes to working a press with his tweezers teasing new meanings from my words.
So to begin, David loved the words in my Inside This Earthen Vessel which I brought to him after I had laid them out in the shape of typographic pots. Mine was a series of six concrete poems in which I had put the typo into the shape of a pot in an edition of 50. Some ‘important’ words I had enlarged. My version is basically ‘unaltered text’ typo speak, and can be read as a ‘book’. So, David thought the words were ‘spine-tingling’, the typo form was of interest to his present investigations into words typed/laid out in the shape of things and he obviously had a hunch that he could do something substantial with them in letterpress. It became his summer obsession.
David saw possible developments out of the idea and wanted to go much larger, with an edition of about 30. The collaboration is ‘altered text’ and with a sub-text in a smaller font can be read in at least two ways, and more. The ‘sub-text’ came about because I had left gaps between words in order to create the pot shape. DJ saw that as a waste of valuable space which letters could fill.
David also edited some of my original words out in order to fit the pot shape, he asked me to produce a second text of a totally different nature to the main text for the sub-text and we would arrange and agree which words to include or exclude.
Poem One, featuring Hermann Hesse.
The first poem is about Nobel Prize winning writer Hermann Hesse in a magical (impossible in real time) meeting with a monk named in early Buddhist scripts called Dhona who is reported to have lived during the time of Buddha and to have made his acquaintance. Why not add a ‘sub-text’, one that works as a foil or counterpoint for the main mostly ‘serious’ original text. Add mainly more mundane words maybe with some humour? I threw some of my ‘everyday’ poems at David and he would select words which added to the other text in a smaller and differing font. They can be read separately but also alongside and within the main text thus giving a third series of potential readings. To gain a fourth series (like Gurdzhiev?) DJ began to use wood types he had collected long time but never been able to use, these BIG letters add more readings especially as he began to cut words in two and eventually even saw letters in half! But I move too fast. In poem one he was fairly close to my original, just using larger letters at the foot of the poem.
In writing Siddhartha HH brought the story of the young prince Shakyamuni to the West in a masterwork. Remember when he wrote it there was no internet, ideas were slow to travel. When I wrote the poem I enlarged the size of some ‘important’ words. DJ was to take this on and develop it. His first attempt took many ‘takes’ before he managed to set the type in the shape of the pot and work out the rhythm of the words. He stuck closely to my original. He liked the idea that the pot was not drawn, so it was only there in the shape of the words which seemed to set on the bottom as sediment. This settling was assisted by some words being bigger which not only added more weight to the page but also to the meaning. In doing the poem I had realised that Buddha, the first Buddhist, was saying to a monk from an earlier faith (Vedan?) which believed it impossible to leave the wheel of rebirth, that he had discovered how to get off the wheel (of ‘Samsara). This, in its day, was revolutionary! I assume that Dhona became a follower as he is quoted in early Buddhist texts as an advocate of Buddha’s ideas.
Poem Two, featuring The Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama fled his homeland when it seemed Maoist Chinese wanted to ‘disappear’ him, like they did over a million Tibetans since his departure. I know there are millions of good folk in China, it’s just that the ones who rose to the ‘top’ were not that benevolent towards others who did not agree to their hegemony. Reports of the way China has stripped Tibet of so many things are horrendous although I have no (dare not, I am natural born a chicken) like Lennon sang been there to ‘See for Myself’. Incredibly, the Chinese rebuilt many of the temples their predecessors destroyed in the 1950’s and use Tibet’s old religion as a tourist attraction now despite it being a crime to carry pictures of the Dalai Lama, it is said.
I was lucky to be able to attend, along with Sting, Richard Gere And Jimmy Nail, the grand opening by the Dalai Lama of the Tibetan Peace Garden in the Imperial War Museum (sic) grounds in London.
Sadly, when I re-visited it for the first time recently it was devoid of visitors. Does that show how much interest there is in peace in the world? I mean, the museum was so packed to the rafters with visitors to the new memory of the First World War I couldn’t buy a ticket to get in that day, yet nobody was with me in the Peace Garden! No actually, I prefer to think it’s because everyone is too busy and has no time left in their day for contemplation, that includes me. I only touched base then scurried off after a few minutes scooting round the beautiful garden.
Poem Three featuring C G Jung (hey, A Jung in a jug!)
Jung was a Gnostic and he wore a ring with a G on to prove it. In my poem I have him ‘Dancing with Sophia’.
Sophia the Gnostics believe is the partner of the entity that created ‘gods’ like the one in the Jewish testaments. That entity did not want a material world created, it was satisfied with the existence of non-being (spirit?) or Void. The Void being the ‘real’ world with ‘materiality’ (our form of existence), becoming a digression, an interruption, a problem. My analogy of Jung dancing with Sophia indicates his interest in Gnostic ideas which were around at the time of the Nicene Creed when the new canon of the Christian church was decided in the rule of Constantine the Roman Emperor. My reference to Pachomius is about a monk whose community had collected books from all of the known world, including India, and had to bury them to avoid the persecutions of one Athanasius who wanted to kill all heretics. Heretics had not been heretics until the Nicene Creed decided that their ideas were now outside the canon!
Metanoia and Nekzia are terms which Jung used to describe the dark part of the world where humans are sent to experience a rebirth of ideas. It is an old idea that the darkest hour comes before the dawning. Orpheus went into the underworld to find his love etc. before Enlightenment comes the dark abyss must be reconciled.
That is an insight into my thinking in the first three poems. Next blogart ting will be the poems 4-6, here is a taster of the new DJ poems:
words & image (c) pete kennedy 2014/print (c)David Jury 2014
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The activities of Pete Kennedy, Performance Artist Bloke, Book Creator & retired artist.