Just gate-crashing two ‘parties des chimpanzes’ doesn’t make me a member!
I give up. No, that does not mean I am giving up but I am stopping chasing & struggling to get ‘noticed’, the forlorn hope of breaking thru into the in crowd (who wants to rub shoulder with the likes of Blokeney, Ermine, Buerst and all?) in the ‘gallery’.
In 1975 when my assault on the walls began I could maybe have been called an angry young man cos they wouldn’t give my work the light of day even tho many folks loved my product. Then, over the tears you realise ‘they’ don’t know more than nor even as much as you, they just (maybe, probably) went to the right school, just like the politicians who run the show. And talking about the right schools. I have a bone to pick with the Bodleian. (Ian Watmore on leaving his post of CEO at the ‘dysfunctional’ F A is reported to have referred to it as a chimpanzees’ tea party, which is similar to what I saw in the two Oxford places I visited this weekend. Only chimps are invited to tea, not chumps like me!)
The wayzegoose book fair was a pretty useless flop for me and Wendy, except for an opportunity for me learning what i need to do to improve etc, no sales. Overall Oxford trip wer a good experience really, with some downs. Had to fight toot & tail to get into Bodleian on a reader’s card. And altho there are Kafkaesque aspecs to the Bod set up, once inside the Bod I was treated really well by the librarians who ran around showing me how to find things. I also have to thank Alan Brown for all his help getting me information about the collections and the way in! I LOVED seeing some of the Rot then Keifer buks, I now KNOW where my main thrust must be in future. Collaboration with DJ will no doubt bring more out of me in that ‘ancient’ vein if he can stand the strain of working with this idiot, but my next few buks are a return to my theme of original, surreal and unsettling subversive stuff. I see myself as an under-miner, a sapper really, but do those I sap see me as a sop? That’s good cos i can catch them unawares. Funnily i got 4 ‘likes’ overnight (6 now, thanks to all of yez that ‘liked’ this blArt!) for a pretty wingey blog, plus one ‘follow*’, all of which adds to the circle I am creating of interested parties. Thanks Maureen for saying this is humourous & informative too!
* You know if you press ‘follow’ you’ll get notified (not certified) of all my future blArty bits. Tread carefully won’t you. It appears 34 folks out there follow this heap o’ thorts. Tank yez all, makes me feel good too. Makes me feel that all the effort what goes into doing this weekly blarting is getting thru, at least to 34 folks in this wide wonderous werld.
The Poetry Library at Southbank will be displaying the collaboration book in November. Altho there is a question flying around, can you see it? Is it a book? Is it a Blogger? Is he a Flybyniter? Or is he just a Fly Writer or a Flawed Bloke Flying by the Seat O’ his Pants? Well, the question whether my book of poems done with DJ is a book or not is surely already answered in the article I did for The Blue Notebook Vol 8 No 2, April 2014 Lucy Lippard’s Activism and Artists’ Books Activate Me. ‘To codex or not to codex’ that is the question Lucy Lippard’s loose leaf catalogues helped me solve. The article considers the need or no need to bind sheets to make a book. It comprises a brief summary of Lippard’s talk Exhibition Histories on 11.04.13, a consideration of B. S. Johnson’s book The Unfortunates, the work of Don Celender in the BABE show in Bristol’s Arnolfini in April 2013. Also, an introduction to some of my own artist’s books some of which incorporate loose leaves.’
My boxed artist’s book called Apul-Gold Metamorphosis with careful attention to font size as well as considering paper, dimension and feel. It has alternate card and semi-transparent pages. The box is black with gold around the edges resembling an old bible but when opened it is more like a jewellery box with felt surrounds and gold ribbons.You can turn the loose pages which are, ironically, sequential because the holes in each page grow gradually to reveal a golden (moulded plastic) page with words on sculpted from twigs making the ‘word’ material or ‘real’. Behind this sheet is the final surprise, a sculpture of Apulhed.
Left- concave sculpted face, right- word as material object, on penultimate page.
Also my most recent book adorned with castor oil leaves on front and back which opens like a ‘normal’ book but inside houses seven prints in a pouch which are ‘bound’ in place by two strips of leather. All of the materials used were carefully considered to show textures and colours which resonate with the subject matter inside- the story of six mystics and their words (which is a precursor to the new books ‘Inside This Earthen Vessel’) kept in a pot like the Nag Hammadi scrolls .
Both of my bookartobjects were made with the clear belief that books do not have to be bound nor sequential which Lucy’s catalogue laid the foundations for with Johnson’s book adding more weight to the idea being published as a book in 1969.
So am trying to say the codex ‘bind’ was a late entry, there were other forms of bind long before it; potis, copper rings (we used brass rings to ‘bind’ the new one at Whitechapel), scrolls, metal amulets, steles just to name a phew!
The Bodleian is an amazing ‘national’ collection not open to hardly anyone, not even scholars like myself unless they can prove they cannot access the stuff they wish to see anywhere else. Now there’s a ting. If you have an ISBN on a book you have to send a copy (free) to the Bodleian (and several other libraries), but we (plebs) cannot gain entry to the Bodleian yet it houses an uncanny stock of mint condition books, as you can imagine, cos if you have an ISBN on a book you have to send a copy (free) to the Bodleian! So the Bodleian houses several books of mine yet under normal conditions I cannot access that library. I did after several phone calls and lots of bits of paper manage to gain entry for two days which was the saving grace of my weekend in Oxford. So after all I am pleased I left a donation for their collection of my new book, Inside This Earthen Vessel, although I really wanted to show it to Alan Brown first before the woman who allowed me a 2 day pass whipped it away rather hastily before telling me that I had to pay for the privilege of entering the collection. Now my book sells at £15 and I tink she was after £6, and I pointed out that there is a hardship clause in the rules and I am hard-shipped (I have no wage, no income source, that’s not a weep it’s a fact). “Do you have evidence of your benefits, entitlements & allowances?” No cos I don’t claim any but all I have is a small pension, which in fact obviates any entitlement i may have. I wouldn’t wish to have a state handout any how, I prefer my freedom to be poor yet not have to look over my shoulder to see if any ‘benefits spies are watching me. As it appens, Citizens Advice worked out that because i have a small pension I would only be able to get £12 a week from the state even though I was eased out of my 10 year job cos my body had contracted RA, no not the other chimp’s party at the Woyal Acawemy, no I got Rheumatoid Arthritis and after its worst stage was over and a series of heinous drugs had given me ‘remission’ I would not be able to hold a teaching job with all its stresses and strains and i wouldn’t get one anyway cos am too old and am nearly 64 which made me not old enough to gain a reader’s pass free umph, am not bitter I stopped drinking 3 yearns agonow am back on dandelion & burdock. “Doesn’t count cos here its 65 and I can see from your d o b yer under age you’re only 63”. Well am 64 in a couple of weeks. “Doesn’t count”. So I said maybe I should charge yer fer me buk? “But you just gave it to us”.
the bug in me
However, I spent several hours perusing books which very few had looked upon, so I s’pose I should be happy. For example, a 1966 copy of Dieter Roth’s Mundunculum, numbered 1 of an edition of 122, seems like it has never been opened. Intriguingly this copy has been given a dark blue traditional hard back cover, so totally unlike anyting Rot did, so far out from his way of working that it’s actually good! It’s a bit like be-knighting Michael Jaggerd. You see, Rot is his name and Rotit is his nature. Rot the lot of it seems to me to have been his modus. He undermined everything, even his own work. Picasso did the same. Only Rot’s Progress was unchecked. His earliest work was exquisite, much like Vasarely, with words as concrete poems thrown in. Not a lot of people know that, or care, cos as time went by Rot’s own denigration thru his work of his work stuck and others, those who decide the canon, couldn’t ‘get’ him so they ignore him, so you don’t tend to see Rot next to Appolinaire and Picabia in the annals of concrete poetry(?). And anyway that’s the way he would have wanted it, I tink. He undermined, he dug the dirt, he pretended to be ‘logical’ like Wittgenstein but in fact he was being anarchic like fluxus.
mind Rot don’t trip yu up doon Logic Lane
His Mundunculum says it has a correlation tween sign & letter, but does it? And when it does he undermines that too by giving it extra layers. I think I know what drives an artist tinker to be so unhelpful, I do it myself, we don’t wish to be understood I think I know what drives an artist tinker to be so unhelpful, I do it myself, we don’t wish to be understood and if in a moment we feel some are understanding it we shift. I know it’s stupid but I can’t help it. It is part of my personal insecurity which is part of my inbuilt nature acquired from my infanthood when tings were not so good I know Freud would have a field day but there it is. So in a way the artist is getting his own back, saying, well you made it damned hard fer me so I shall do the same fer thee. The role of art-Is is to question, but where the physicist and the mathematician will question with logic the artis can question with illogic. There is a history here, as with all things, nothing comes from nothing. I suggest Tom Phillips wer influenced by Rot and I see now, looking at Schwitter’s Merz werx, Rot wer influenced by Schwitters.
But it was a revelation to me. Roth was working on this form of book in the 1950s and it seems significant that tom phillips called his book humument http://www.tomphillips.co.uk/works/artists-books/item/5286-a-humument
Then it got worse. I had booked a table at the Wayzegoose book fair in the ill-conceived idea that my collaboration with David Jury over the summer and the wonderful book he produced would steal the show. But no.
They stuck us up in the furthest corner of the event to which very few punters came (it doesn’t seem to have been advertised) and only a tiny percentage got as far into the bowels of Oxford Brookes to even realise our table was there hidden behind a big advert for another stall which was better placed anyway. I sold two postcards. My colleague, Wendy Allen, who made two tiny but beautiful letterpress books sold didderly squat (not a lot).
So I learned a lot, mostly, that you got to be selective, very. Just don’t go to a place thinking you can change the scene. If they specialise in old school then they don’t want to see new stuff, do they, well at least they didn’t there.
Talking about new stuff, I have been producing what I call ‘original’ stuff since 1969, stuff what is new to most of the known world out there cos most of it only ever reached a radius of about 10 miles from wherever I lived. From now on in this bollogart artis blArt am going to be presenting, or re-presenting, my endeavours from the past 45 years. I shall upload images and ‘stories’ and views of others so you can at least see my work.i gave up pursuing ‘publishers’ years ago and did my first self-published book in 1975, a practice I intend to step up now. But don’t expect me to do beautiful books like Chris Rushton at Hadleigh books does. http://www.chrisruston.com/ No am not able to be so meditative in my production. My next few books will be bringing the backlog of book ideas I bin developing now since 1972; Apulhed, Squidgerats, Nonogons, Venus Stares, and all. Altho I do have one clever hexagonal ‘shaped book’ in mind as a development from the Inside the Jug series.
All images in this blog are mine except the copy of the book by Dieter Roth, I hope that his foundation do not mind me putting it in as it is flagging up the wonderful work he did.