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.
Did you hear the joke, ‘Once I was a werewolf, but I’m alright No…oooow!’? Well once, only once, I wanted to be an artis but I’m all write No…oooow! In fact my art is my right, I have a write to be an artis. OK, back to the real.
Eva Hesse was an artist and groundbreaker of considerable skill but one day she woke up and realised something rather strange, that she didn’t HAVE TO make art, that life continues even when you do not make art.
On Originality. I want to mention Maria Popova’s stuff, she writes well, I could do an analysis or commentary but that would take ages I have not got and my fingers would wear out typing it in, so, you can take a look at her stuff here:
She quotes Twain, “Substantially all ideas are second-hand,” Mark Twain observed, “consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them.” And she often refers to this ting called,
‘The power of the synthesizing mind and the building blocks of combinatorial creativity.’ See her article in:
Synthesizing and being combinatorial are, it seems to me, top requirements of creative process. When we used to assess kids doing ‘O’ level, or any other level for that matter, they got into top grades when you could see evidence of synthesizing. Interesting. Over the past 45 years of me being ‘creative’ I did two tings; I looked at the creativity of others and I stayed in touch thru mags like Studio International, Graphis and the Museum of Mankind, then again I ignored the work of others and tried to cocoon mysel in a hole in the ground so as not to be ‘influenced’ and I refused to watch what was prevalent at the time. I skrtled between the twain. But, in the end whatever you do has its progenitors. One of my heroes Popova mentioned was henry miller, not so much his Tropics more his humanist writings. I wer told by john Atkins, over 20 years after the event that the reason Calder did NOT publish my tome called ‘The Shrewd Idiot’ was cos me writings were reminiscent of Miller and Miller wer going out o fashion and punk was coming in. So me, the post-hippieman, what had given up his daily job in 1976 to consecrate on his art & writing, I wer too dated, out dated. Such is the elusivity of fame & four tunes. Have you heard the one about the fork ‘andles? Maybe I got lucky not getting published as there is a shortage of paper in the world or at least the tree that makes the paper. And my tome was a BIG tome which I did cut by half like Calder aksed me to, but really, for all our sakes it would be better if I produce it misen as an artisbuk, with some of it in the original handpen, some in the JilLittly typed-up version and some set in a computer type. In fact I move tward a new ‘style’ of crazed words and non-sense writings after Flan O’Brien and Louis Carrott wat rote ‘Alice’ fer Jeffersen Airplane. Vatch dis spade.
My recent work has been to do with mysticism. As I investigated the phenomena I found out aboyut whole cultural groups (civilisations) which ‘we’ (in the west) never heard of. The Gandharan community, a Buddhist group who lived over 2000 yearns ago whose influence is vast but most of us never heard of and they are not the only ones. http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Buddhist-Scrolls-Gandhara-Gandharan/dp/0295977698
So why is a cutting edge artis like misen looking at ancient stuff and mystics be blowed? Well, one because it’s all been done before and we need to get informed and two, becos nodoby elsa is it doing indeed. But seriously folks (said Spike Milligan again) nobody in the ‘art world’ is doing mystics right now so I am original, not really (cos everything has bin dun afore asn’tit). In fact I have a lovely buk called ‘Time machine’ http://www.jamesputnam.org.uk/inv_publication_03.html
In which several artists do work with an eye to Ancient Egypt. I wer doing that back in the 70’s. Am glad thur catching up wit me.
Now onto what I started today’s Blarty Phart for:
Robert Smithson (RS), famous for his ‘Spiral Jetty’ in the lake at Salt Lake City, & Bruce McLean (BM) and their relationships with ‘originality’ .
Bruce McKlean’s work is being shown in a stunning show at firstsite in Colchester thru the summer of 2014, til septembre.
It’s fascinating how ‘art’ so often parallels ‘science’. Whilst science is busy creating new ‘man-made’ elements some of which only exist momentarily, just long enough for scientists to be able to make deductions, artists like McLean in 1967 made ‘Floataway sculptures’ which were ‘predicated on the impermanence of their form’. Gooding goes on to talk about Sjoerd Buisman’s collaborations with nature which he notes have, ‘A keen sense of affinity with scientists…and are in certain crucial ways closely akin to the procedures of scientists.’
BM was photo’d as he carried mirrors into parks etc in 1969 but his action post-dated RM’s use of mirrors. And I thought, ‘Is that why they (rather sadly) call it ‘Post’ Modernism? Precisely cos it repeats, mimics, appropriates*.’ Lucy Lippard has a good take on RM & mirrors (see ‘Lucy Lippard’s Activism and Artists’ Books Activate Me’; Vol 8 No 2, April 2014 http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/bnotebk.htm). RM was using mirrors back in ’64 with The Eliminator and 65 with Enantiomorphic Chambers. The British boys (and girls) were plugging into anything new from USA. (in the late 60’s I refused. I wer stuck in Europe still but that’s anudda storey.)
*Appropriationism is the mode now, Nick it all Nick Na Noo! And folk like Popova are writing tracts about how nothing is ‘original’. Except we, we with Buddhist inclinations, know EVERYTING IS original. It has to Be. Every breath you take is different, new, original if only cos the universe and beyond have never been in that position ever before nor never again. Everything is always on the change, in flux, and we cannot alter that. Copyright, intellectual right etc etc etc are there to protect, property etc but they are not ‘real’. When you read/red/reed say, Brautigan, you steal, you steal the words off the page into your mind what may be ‘high’ like his was wherever that may be or not to be ( I just nicked Shake’s spear!) The more folk what steals yer werk by listening, repeating, passing on etc the more your work is ‘out there’.
From the foothills to the footholds of the art.
So we ascertain that it is ok to be original and it’s ok to be not-original. There are some who would say that everything has been done before. A beautiful example of that I saw in the British Museum’s El Dorado show last month. I saw some gold flat figures about 1-2 inch high that’s 40 – 50 millimetres today folk. They’d been crafted several hundred years back by Colombian pre-Columbian indigenous peoples. The BM made some nice enamel red on stainless steel replicas. I am aware that Keith Haring was influenced by other cultures and I am unsure if he ever saw these figures but the similarity with his ‘cosmic baby’ figures is extraordinary. In my previous blart I shewed a flower of Legers what I did not copy but again the similarity is enormous. In my book that does not make mine any less ‘quality’ or ‘original’, we both ‘copied’ flowers! The accidents which led mine to be so similar are just a happy synchronous occurrence. In fact, the final, well never final as I keep altering it, version has a different flower image in it innit?
I shall harp on about this Venus stares image a lot in the future, so vatch dis splice.
Hey, talk abart appropriationism, Kenneth Patchen stole my Apulhed long before I created him, (he wer clairvoyant!) and also William Blake’s name (see the image ‘hurrah’ below), didn’t he? I don’t mind, I love his work and am borrowing the image below but only to advertise him, I was reading Tom Wolfe this week, ‘electric cool aid acid testes’ and I note how much he took from his hero Kerouac and of course Kerouac had his progenitoir, Patchen! Now, I have found many references in Cool aid acid test to stuff i am working with now, like Jung and synchronicity. As I sit ere in 2014 i can say truly that I had not seen Wolfe’s book previously. Strangely, he mentions Hopis, and other tings what i linger longer on over the years. My work on ‘the other’ hails from the early 70’s. I had a small task called survival to cope with in the years between and became a teacher of art to keep Beuy’s coyotes from my door. So, altho I never gave up making art, my activities and energies were often curtailed. Now am 64 and free of it, i just make art and mess and fuss and waves and wave bye bye for noo to yu.