What’s in a name, Everything & Nothing?
Naming things also means everything & nothing like the famous conundrum about a doctor:
A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies instantly, and the son is taken to the nearest hospital. The doctor comes in and exclaims “I can’t operate on this boy.”
“Why not?” the nurse asks.
“Because he’s my son,” the doctor responds.
How is this possible?
The answer is in the ingrained assumption that the word ‘doctor’ denoted a male practitioner which in the ‘old days’ it usually did. The assumption was ingrained over centuries of the ‘male-dominated’ world which allegedly no longer dominates the ‘norm’ but in the collective mind it seems the natural assumption falls to the male interpretation. Now this is not an article about doctors nor prejudices, I am merely pointing out that altho a name is important it often misleads our perception, even when there is no intent so to do.
I mention this because I have been involved in making art & books all my adult life which is (on paper) 50 years, in fact 56 when you take into account I made my first book as a ten year old (of course I weren’t a adult then tho) as an end of summer term project at Tod Road Junior School and my first comic, Big ‘Ead was in that book which had old wallpaper as a cover. In my first year at Gwamma Skewel (as an ex pupil of the old grammar school system I firmly believe that they are a relic of a past (male dominated) culture, so no don’t bring them back, but you’ll ignore me anyway, won’t you Tess?) I made more sophisticated books with bookcloth spines and all. In my 6th form I made my own sketch books, had to cos I couldn’t afford to buy one. At (teachers’ training) college I made several books for projects and did my first concertina book with 6 screenprints in which I have just ‘published’ in an A5-ish book.
Then I taught how to make books to the kids in my classes but didn’t make my own again til I embarked on my MA course in my sixties after retiring hurt from my role as a ‘teacher’. You may ask, “What’s he on about?” well my answer is I’ve always been making the contents of books and sometimes the books themselves book I am not a bookbinder per se. Many of my ‘books’ tease and stretch the definition of ‘book’ which takes me back to my point at the head of this piece, What’s in a name?
There’s a term ‘Artists’ Books’ which is quite popular nowadays denoting an infinite variety of ways to make and stretch the curve in what a book can be. There are a growing number of Artists’ Books Fairs or markets etc. I’ve frequented a few but my work doesn’t sell in droves so I cannot really afford to have a stall unless I wish to make some new (networking?) links thru meeting new folks and advertise my wares, basically I have to tell myself, “This is like a holiday Pete. You’re running a table during the day then ‘after hours’ you can take a look at a place you wouldn’t necessarily visit, like say Oxford, Newcastle or even Edinburgh. Recently I was able to walk around the Bristol Artist Book Event (BABE) [wearing my new Apulhed mask] and witness the wonderful atmosphere and the way so many folk of like mind share a big space and fill it with beautiful artistic output. I spoke with a couple from Kent but have forgotten their details, so if you’re out there I’d love to connect up and discuss making 3D masks! The people who make the books are very talented and ‘artist’s books’ are a wonderful vehicle for all manner of ideas and projects and many of them are beautiful objects. Some of my work falls under the category too but I prefer the term ‘Books Artists Make’ (BAM) for my works.
I know that not everyone involved in artists books claims to be a artist but I did before I realised am not a artist, I am a man, I am me! But all my adult life I been involved in ‘art & writing’ but once again, What’s in a name? What does ‘art’ mean? What does ‘writing’ mean? In my case they both often meant under-mining or undermining or under-mine-ing. I would undermine my own stuff, I would often do something real good then undermine it with my next work.
I have this penchant for undermining, reaching under, looking past, looking beyond. I think it came from doing ‘History’ with the late David Clayton at school where we were encouraged to question things and this continued in my Philosophy tutorials with the late Bill Josebury at St Lukes. I hated the art dept at my college so I did everything I could to undermine the tutors. I disliked the politicians in the early 70’s like Thatcher who did her infamous cuts in Education then went on to destroy mining communities so I did scathing cartoons about their lack of consideration or conniving. One of Thatcher’s best buddies was Pinochet and she must have learned a lot from his methods, he, like other dictators smashed the poets, artists and educationists. So when it came to undermining the book, wow, I was in heaven.
Which brings me to the work of Tim Hopkins and his subject Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Tim @halfpintpress has a day job, but when he gets home he must work thru the night on his little Adana press. http://britishletterpress.co.uk/presses/small-presses/adana/
Tim has produced a wonderful box of prints, which may be called an artistsbook of The Book of Disquiet. https://twitter.com/halfpintpress Launched on Thursday 6th April it’s on display in the window at the Bookartbookshop near Old Street station, London. It’s difficult to describe but it’s very beautiful. Fernando Pessoa wrote his book (never published in his lifetime) during his final days on lots of ephemera and Tim has printed Pessoa’s writings onto many ephemeral objects like beermats, pop bottle labels, stamps, pencils, lolly sticks. This is a labour of love. He did 50 boxes/copies for sale and sold out almost immediately! I bought two packs with for pieces in each and they seem to be beautifully printed but Tim’s attention to the detail of Pessoa’s writings is astonishing.
Pessoa had a strange view of What’s in a name?, he invented what most of us call alter-egos but he coined the term, ‘heteronyms’ to explain his use of a myriad of ‘characters’ in his writings who spoke with different tongues and names in his work. Fernando Pessoa says ‘my habit of placing myself in the souls of other people makes me see myself as others see or would see me…’
and well done Tanya for arranging the show!
By strange coincidence I had come across Pessoa’s work for the first time ever a couple of weeks before this launch at Bookartbookshop as I was doing a poetry workshop (the same night as the launch!) at the Poetry school in Lambeth led by Saradha Soobrayen:
Session 4 Pessoa Task (for Thursday 6th April): Describe and create heteronyms to unlock hidden parts of your writing…
Pessoa’s on his term ‘heteronyms’. “A pseudonymic work,” he explained in a 1928 article, “is, except for the name with which it is signed, the work of an author writing as himself; a heteronymic work is by an author writing outside his own personality: it is the work of a complete individuality made up by him, just as the utterances of some character would be.”
Now you know my tendency to undermine don’t you? I’ll finish this blArt with my own slight consternation at Pessoa’s notion that a writer can, ‘write outside his own personality’? I tend to agree with this comment from the goodreads link above, that Pessoa wrote from 4 differing aspects of himself. ‘It is sometimes said that the four greatest Portuguese poets of modern times are Fernando Pessoa. The statement is possible since Pessoa, whose name means ‘person’ in Portuguese,…’