Next week I get to take a trip to Norwich, to attend the first ever Turn the Page Artists’ Book Symposium. It will also be the first time I have shared my case study research outside of institutional walls. The opportunity comes during my third year, with the ‘big write up’ biting at my heels.
My talk will be part of the following panel:
11.20am-1pm – Panel One Collaborative Spaces
Siobhan Britton – The Artist/Librarian and Artists’ Books
Angie Butler – Book Arts Party: collaboration in book arts practice
Noriko Suzuki-Bosco – The Library of Re-Claimed Books
Gemma Meek – Socially Engaged Book Art: Collaborative Production in the Workshop
This promises to be an exciting venture, and I am keen to hear the various perspectives on collaborative processes. I have also just started a placement at the British Library around their poetry pamphlet collection, with both Britton’s and Suzuki-Bosco’s work presenting some interesting comments on the contemporary situation of library collections. The fair is also host to some wonderful stalls, and I hope to catch Test Centre to hear about their latest poetry publications!
Its set to be an exciting couple of days, and I believe there are still tickets available…
First of all the materiality of books feels substantial and we felt that it would give weight to these stories which are sometimes treated as insubstantial by making them exist as “proper books”. The materiality of a book is a powerful thing to work with and can be further nuanced by using inks scissors collage, et cetera. Secondly we feel that the marks people make are powerful emblems of their existence. Third, working on paper people can have a chance to be their own editors, which is empowering. Fourth, many people are nervous of being recorded using a machine but happy to talk to someone using a piece of paper and a biro. It’s less threatening.
One of the case studies for my thesis is The Homeless Library (2014 – 2016) run by arts organization Arthur & Martha (artists Philip Davenport and Lois Blackburn). It involves the collaborative production of book art with homeless participants across different centres within Manchester. The aim of the project is to create a first-person history of the homeless, to challenge the stigmatized term ‘homeless’ and provide one of the first material histories of individuals diverse and engaging stories. The project culminated in 50 books now touring in a mobile library, launched at the Houses of Parliament in July this year and recently shown at the SouthBank Centre.
As part of my research, Philip and Lois allowed me to attend one of the workshops at the Booth Centre in Manchester. This form of research is different to methodologies I am employing for my other case studies, which often utilize email correspondence, secondary documentation and engagement with the books created. This was a first-hand opportunity to see the collaborative production of books in action, and demanded a negotiation and understanding of my position as observer, participant and assistant within this project.
Out of the session I wrote a report of my experience, of which sections were published in the ebook to the Homeless Library along with email correspondence with the organisers. The ebook can be downloaded for free (click here) and contains many of the participants experiences of homelessness, which for too long have been left unrecorded.