Off to print this week is also the book I’ve been working on with artist Olivia Plender and designer Nuno Luz: Rise Early, Be Industrious.
Although it relates to exhibitions at three UK institutions and the texts commissioned (before I became involved) talk about artworks in them, in the process of looking at the material available in relation to the work involved, and two residencies Olivia did in Banff, Canada, over time a structure emerged for the book that makes it deviate from traditional catalogues.
Each work, or body of work is approached as an image section, where the sequence is often derived from different manifestations and iterations in the different shows, which allows for a sense of moving through the often large-scale installations that are entire environments. Through them Olivia explores how official historical narratives are constructed, and the hierarchies behind the ‘voice of authority’ that is traditionally produced by educational institutions in the public sphere, such as the museum, the academy and the media. So rather than representing the work as it was to be seen in one show, we have ended in some cases up with a mixture of images from different shows, and sometimes not related to the three institutions involved here at all, allowing for a comprehensive visual representation of the work.
The image sections sit between the texts by Tirdad Zolghadr, Maeve Connolly and Lars Bang Larsen. While all three authors touch upon the work in the image sections, and there are areas of overlap in what they describe and pick out, they do it from distinctly different angles, to some extent conceptually circling around the work, and the issues explored within them. There is also a conversation between Olivia and several people involved with the Art and Environment course at The Open University, which launched in 1972, and environmental artist David Harding. In addition Olivia has added her own personal reflections in relation to some works – both through descriptive text, and further contemplation and contextualisation – and an intrinsic Index, which can almost be considered a work in its own right, as it really draws out her personal research and concerns.
The process of actually being allowed to take time, and have many conversations via skype (which more often than not would last 2 hours) between Olivia in Stockholm, Nuno in Paris, Berlin or Lisbon, and myself in London, with the odd meeting of all three of us in London, made it a very collaborative one, in which we all contributed from our own angle – as artist, designer and editor.
In the index there is also an image of the economist and founder of the Arts Council, John Maynard Keynes, who lived in one of the houses that now constitute the School of Art of Birkbeck, University of London. The Keynes library is literally a couple of doors down the corridor from my office. It shows him in an unexpected pose with his wife, a Russian ballerina. I had come across the wonderful image not long before I started working with Olivia and Nuno, and when there was reference to him, I jumped at the opportunity to smuggle it into the book.
Published by Arnolfini, Bristol; Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow; MK Gallery, Milton Keynes; and Walter Philips Gallery at The Banff Centre, in collaboration with Sternberg Press, Berlin