Sunday, 21 November 2010

short return (for ian w, peter f & alicia c)

At the Small Publishers' Fair, London, 12-13 November 2010

seekers of lice, notes/ohms; books by Antoine Lefebvre; Maria White, alphabet week; Helen Douglas, A Venetian Brocade; Lindsay Adams, Fluviatile

Most interesting exhibitor
Antoine Lefebvre's La Bibliothèque Fantastique "une maison d'édition virtuelle des livres d'artistes, dont les livres sont gratuits" also constitutes the éditeur's PhD project on the Book, and appropriates / decimates most of his academic reading, in a series of simple black & white photocopied stapled pamphlets on ordinary typing paper, all of which are downloadable for free; but (like me) many people prefer to pay the £3 a go. Many titles are by other artists; one ongoing collaboration, with Jérémie Bennequin, performs the erasure of Mallarmé's 'Un coup de des ...', syllable by syllable, each next one selected by -- you guessed it. Each performance works right through the version partially erased by the last, and they will continue until there are only 5 syllables left (since the next throw of the dice risks being a six ...). Even this is being done in the most dematerialised manner, at a computer (though Bennequin's more habitual practice involves pages and rubber erasers -- he is working through Proust, as you might imagine. I love the French: "Quelle allure! Des intellectuels!")

Most "Are you actually a fine artist or a poet"?*
Seekers of lice publishes Japanese-style-bound pamphlets, often including semi-transparent pages, of what I would call 'innovative poetry' by its singular proprietor. The Oceanographer selected Notes / Ohms (2010), in which words and phrases from the first 3 pages are redistributed throughout the text which is divided into several sections by painted leaves.
(*SoL was asked this in a radio interview)

Favourite performance
Didier Mathieu (of the Centre des livres d'artiste at St-Yrieix-la-perche) and Nick Thurston (of Information as material reading together / simultaneously, selected passages from Beckett's Watt, rewritten, replacing all substantive words with the name of their part of speech; respectively in French and English (available as a set of 3 large prints in each language -- the English versions are published by IoM and were on display recently at the very wonderful Perverse Library exhibition they organised at Shandy Hall. cdla publish the French translation.

Plus of course (O declares an interest): Harry Gilonis reading from Eye-blink, his new book of 'faithless' (but genuine) translations of Tang Dynasty poems, published by the excellent poetry press Veer, with a painting by David Rees on the cover.

Most perfect book
1. Alphabet Week, by Maria White (Essence Press [Julie Johnstone, Edinburgh])
A little white job, 7 cm square, printed in blue with the names of the days of the week, one name per page, in alphabetical order.

2. Erica Van Horn and Simon Cutts, After Brancusi (Coracle)

(detail) "all furniture is sculpture ... all sculpture is furniture"

Two beautiful photo books
1. Helen Douglas's new book from Weproductions is A Venetian Brocade, which, by contrast with Queene and Belle (2008), returns to the lush page-filling and subtle syncopation of earlier books. It's a bold subject: colour photographs of Venice, digitally manipulated, could be a recipe for cliché but it is done superbly. It is tempting to flick, but the book needs and deserves proper 'reading', as the sequence is integral. It includes a short fiction by Marina Warner, the subject of which is the visit to Venice in the late 16th century of a pious young Japanese Jesuit, and his exposure there to visual pleasure and the erotic intimations of art. This is certainly relevant to Douglas's almost voluptuous opening of/to the city itself. Free of the novitiate's religious inhibitions, the artist's desire is however tempered by an aesthetic discipline which has sought, and hidden in these pages more, I think, than meets the casual eye.

2. Fluviatile, by the painter Lindsey Adams, reproduces almost 50 remarkable rich and ambiguous abstract images that are in fact unmanipulated photographs taken of (and in) a running stream, Hartshay Brook, near her home in Derbyshire. The book's design and sequencing are handled with care, the blank and text pages tinted in varying watery whites. There is a thoughtful introduction essay by Rebecca Fortnum but Adams like Douglas has also invited an imaginative contribution by a writer, Michelene Wandor (same initials! spooky ...), and since the images here are (mainly) printed as a discrete series on recto pages only, Wandor's poem can penetrate throughout them. The poem is given to Ophelia, and under its influence one begins to discern her cloudy figure in the water ...

A small jar of apple jelly given me by Ceri Buck, with a copy of What is Action? (2006), her poem based on the parts of an apple. A diary of apple labels, by Anne Rook.