Corridor Gallery, University of Leeds
6th - 18th March 2009
Curated by Louise Atkinson
Photos by Amy Balderston

(sub)Missive was the culmination of a mail art project in which artists from the UK, Europe, US, Canada and Australia each collaborated with an artist partner to create a new book work. Using the social networking forum as a platform for collaboration, artists investigated the dissemination of ideas with particular reference to (mis)communication and power relations.

Taking the hierarchical construct as a brief, each participant devised a set of instructions ranging from the single word to the diagrammatic and distributed them for their collaborative partner to make work from. The results of this experiment were displayed as part of the 12th International Contemporary Artists Book Fair from Friday 6th till Wednesday 18th March 2009 @ Corridor Gallery, School Of Design, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT.

Aimee Bebhinn Larkin with Larna Campbell

Aimee Day with Darren Bryant
My book instructions were from Darren Bryant (Australia) and came in the form of a concertina-style book, which I was to make with clearly set out instructions. Within the book were a series of cards detailing a step-by-step brief to form a sentence or poem from a provided selection of cut out words as inspiration for a visual piece. There were also cards provided to display my artwork within the book, which would allow viewers to interrupt and move around the order of the work.

I chose to respond to the sentence I constructed with a series of pencil line drawings forming an animation of myself within my domestic environment. This is a theme running through a lot of my work and ideas. My work observes issues of the visibility and invisibility of recorded transience as well as commenting on chance and how nothing can be controlled or repeated precisely. I’m trying to encapsulate what it is to be in a particular place at a unique moment, whilst capturing its physicality and the constant loss through time. The drawings are in sequence but still allow for interruption and can be moved about so as to highlight each individual action and draw attention to their relationship to each other in recreating movement.

Alice Bradshaw with Dovile Mikalauskaite
I am interested in the structure of language and have created a body of work exploring the physical deconstruction of texts often into morpheme- and phoneme-sized segments which are often left in an unfixed position.

Instruction: French Kiss
English and French language are relatively similar as they share Latin roots, compared to Slavic or Arabic rooted languages for example. However, my understanding of the French language is limited. I took a book, La Linguistique Structurale, Sa Portee, Ses Limites, (Structural Linguistics: its Range, its Limits) and deconstructed its 255 pages into circular pieces with a hole-punch. The tiny bits of paper fill a small cardboard box which has a volume of 444cm².

Amy Balderston with Suna Xie
The instructions received instructed exploration how one would construct oneself in visual means. Much of my work circulates taking the literal written interpretation and creating a complex image through a large archive of found/acquired objects and materials. Therefore I chose to isolate my surname as a means of inspiration. Then using the Collins Dictionary as a tool, simply combing through each letter of 'Balderston' noting each word holding a personal affinity. From this point sifting through my personal archive of images to create illustrations of each letter.

Taking 'a' for example, the form of the letter is created through images of Astigmatism, Australia, Abodes, Asparagus. This allowed me to create a unique typeface. In terms of format the book work required flexibility to be viewed as the full word but also conform to some imitation binding. The concertina method worked perfectly.

Caroline Twidle
with Louise Atkinson

My book instructions were from Louise Atkinson from Leeds and arrived in the form of a mind map on a sheet of paper. The mind map examined communication in a sociological way. Due to the textual nature of the map I decided to focus on using text in the book. I created a folded book made up of collaged text, this orginal copy was then photocopied twice to make three books. I created badges to go with the books as I wanted to focus upon one word which in my opinion somes up communication at the moment. That word was 'digital'. The photocopied books offered a contrast with the 'digital badges' as the new digital technology is gradually replacing the older forms of technology.

Darren Bryant with Kathryn Desforges

Dawn Hoskin with Holly Willis

Francis Elliott with Tom Hobson
Unable to secure a concept from Tom Hobson my designated collaborator, I looked around for ways to use the absence of material to record the problems facing collaboration. Struck by the constant archiving inherent within web 2.0, and impressed by my printer's ability to typeset without any direct intervention (just press apple+P), i added a love of removing things (in this case the opacity of the paper itself) with a series of archived conversations with the curator, et voila! Ether was printed, published and named on the last friday before the bookfair. Briefly revising the work on Sunday morning when I discovered that facebook even stored my unanswered texts to Tom Hobson, Ether was finished and in the post monday morning, an ephemeral record of cyberspace conversations.

Heather Gentleman with Caroline Twidle

Jenni Allen with Aimee Day
My instructions were make a 'Walk Book' - to record a journey from A to B which I take regularly. Then to use a second hand book as a base to present the finished journey, using the text within the book to narrate or hint at my journey. At the start of this year I had a major operation so during my recovery I could only take short walks. This mostly consisted of journeys to my doctor’s surgery twice a week and a trip to my local library to loan a dvd. I photographed and listed what I saw, smelled, heard, feelings I experienced etc. Using a second hand book that I purchased from the “discarded books” sale at the library I used snippets of text from the story inside the book to create a new book jacket, which depicts a map of my ‘road to recovery’.

Jennifer McQuistion with Joanna Kambourian
I received instructions from Joanna Kambourian on how to make what she called a "Gobbledygook". The book form is based on several folds and two cuts that create a square book which can be opened and viewed several different ways. Joanna threw in a challenge by adding a soft spine cover to the book which resulted in the image never being seen in its entirety again!

As I considered the concept of mis-communication and the disjointed way in which this book would be viewed, I began to recall an incidence from my teen years. When I was 11 years old my mother gave me the diary she had kept during her engagement, marriage and divorce from my father. One of the final entries was made shortly after my sister Angel was born (the third child). In it mom talked about what a blessing she was and that if not for God sending "her little Angel" she would have taken her own life.

As you could imagine, that entry had a powerful effect on me at such a young age. The mis-communication happened as I read her words without the ability to place them in context. As a result, I believed that my existence was not enough to keep her in my life. It wasn't until years later, after experiencing heart break of my own that I began to understand the emotion behind such an impulsive statement and the insignificance of such statements once that pain has healed.

In my book I illustrate a scene where God has sent a holy child to a praying woman. The color red plays a predominant role as a symbol of blood and spirit which is a connecting force between the woman, the child, and the wild life surrounding them. My emotional presence is represented by this wild life, it does not play a central role but it is surrounds and embraces the central figures.

Jodie Goddard with Kate Freeborough
The title that I was given was ‘things that make me smile’ I couldn’t bring myself to make an earnest piece of work about things which genuinely make me smile so I thought of occasions which had raised a smile out of visceral satisfaction rather than happiness. I thought about images from films that I found satisfying in their ridiculous gore or over the top explosions. One of the images that struck me was from the final scene of Tremors. In this film, a monster is lured to a cliff face where it crushes through and splatters on the floor in a brilliant spray of orange gunge and bodily organs.

My work often investigates desire and control and how desire can override logic and have disastrous outcomes. I like how this scene absurdly illustrates this notion as the monster is lured to a humiliating end through its desire to eat people. I felt that it was important to draw these images rather than take them from the film as stills, as this shows more commitment to the images that I wanted to recreate. I also wanted to use a medium which reminded me of childhood when this scene affected me most.

Kate Freeborough with Amy Balderston
"Recreate. Reconstruct. Reuse". I created a coptic stitch book using papers, postcards, drawings, envelopes found in places I frequent, all which were folded to A6. The covers were created from an old drawer found gathering dust in the store room at work. Each page tells it's own story.

Kathryn Desforges with Aimee Bebhinn Larkin
After pondering the instruction object for quite a long time, I was less concerned with what the box physically contained, and more concerned with what it seemed to represent. The main ideas which kept coming up were those of inside/outside, within/without. I took photographs looking through the holes in the box, and really liked their ambiguity. They give little glimpses of a world elsewhere. I decided to put the images themselves into boxes, touching on the idea of containment. The books are meant to be played with, and can be re-arranged into numerous different patterns, sometimes very open, and sometimes closed off and secretive.

Larna Campbell with Dawn Hoskin
I thought a lot about the instructions, the door and what it means, both literally in terms of form and colour, and metaphorically in terms of entrance, exit, arrival, departure, movement and journeys, and the passing of time and through space. I had lots of different ideas of what to make. In the end I decided to use sheet materials, mostly papers, cardboard, and some fabric, each of which represents a specific door. For a period of one day I recorded each door that I passed through and then used this documentation to inform the bookmaking process.

Laura Frame with Heather Gentleman
My received instructions: “Now my ladder is gone, I must lie down where all the ladders start”, “Rag and bone shop of the heart” and 'directions'.

I was fortunate not to have read the prose from which these quotes had been lifted (W.B.Yeats - the Circus Animals' Desertion) therefore could weight them with my own interpretation. Ladders – up/down(direction) – bones – ladder – ribs – escalate – body/bones as commodity – using such to ascend oneself in certain cultures.

I believe humankind is part of the animal kingdom. We are top of the chain however and have evolved to be such, as have our consciences. The former is not a fault, but we have a responsibility to be aware of truths thanks to the latter. I guess that is one of the scarce reasons to prefer to be human. With this project I wanted to highlight how some people use themselves (and, in cases, others) as pawns, devaluing themselves as interchangeable products in the process. This attitude is already rife towards other animals. The second quote above brought to mind operations to remove bones to achieve a certain body shape. If we were a bag of contents and we could just throw away bones - I think a lot of people think they would be very glad if that were the case.

Leslie Wilson-Rutterford with Alice Bradshaw
IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM, JOIN 'EM: A presentation, a setting, a reading.
4 beer mats and a facsimile pub table present a setting to glimpse at women’s progress with alcohol, through the 20th C, from ‘protesting liquor prude’ to ‘shameless imprudent drinking hussy’. Whether tea-total or drunk, women are more harshly judged than men by society.The 20th C was marked by women’s attempt to escape oppression, subjugation and belittlement by men. At the turn of the century a few women tried to control men and their vile habits by trying to outlaw liquor. Unfortunately, this back lashed, and made them look like bad sports, and rather unattractive to men.

Later, with new found freedom, and a realisation that drinking was kinda nice after all they demanded the right to drink alongside men in bars and pubs. But, still on men’s terms, a woman could only enter the pub with a man, or with a group of women. If she went on her own, she was seen as a lush.Later still, a new dawn of women’s lib hit both sides of the Atlantic, and women took to drinking with confidence. It still wasn’t that cool to go out drinking on your own, unless you knew the barman by name, were middle-aged and a bit scarred emotionally.

Now, women everywhere have finally caught up with the opposite sex, and are drinking with complete abandon: clubbing all night, throwing up in the toilet, and collapsing in the gutter. Although a woman might end up alone on one of these binges, she probably started out with a man or a bunch of females, as society still has hypocritical views on women and drinking. On the surface women have equal rights to drink themselves to death, but society, and health authorities, still judges them more harshly for it. 4 beer mats provide a brief reading of 4 stages of women and drink: promoting them on the surface; elaborating in a facetious way on the reverse side, and covering up the insidious stain on women’s lives, ingrained in reality.

Louise Atkinson with Tara Bryan

Mandy Woodmansey with Jennifer McQuistion
I started the book with the idea of my friend Betty. I once built a house next to her's and she helped so much. She even hammered some of the roof on. We now live 2000km apart so when I collected things that reminded me of her they were maps of where we go when we meet and postcards she has sent me. We have brought up children side by side and worked and sewn together. She is very intellectual so the book form was appropriate and her many hours of garden design I included by surrounding the house shapes with garden gates. The cover paper is made with cardomom as Betty has introduced me to many spices from her European background.

Rebecca Strain with Tracey Turner
I was really excited about this project as I had not taken part in a mail art project before and I was attracted by the randomness. I spent quite some time thinking about how to put together my instructions so that they would be inspiring to whomever got them. The final draft was completed in the early hours of the morning and sent to Australia in early January.

Then I awaited my instructions. After a short delay they arrived. Initially I was amused by their playful format as 'Turners Patient Artist Book Generator' yet as time went on I became more and more bothered about how to approach this request.

In March I travelled to West Dean College to visit an artist and friend Emma Dexter. Whilst there we played the game of chance sent to me as my instructions. Then and there the book began to form. It became a source of reference for all of the possibilities that lay within that game of chance. I spoke to the librarian, the tutors and the artists at the college about the resulting statement, 'She felt hurt, betrayed, torn, beleaguered, what could she do?' and together we came up with a list of references for starting points that spanned from 'Eleanor Glovers work Shadow/Self which deals with some of Jung's theories to She's always a woman to me' by Billy Joel. The book is called BLUE, 4, 8 as these were the selections made that resulted in the work.

Rosie Brigden Kearton with Samantha Harris
My work for (sub)missive was made from recycled materials, envelopes, milk cartons, and used postal items. The overall theme was based on a quote from Yoko Ono on 'In- structure' - words containing IN were central to the concept. The instructions I received from Samantha Harris were very loose so and so I was able to interpret them into the way I wanted to work. I used her processes to construct a postal box containing 6 envelopes made from milk cartons and reconstructed envelopes. I incorporated typewriting, sewing, cutting, folding, collage and drawing. It was my first book work and it gave me an opportunity to explore different ways of working with different materials. I feel it has opened a door for my work to follow new directions and has been a valuable learning process. I used my blog to follow the process and the feedback from others during the period of the project was very supportive and positive.

Tara Bryan with Vivien Stokes
My instructions were minimal. They came in a decorated, shellacked brown paper envelope- a kidney-shaped piece of paper that said, simply, Earth Beans. My first thought was of the rocks that mysteriously (result of frost heaving) appear in my garden every year, in spite of my certainty that I dug them all out LAST year. Then to beach rocks- definitely rocks as small offerings of the planet. I googled earth beans and got the web site of an organic bean company in China.

I wanted to keep the book as minimal as the instructions, so I used the book structure Louise had on the submissive event page, printed a photo of rocks on one side and the Earth from space on the other, coated with acrylic medium, folded, cut, Voila! A book. It reversed nicely, so you can have the Earth OR the rocks on the outside, or you can set it up so you see the image on back in an open square. Then I made another one. Still couldn’t quite get those organic beans out of my head, so I made a flexagon with images of the Earth, a soybean field (repeated for kaleidoscope effect) and a close-up of soya beans, the versatile bean that feeds so many people and animals around the world.

Tracey Turner with Laura Frame
The instructions I received described the resulting book to be 'something impalpable', incorporating a map, and for text to flow from one page to the next. As a result I made my book out of maps and each word wrapped onto the next, in turn making another word incorporating the end of one word and the start of the next.

Vivien Stokes with Rosie Brigden Kearton

Julie Barratt with Jennifer Henderson

1 comment:

  1. looks really good Louise and a valuable resource - thank you for all your hard work