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MONTAGE+THE ARTISTS’ BOOK: a paper by Victoria Cooper

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Victoria and the ARTISTS’ BOOK YEARBOOK 2018-9

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 I’ve recently had a major paper on my research into the montage and artists’ books published in the ARTISTS’ BOOK YEARBOOK 2017-8 edited by Sarah Bodman from the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) at the University of the West of England. The paper covers ongoing research which was undertaken as part of my Siganto Foundation Research Fellowship at the State Library of Queensland.

 

 

Here are the first 2 paragraphs from the paper

 

LIMINAL MOMENTS AT THE EDGES: READING MONTAGE NARRATIVES IN ARTISTS BOOKS        

 

Each time I am drawn into the montage image as a reader, I experience a liminal moment – I am at a threshold where I will enter into an unknown space. Although I may recognise familiar characteristics in each fragment I am disorientated by their juxtaposition in these hybrid images. My focus for the Siganto Research Fellowship in the Australian Library of Art (ALA) collection, at the State Library of Queensland (SLQ) is to review and study this liminal reading of the montage through the edges and joins of the fragments. In this research I am guided by the writing of Pierre Bourdieu, Roland Barthes and Sergei Eisenstein to orient myself in the reading and articulate my findings from the perspective of the reader. Also underpinning this research is the extensive history of combining, gluing, montaging, and collaging of image work in many mediums including film, photography and book making.

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During my fellowship, I have reviewed over 100 artists’ books and many artists’ statements held in the ALA. The scope of this research was limited to particular works of Australian artists including Peter Lyssiotis, Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison. However selected works by British artist Helen Douglas and other international artists from the ALA collection were also considered in my research to include an international perspective. As I am a montage maker and thinker, I have decided to include some artists’ books that–although by the artist’s definition are collage– I ‘read’ as montage. My focus is on the visual ‘reading’ of the combined fragments through their edges and the spaces between. There are also considerations for the combination with mixed media including sound, photography and drawing.

This investigation does not set out to define a lexicon for montage or collage for the makeri and as such, in the writing, I will refer to the image works I am researching as montage/collage.

[i] See my blog post for the Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland, http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ala/2016/05/27/reading-montages-perceptions-dilemmas-edges-and-resolution/

 

Key books that I discuss in the paper are from the following artists:

Peter Lyssiotis, Feather and Prey, (1997), Masterthief Enterprises, Melbourne

Peter Lyssiotis, Products of Wealth, (1997), Masterthief Enterprises, Melbourne

Lorelei Clark, Brisbane: River City, (2010), Lagoongrass Press, Brisbane

Jack Oudyn, The very first book of fish, (199?), Micro Press, Ormiston, Queensland

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, And we stood alone in the silent night, (2008), Melbourne

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, Salvaged Relatives, Melbourne

Lyn Ashby, 20 minutes, , (2011), ThisTooPress, Victoria

Helen Douglas & Zoe Irvine, Illiers Combray. (2004), Weproductions, Scotland

Dianne Fogwell, Gene Pool, (2000), Edition & Artist Book Studio, Canberra School of Art, Canberra

 

You can download a copy of my paper HERE

PLEASE NOTE: This download version contains colour photographs of the books discussed – the Yearbook is published in monochrome.

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Thank you to all the artists who gave permission for their works to be photographed and presented in the publication.

Enjoy — and I would appreciate any comments you may have about the paper…

 

You can buy your own hard copy of the Yearbook from UWE HERE

UWE Publications website

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VICKY DISCUSSES ‘READING MONTAGES’ on the SLQ Blog

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Siganto Research Fellow Victoria Cooper

Siganto Research Fellow Victoria Cooper

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Vicky has recently posted a her latest paper about her research on the State Library of Qld’s Blog. This latest post comments on the montage and is illustrated by some interesting books from the SLQ’s Artists’ Book Collection.

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Read on or visit the post here: http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ala/2016/05/27/reading-montages-perceptions-dilemmas-edges-and-resolution/

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Reading Montages: perceptions, dilemmas, edges and resolution.

Nomenclature Dilemma: Collage or Montage

In this third blog post I will share the dilemmas of encountering the blurred boundaries associated with the lexicon of these art forms, for example: What is the difference between collage and montage? Does it matter? Are there different “readings” of collage vs montage images that have been reproduced by mechanical or digital means for both wall art, or as encountered in my research, book forms? I will present an Occam’s Razor resolution arising from the considerations that inform my research to provide a path through the complexity of these issues.

Responding to terminology dilemma:

As I progress through the research I am continually confronted with terminology issues and questions regarding the nature of montage and its intersection with collage. The dilemma is with me as a kind of Sisyphean cycle where, after climbing the mountain of wondrous diversity in the Australian Library of Art artists’ book collection; I am drawn back down by the weighty issues of inconsistent terminology.

Many artists, who cut, arrange and glue disparate and/or mixed media elements refer to their work as collage or for computer made images, digital collage.  This should be the end of the debate as the etymology of collage is the French word ‘to glue’. But there are others who cut and piece together disparate elements and ‘glue’ and then fuse them within the image and refer to their process as montage (or digital montage for computer images). Also interesting to note is that the origin of the word montage is a French word meaning ‘to mount’.  Is there a need to differentiate between these similar practices? Does terminology affect the ‘reading’ of these works? In my art practice I refer to myself as a montage maker, thinker and reader and as such I bring my own perspective to reading visual narratives.

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, who prefer to be known as paper artists, make collage works. Their unique state artists’ books and democratic multiples in the form of zines and editions of artists’ books have a place within this discussion.
Haby and Jennison responded to my email question regarding the nature of the digital work in their book, ‘And we stood alone in the silent night’, where they state that: ‘Digital collages are made in chorus with unique state pieces. They are all a means of making, with the ‘how’ of lesser interest to us than the ‘why’ or ‘message’.

In their statement above they suggest that the means of the making is secondary to the final work. Even when the collage has been digitally scanned and then printed it remains, for them, a collage.

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

The book, ‘And we stood alone in the silent night’, presents the reader with an enchanted narrative through the composition of images and poetic texts across the pages. Underpinning the reading is the smooth and seamless joins of the elements creating a surreal landscape with a theatre of colourful inhabitants. The compositional elements draw the reader into a kind of Alice in Wonderland experience of reading: where the fused elements are arranged in a mise en page; and the turning page emulates the scenes of a paper movie (i) . The small size text comes through the reading as a poetic aside to underscore the scene.

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

Haby and Jennison’s careful cutting and pasting of added elements over or alongside the original image distinguish their broader collage work.  Again, in these works the silent edges between these interventions and the original image provide uninterrupted reading. Importantly as this transition or interval between the elements goes unnoticed the added element ultimately colonize the interior space and time of the original image.

So far in my research, I have not found many artists that tear and roughly cut their elements intentionally leaving these edges in the final montage for the reader to interpret. One example however is Lorelei Clark’s work, ‘Brisbane: River City‘.

Although the elements are fused by digital

reproduction, their roughly torn or cut edges seem to separate the elements so that the reading is disturbed much like a jump-cut (ii)  edit in a film.

'Brisbane: River City'

‘Brisbane: River City’

The elements combined in this way demand separate attention and focus on individual parts of the narrative or issue presented. As the source material may have been glossy magazines or pictorial publications, these edges could represent a critique or even an attack on social issues that affect the human condition. In many ways the reading is unsettling, rather like the political montages of Peter Lyssiotis, they shout back at the reader.

'The very first book of fish'

‘The very first book of fish’

Another example of the rough cut collage can be found in Jack Oudyn’s Book of Fish series of small books, where the original collage or paste-up can be seen in the ALA collection along with the small zine like productions. Rather than attached to the surface, the reproduction of these collages fuses the elements into the page and transforms the reading of the text and images. In these little books, the elements are submerged within the narrative and seem to float around like the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life.

Jack Oudyn 'The very first book of fish'.

Jack Oudyn ‘The very first book of fish’.

My resolve:

For the purpose of this research, I have decided to take account of how the artist defines their work as stated in the Library catalogue. As a researcher I am reliant on the information supplied by the artist, either in the form of an artist’s statement or catalogue information. This information allows a deep engagement with the work that ultimately enriches the reading experience for the researcher. Many may consider that too much information may reduce the potential for the book to be reimagined, but for readers like myself there are many ‘readings’ of an artists’ book.  As social scientist, Pierre Bourdieu suggests that an artwork is:

‘in fact made not twice, but hundreds of times, thousands of times by all those who have an interest in it, who find a material or symbolic profit in reading it, classifying it, decoding it, commenting on it, reproducing it, criticizing  it, combating it, knowing it, possessing it.’ (iii)

As mentioned earlier in this blog I refer to my work as montage, and align my methodology and inspiration with that of film and the pioneers of montage and page design from the early 20th century. In this research I have found similarities in the ‘reading’ of collages that have been either created or reproduced through mechanical or digital processes with the images created as montages. As I strive to engage with the many new ways of reading that each artist presents, any background information can take me into new spaces and places, each time I read the same book.

So rather than questioning the terminology, either a collage or montage, I am more informed by the way elements are grafted or combined; their arrangement on the page; the typography and page design. When the elements such as type, photographs, painting, drawing, found objects etc have been fused within the space of the page of the book by photomechanical, digital or another printmaking process, I will read these as a montage. As such, in the research I will consider the following:

•    whether I am seduced by nature of the smooth transition and the interval between elements is subliminal or if the torn edge focuses my attention;
•    whether the adjacency of the elements is disturbing or attacking my attempts to flow smoothly;
•    whether the transition has been digitally achieved or by hand if the information is available.

The nature of the edges of the combined visual elements within the composition is a profound aspect to reading these visual books. So rather than questioning the terminology, whether a collage or montage, I will continue in my ‘montage readings’ informed by the narratives contained within and between grafted edges.

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Victoria Cooper

 

PART 2 of this research series can be viewed here https://wotwedid.com/2016/03/19/victorias-slq-blog-post-montage-research/

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i. Lou Stoumen is the author of visual books including ‘Can’t Argue With Sunrise: A Paper Movie‘ (1975)
ii. Film makers Jean-Luke Godard and Sergei Eisenstein championed the use of discontinuity devices such as jump cuts in scenes to disrupt the flow of the cinematic narrative and create the illusion of moving through time and space. This was intended to engage the viewer proactively to think about the issues surrounding the scene.
iii. Bourdieu, Pierre. ‘The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field’. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Stanford University Press, 1996. Editions du Seuil 1992. Page 171.

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CODEX 9: ARTISTS’ BOOK DISCUSSION MEETING

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Queensland, it seems, is the place to be if you are interested in artists’ books (ABs). Queenslanders have one of the countries most significant collection of artists’ books in the State Library of Queensland, another significant private collection held by Noreen Grahame, herself a major contributor to the AB in this country. Other collections and events coordinated by Artspace Mackay including the Focus on Artists’ Books Forum and Libris Awards. There are also major practitioners of the art living and working in Queensland including Katherine Nix, Adele Outteridge, Wim de Vos, Ron McBurnie, Stephen Spurrier, Helen Malone, Jack Oudyn, Judy Barrass, and many more.

CODEX Event graphic

CODEX Event graphic

In this fertile space for ABs a small band of interested practitioners recently met to discuss the idea of forming a special interest group dedicated to the discipline. The invitation came as an email under the auspices of a CODEX 9 event with the following statement:

books by artists / artists books

printmaking, letterpress, papermaking and more

artists interested in making books are invited to

join an Impress Printmakers discussion group

located in Brisbane to foster and promote

contemporary artists book practice

Meeting on level 4 of the State Library of Queensland the 10 attendees represented a broad range of artists many of whom have had significant activity within the AB discipline, some had experiences of working as teachers using the book as a learning tool, some had academic links to ABs apart from their practice of making books, all had a definite interest in the discipline and wanted to engage in the idea of the discussion group as proposed in the invitation.

CODEX Event + Impress Printmakers AB discussion meeting

CODEX Event + Impress Printmakers AB discussion meeting

During the meeting many topics were raised including:

  • The dogged question of ‘what is an artist’ book?
  • What is not an artists’ book?
  • Where does the apostrophe go in the term artists book and why does it move
  • The Duchampian view of the ‘found object’ as art and his often cited idea that ‘it’s art because I say it is, and I’m an artist’
  • If it has a colophon then it’s an AB(?)
  • Scrapbooks as AB and the silent ‘s’ in the term scrapbook
  • Ideas of sharing knowledge about the gamut of the discipline

One participant presented a polemic to the group, proposing that a freestanding 3D object on the table before us could be an AB – how would we know? The object was a folded “No food or drink allowed” SLQ sign. Discussion ended and reinforced the group’s interest in being challenged, as through such knowledge and understanding emerges.

a polemic for an artists book

a polemic for an artists book

Other structural matters relating to the group’s future activities, meeting schedule, email and communications methods were discussed. Some requested a degree of anonymity at this time. It was noted that the SLQ will be hosting the next Siganto seminar with the topic being the trouble with artists’ books. It was agreed that it will be a ‘must attend’ event.

The meeting concluded in a convivial mood with most attendees going for a coffee, and we guess, some more conversations about the idea of the artists book …

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Doug and Victoria

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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