I love it when this sort of coincidence occurs …
Late last year, a miniature manuscript by the 14 year-old Charlotte Brontë was discovered and sold at auction for a record (ridiculous) sum of money. At half the size of the average credit card, the text (reaching approximately 4000 words in its 19 insy little pages) needs to be read with a magnifying glass.
At approximately the same time in New Zealand, the update of the magnificent Earth Blue atlas was released; Earth Platinum. The world’s largest atlas, it measures 6 feet by 9 feet, takes two people to turn a page, and is being sold for, once again, rather a ridiculous amount of money.
Brontë’s manuscript is set in the fictional Glass Town, created by the sister’s for the entertainment of their younger brother. The atlas is a document striving ever towards an accurate representation of the earth’s surface. However, the two books can only move towards each other; the Brontë book, with its layers and complexities creating its fictional land of Glass Town, is a contradictory yet complimentary partner to the atlas, a representation of another land, its layers and complexities born of centuries of interpretations by the subjectivities and egos of man.
Acre. Each book holds 253 A3 pages which, if laid out side by side instead of being stacked and bound, would equal the equivalent of 1/64th of an acre in surface area. The whole work is 64 books (16 192 A3 pages) divided and bound in equal fractions of the whole. Each book is numbered on the spine, 1 through 64, and weighs 4.5 kg, totaling 288 kilograms for the pile. The scale of 1:64 is a common scale ration for die-cast models, and allows the books to be divided fractionally into halves, quarters, eighths, and so on. As the work was installed, it is close to A1 (four A3) in size which is a metric measurement compared to the imperial acre.Each book is its own space, but also part of the whole.
Acre, is a way to break down the world into more containable, manageable, understandable pieces so that it becomes a relatable physical, visual representation. Acres as a unit of measurement are only used for land and is becoming obsolete but still relatively widely understood. I wanted to see a whole acre in a single glance, without turning my head or missing a piece. An acre of land becomes folded down into a paper form, similar to the way a large road map is folded. The representation of landscape collapses into a hand held object.
I kind of joked that I can’t afford my own acre of land, so instead I’ll just make my own acre of paper. I’ll just live in books instead.
This is a little unnecessary and self-gratifying, but below are some of the drawings from the project I started at the outset of our travels. These drawings are from the books:
Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
The Great War for Civilisation (Robert Fisk)
Duck, Death and the Tulip (Wolf Erlbruch)
Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift)
I have been thinking about the way that non-fiction books order information and considering ways in which this could be translated via my own practice and interests to create a new book. so far there seems to be some major and essential step missing, but i have taken pleasure in a book on bedding plants….. a lovely title once it is out of context. I am interested in translating the photos in the book via tracing in fine-liner to simplify the images with a 70’s flower-power aesthetic.
i am enjoying the translation via scanning, reducing size and printing, in terms of making a book i like that the finished work is the printed image, not the tracing itself. i.e. the image in the book is the work, not the documentation of the work.
Last year, one of my favourite artists, Daniel Eatock released a book, Earth Bound Sky Bound with the small Venice based publishing company Automatic Books. The publication is a selection of 52 landscape photographs with the horizon line hidden in the binding of the book.
Eatock says: “The photographs are not precious and special, they are just a set of snap shots that are unified by the horizontal line of the horizon. When I took the photographs I was happy and inspired in a cliche way, a took a snap shot of the view to mark the special moment. I did not take them as ‘beautiful photographs’ instead see them an amateur snap shots of ‘beautiful moments’. They have not been taken consciously in preparation for a project, unlike the other sets of photographs on my website. I only noticed them as a set by chance as I was sorting through my photo archive and wanted to unify them and work with them. Not highlighting any one picture or showing how beautiful they are but to deal with them in a semi rational way. Then I arrived at the idea of hiding the line of the horizon in the margins of a book. Hiding the point of interest.”
In some pages the obscured horizon line is imposed by the viewer, using the shadowed biding space as an assumed horizon line. In other pages, there is a noticeable jump of pictorial information between the two separate spaces of earth and sky within the image frame. We know that the horizon exists, but when this particular part of place is hidden in the folds of a glue binding, the infinitude of earth and sky becomes broken and separated. In such, the space is folded.
Eatock breaks one of the basic formatting rules of publishing by losing the page margins into the binding. But when the conventions of book formatting fall back in on themselves, an additional in-between space is created. The book then becomes a sculptural medium rather than simply an information receptacle. The physicality of the object is utilised as a constructed, collapsable space.
A very small, quick series of drawings documenting the train trips Justin and I have taken through Europe over the past 2 months based on our much-treasured-and-gazed-at Eurail Map. These are the beginnings of something else, however at the moment I like that they so humbly depict what was the equivalent of crossing from the west coast of the USA to the east coast, and then back again.
In two months we’ve traveled approximately 8000kms through Europe, passing through 9 countries on 25 trains, staying in 14 cities.
The city of Köln was never intended as a destination when we set out on our adventure, but before long we found ourselves there. As its train station is one of the main stops on a number of routes through Europe, we passed through it several times and were taken by the view of Köln’s massive cathedral. Aptly named the Dom, this staggering Gothic structure (under construction for a period of 600 years) dominates (see what I did there?) the entire skyline, visible from most points in the city, and became the reason for this unexpected destination.
However, for me it was the Kolumba Museum that proved the jewel of this city.
Kolumba Museum comes with an extraordinary story. During WWII this particular church was bombed to the ground. When residents investigated the rubble afterwards, though, they found the Madonna still standing. Thereafter she was dubbed Madonna of the Ruins. In a twist, what the bombing uncovered was the ancient ruins of a Roman house that the church had been built upon. Since, the ruins of both the Roman house and the church have been beautifully preserved as part of what has become an art museum. Using stone of the same colour, the new museum sympathetically rises out of the ruins. On the ground floor, you can walk on platforms around what remains of both the Roman house and the Church, (cunningly but subtly lit by means of leaving gaps between some of the new bricks) with the first and second floor dedicated to housing an the Church’s collection of historical and contemporary art. Everything about this museum was unexpected and hugely satisfying; it’s one of my highlights for many, many reasons.
On show when we arrived was a restrained but fascinating exhibition on ‘thinking’. Combining the museum’s own collection of historical religious art and artefacts with contemporary art, it hosted works from Joseph Beuys to John Cage to local Köln artists, from sound works to installation, from historical artist studies on perspective to the museum’s architect’s notes and notebooks on his thoughts on how to build this remarkable structure. My favourite room was darkened, apart from tall, thin lit glass cases that held the Archdiocese’s reliquary. Set back amongst these on a plinth of its own was a live feed from a library, housed in a finely furnished container in Antarctica. This library was 10 years in the making and created by Lutz Fritsch. The books have been chosen by selected scientists and artists. The counterpoint of these two sets of artefacts was something quite special.
Sorry about the length of this post, will sign off now. -Gabrielle