I have always expected, intended perhaps, that the direction of this project was likely to include a physical destruction of the book. The most recent images have been complex, layered constructions, which appropriate diagrams – signifiers – from the book and re-present them in new ways that bear no apparent relation to their original meaning. I blogged about one recent one here and another one here. The most recent of all came in for some interesting discussion on Flickr here. I haven’t necessarily exhausted the possibilities with that part of the project – far from it, actually – but it has felt like a good time to move things on to another phase. (In order to keep options open for further constructions, I have, by the way, created a digital photographic copy of the entire book – 178 images of all double-page spreads, front/back covers, and so on. It took me about half a day but I can extract and manipulate further elements, should I wish – and it also keeps open options to create a PDF version, slideshow etc, too.)
But, as I say, the physical destruction was always a possibility – likelihood, actually – and it has begun. I ought to explore the motivation or intent behind this new part of the process. It has various sources, actually. One is, I must say, instinctive, emotional, intuitive – a kind of basic, natural desire to do it. Contextual Studies might inform me that this comes from my unconscious – perhaps it does – my failed Chemistry O-level, still haunting me; some base, unacknowledged desire to see the victory of digital over analogue; or, worst of all, a destructive nature that was suppressed as I entered the Symbolic Order as an infant. Whatever – I have felt an urge to ‘cut’ the book! (So, no matter what I might now write about the intellectual context and justification; the influences of other artists; the metaphor for the demise of chemical photography; all will be meaningless because it’s really just a desire to destroy things!)
However, I am going to refer to some artistic influences – and they are genuine, as it happens. Firstly, getting on for two years ago, I attended an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery called The First Cut. Quoting from the page on that link “31 international artists who cut, sculpt and manipulate paper, transform this humble material into fantastical works of art for our stunning new exhibition”. It’s one of the most inspiring exhibitions that I have ever seen – artists with amazing skill and craft but also with outstanding vision and creativity. All were excellent and several of them ‘cut books’. This was one of my favourites – Georgia Russell ‘The Story of Art’ – and hopefully some very loose connection with where my Textbook Project is going is clear. A second influence is here, in the work of photographer, Abelardo Morell. I came across his work during my Level Two Studies and, whilst it does not have the destructive characteristics that I’m demonstrating, I do like the aesthetics and the form of his book photography, and have sought to bring something of that to my own project.
And so, the following series of images may be a metaphor for the fate of chemical photography. It may be my very crude response to the inspirations of Georgia Russell and Abe Morrell. It may be some sort of apocalyptic exploration of the postmodern hyper-real. And it may just be me satisfying a destructive nature that has (thank goodness!) remained buried in my unconscious since just before I first saw myself as the ‘other’ in a mirror image, way back in rural Lancashire in the early fifties …
This is the more creative stage of this new phase. I suspect that things are going to get messier!