Monday, December 13, 2010

Form v content

I tried to post this as a comment follow-up to my previous post but apparently it's too long!

It's funny how we all work so differently... Form is really, really important to me, and it often kicks off an internal dialogue about content - it's pretty much always the way in which I work. I don't know exactly why that should be the case: I suspect other people think that maybe working with the form first is overly restrictive, or reduces the possibilities of content in some way, but for me it is just as important. I always need to have a REASON for something being the shape that it is, and that form is always tied to the content. Both are equally important for me, it's just that I start with one rather than the other.

I have long internal conversations with myself about the 'shape' of things and how to express whatever it is I'm trying to express. With the Art&Lies piece it was to do with tunnelling: how to get the idea of tunnelling through the information into the final piece.

The leparello signifies something about that 'disorder': scattered scrolls, frustration, not being able to find things, disarray... and the thread is knowledge, life, the physical experience of trying to find something in one place rather than another. It is also the metaphorical expression of knowledge: the 'threads of knowledge' that come to us through time, as well as being an indication of how we move from one piece of information to the next (web browsing is a 21st century analogue!), searching or accidentally discovering things.

Now that I've wrestled (!) my way through that thought process (discarding porcelain paper clay, multiple scrolls and various complex unit-origami structures on the way) I can relax back a bit into the Stage Two internal dialogue which is about selecting text and images (or just text) (or something else entirely) to address the questions of content. Then there's a third series of questions going on about techniques, but that's a whole different story!


Ampersand Duck said...

This is a great thing to talk about.
I'm constantly telling my students that I'm only teaching them book structures as a way to skill them up and allow them to make informed choices, because the best books let the IDEA or CONCEPT drive the structure, or at least support the idea meaningfully. This is why I was torn when Tara O'Brien criticised Japanese stab binding at the SCU opening last year. Part of me air-punched, thinking 'YES!', and part was annoyed and defensive, knowing that when Asian stab bindings are used appropriately, they can both be stunning and meaningful.
I think we're at a point now in Australian Book Arts where people who want to seriously enter things ARE thinking seriously about the structure they use. I hope so!

Ida said...

Yes, thanks Sara for starting this important discussion. Form and Content? I must admit I have never really thought about what comes first in my work practice.(Although we pick it to death in the English classroom.) I am probably more conscience of trying to focus on establishing a link between the two. However I have become very aware through the Book Art Object projects that working with someone elses text places, for me, quiet a heavy empahsis on the content of their piece (and both my texts have been poems)and this in turn has meant a focus on content for me in the piece I produce. This has resulted in me focusing on the sensory (particularly visual)impact that texts have had on me.
I really now want to think about POEM as structure and see where that takes me. A very important and motivating discussion.
PS I love Japanese stab binding - especially when it mimics CWA crafts!! Afterall I am a country woman who loves these traditions. Does that mean I should never call myself a book artist? Maybe I'm a "Bookcrafter" or "craftbooker" (Are these terms already in use?) - they certainly sit comfortably with me.
For me it is the whole process of making - from the thinking to the completing.

ronnie said...

now this is the sort of discussion I love to dig into! (especially if I have a glass of red in hand... so hold up while I get one....)

As I mentioned v briefly in the previous post comments - form v/s content is not really a battle - or indeed much of an issue really in my practice. I don't find that there's a conflict between the two - which I think is part of the reason why I fluidly move between form- then content-led work (or vice-versa) I've recognised this is because I see the two as a pair - and that combined are one part of my making equation.....

but my paramount concern is/has always been the conceptual (I'm sure this a very long-winded way of saying I'm an ideas-led girl! not that I think this isn't the shared story for all of us here!)

so for me, form and content meekly tow the line to my wild ideas ..... I also think this is why I'm such a cross-disciplined creature - bookarts one day, video the next! ..... yep as I say in my blog welcome - 'I'm materially promiscuous'..... now you know why!

Rhubarb said...

We decorated the Christmas tree this evening so I'm several sheets to the wind with half a bottle of champagne inside me and it's a wonder I can spell anything! But this is the sort of conversation I like to have on this blog: I think we have a great opportunity to explore what we're doing as part of BookArtObject, and to add something to the scholarly debate about artists' books. Anyway, in my semi-inebriated state I just wanted to agree with Ronnie: I don't see Form v Content as a battle as such, just a dialogue. I tend to go one way rather than the other, but I see both as equally important. I suppose I should also own up to the fact that I feel disappointed when I notice book artists who don't consider form as seriously as they consider content: it's a shame to see wonderful content inside boring covers when a little extra thought - and perhaps a bit more consideration of "concept" - might have led the artist to explore some other ideas about form. But that's just me. I sometimes think that in another life I might have been a sculptor as opposed to a printmaker and/or book artist, but maybe that's just a matter of labelling? I haven't strayed too far from print or books in my practice but I must say that I think about medium a long time after I've considered form and content! OK, you have no idea how much concentration all that typing took in the circumstances so now I'm off to bed...