Sunday, June 16, 2013

Canberra puts on a show for BAO

Hello BAOers

Bembindery and I are both Canberra participants and both in different groups (I'm in groups 1 & 6, and he's in groups 2 & 9).  We're also members of the Canberra Craft Bookbinders' Guild, and in the course of a conversation we agreed that between us we (theoretically) have a pretty good cross-section of BAO edition 4 works, and that it would be wonderful to exhibit them.

So! We have applied for, and received, a place in the UNSW Canberra Library exhibition program for September this year, with a six-week run.

If you are in any of these groups: 1, 2, 6 or 9, and haven't finished or sent your books to us, we would love you to do so by 1 September 2013. If we get all the books, it will be a marvellous exhibition. Even if we don't, it will still be lovely :)

There's another way you can be involved as well: I have a number of leftover books from earlier editions, and if you are not in these groups (or even if you are in groups 2 & 9, but you will already be in the exhibition!) and would like to do a swap of a BAO4 book for one of these, I'd be very keen, and it would supplement what we have from our groups.

I have 6 copies of Paper Wrestling, which was BAO Edition 2:

(more images and details if you click the PW link above)

... and I have 8 copies of It's Raining Still Lives, my BAO 4 work, which is two stories in one book. I didn't give a follow-up from the sneak peek, so maybe now is the time.

I chose to work with two stories because I'd become interested in playing with a way to weave two texts together; with the BAO project I experimented with lots of different structures, like a woven concertina, and sewing into a concertina spine, and a flag book, but of course a large part of editioning for BAO is that you have to pare down your idea to something that is able to be reproduced without a disproportionate amount of labour, time and money, and able to be easily sent around the world. And working with hand-set letterpress means that this consideration and planning is doubly important, so that the process can be streamlined into as few runs of the press as possible.

I also had a subject that had been floating around in my head for a very long time: fertility -- the pressures placed upon women to be fertile, to act upon it, and how the failure to be fertile can impact upon lives. This book does not even begin to touch upon these themes adequately, but it makes a small start, in a way that is quite ambiguous and is loosely informed by my own experiences and feelings.

So I chose the titles 'It's Raining', and 'Stilled Lives', and I held them close in my head for months while I worked on other things, trying to find an inroad that would merge my interests and the book structure ideas I was playing with. I wrote about three different versions over the year, each time simplifying, concentrating, taking away anything judgemental, trying to find the right voice.

I wanted the stories to be very grey inside a grey issue, and I decided one way to do that was to absolutely highlight as many binaries as I could to frame the stories: black and white, sans serif and serif, ink and emboss, hand-cut and cast, matrix and fingerprint, hand-applied and printed, first-person and third-person.

I don't pretend to be an image-maker. My strengths lie in text, so I did the best I could with the images, and had a lot of fun in the process. 

I printed the book as a whole, then cropped it in the middle, and then sewed it in to the cover. One story flows along in one direction, then the book turns, and it flows along in the other direction. There is an order, but it doesn't matter if they are read out of that order. 

In the 'first', a woman is having an ultrasound, and it doesn't go well, but in what way can be interpreted by the reader. In my case, it was a missed miscarriage (I had two), which means that there is nothing thriving in the womb by the time of the ultrasound but the woman has had no idea up to that point and has felt pregnant right up to the moment of the news. This story was inspired by my second experience, when I knew by the look in the technician's eyes (because I'd gone through it before) but no-one would confirm the news until a week later, for whatever bizarre reason. However, my text could also be read in the sense that defects or disorders had been detected as well, which calls for hard decision-making on the part of the mother.

In the 'second' story, a woman, perhaps the same woman, is ordering a 'reborn' doll online. Do you know about reborn dolls? They fascinate me. They are pitched publicly as 'collectables' but there is a whole world of pain, longing and desire underneath the surface, especially when you read the comments and chat of any provider's website. They can be bought ready-made, or as a kit to make yourself, or they can be ordered as a custom purchase, with characteristics of your choice, which means you can have them made to resemble your grown-up children as babies, or the grandchildren you don't get access to, or the baby that you lost or never had. They can be so lifelike that there are news stories about women who buy car seats for them, and police breaking into the parked cars to release the baby from the car after a concerned member of the public has reported it. I tried very hard to write this story from a non-judgemental perspective: there but for my son (who is described by all doctors as a 'miracle'), or my cats, or my art practice, I might be that woman. 

So. There you go: It's Raining Stilled Lives. It's very much a women-centred book; men have responded to it sensitively... they see the subject and the pain, but it leaves them a bit confused. Feedback from the women has been incredible, and I'm so glad it touched them.

If you would like to swap your work for a copy of this, or Paper Wrestling, email me: ampersandduck at gmail dot com. I'll accept offers strictly by order of offer, so don't delay.

And if you are in our groups and want your work to be in our exhibition, please get making/finishing/posting! We would love a full complement of your amazing works.

PS Congrats to Sara, who managed to successfully crowdsource her funding to get overseas, and yay to everyone who pitched in to make that happen! She will certainly make the most of her experience.


Helen M said...

Congratulations Caren on organising an exhibition of some of the BAO books. I love the subject and complexity of 'It's raining Stilled lives' and would love to swap one, so I'll send an email!

Ampersand Duck said...

Fantastic, Helen, would love to swap with you!

Elephant's Child said...

Oooh. I will assuredly be at the exhibition. I suspect that 'Its raining Stilled Lives' will pull at my heart-strings, but I wouldn't miss it.

Ampersand Duck said...

I will look forward to seeing you there, EC, and hope I get to see you sooner than that...

rObfOs said...

Great idea & effort organising the collaborative Canberra exhibition. I'd be very happy to do a swap with you as well. I was in group 3 and had the title "The Missing Typewriter Key" - not as poignant a tale as the one you described in "It's Raining Still Lives".

Ampersand Duck said...

Sounds great! Send me an email with your postal address.

Sara Bowen said...

Well done Duckie! Oh dear, better put my skates on then... unless you'd like to borrow a copy of my Group 12 book "A Burning Question"? At least I've finished one of them!!!

Victoria said...

This is cool!

Paper Chipmunk (aka Ellen) said...

Greetings Duckie--Rather belated here, but I am really hoping to get mine to you by the beginning of September, although it is frighteningly closing in on us. I'm still simultaneously working on both of my titles, as much as I've been able (which, alas, hasn't been nearly as much as I'd like). I had to scrap most of the work I'd done over the past year on the Group 6 book and start over (too long and sad a story to contemplate), and, as these things go, it's been one thing after another and I've been frustratingly unproductive. I just wanted to let you know I have not vanished for good, or at least that has not been my intention. And I love the idea of being in a show in Canberra!