Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Altering books with Bethwyn

(This post is part two of 'what I did in the holidays')

One of my objectives for this year was to do some collaborative art projects. I started the Response* book project which involved sending a blank journal out into the world for other people to fill in a page and pass it on until its full and comes home to me. Response disappears for months at a time, and then I'll suddenly (like today) get an email from a complete stranger on the other side of the world letting me know they're playing.

Earlier this year I collaborated with Dylan to create Daintree Calling, a video poem/digital story. And recently I collaborated with Alan and Katie to produce an edition of handmade books on commission for WSA. But my favourite collaborative project so far, and the one that I think will be the most long lived, is getting Frugal with the Bruegel with Bethwyn.

The name, getting Frugal with the Bruegel, comes from this bit of collaged cover on our first-started and most-completed book. We had one fabulous Brueghel reproduction and cut it up to create a frock, a hat and two priapic Thatcher fans out of it. We have started about half a dozen books, one of them mostly text and the others are all children's picture books. We are learning a lot about what works and what doesn't in this kind of altered book art: experimenting with scale, colour, themes and so on.

Why is this collaboration the most enjoyable of all my forays this year? I think it has a lot to do with what we each bring in terms of complementary skills, intentions, appetites, politics, materials and a shared cynical sense of humour leavened with an appreciation of cuteness. Even though we didn't know each other terribly well before, from the beginning of this project we have consistently found that one will offer a suggestion that is exactly what the other one was thinking. So it's easy to trust each other and ourselves, and the process becomes increasingly fluid, dynamic and playful. We laugh a lot, we like what we are making, and someday we might even show it off, but there's no hurry; which is part of what makes it work too.

*The Response blog, on the other hand has turned out to be a complete fizzer. A more successful collaborative blog that I'm involved in is our family's recipe blog, called Nourish Us.

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