Artists, Books and Research

‘Valuing the Visual in Literacy Research’ was an international conference organised by Kate Pahl and Julia Davies of the University of Sheffield, held on 4-5 July 2017.

As Artist in Residence I curated an exhibition of artists’ books and artists’ theses, entitled ‘Artists, Books and Research’. This was accompanied by a curator’s talk. For the text from the catalogue and a list of works and authors, please see below.

Essay from exhibition catalogue at ‘Valuing the Visual’

Artists, Books and Research
A Selection of Artists’ Theses & Artists’ Books for Valuing the Visual

Many artists’ research enquiries share thematic concerns with those of literacy researchers, such as embodiment, the ephemeral, and the importance of context in the generation of meaning. Artists undertaking a doctoral study, are, like other research students, required not only to clearly communicate their methodology, but also their reasons for choosing it. Within the wider contemporary artistic community there is an interest in different ways of knowing, enquiring and communicating, but doctoral students have to make very specific decisions as to how to evidence their research. Practice-based PhDs require research students to submit a permanent record of a body of creative work that that has formed a significant part of their intellectual enquiry. In the theses displayed at ‘Valuing the Visual’ this material includes books, film, photographs and reproductions of drawings. The artist researchers have had to build up a picture comprised of words and the most appropriate media for what they are trying to convey as some types of knowledge do not ‘translate’ readily from one medium to another. My hope is that the themes, methodology and communicative strategies of the theses presented here will complement the conference.

Like other creative forms, such as photography, video and performance, books were adopted by artists in the Twentieth Century as a means of expression. They have been described by Dick Higgins as a form of ‘intermedia’ as they grew out of the intersections between these other forms, also drawing in elements of painting and sculpture.

The broadest definition of an artist’s book (taking after Duchamp’s definition of art in general) is that any book that an artist says is an artist’s book is one. They are certainly difficult to define by form as they range from word-based to image-based, and from large print-runs to unique objects.Clive Phillpot distinguishes between an artwork in which the book is simply a container for content, and one which he calls a ‘bookwork’: a work of art that is dependent on the form of the book. Bookworks, by their nature, simultaneously question the nature of art, and the nature of books. Artists often talk about the relationship between form and content; John McDowall talks about the bookwork in which ‘theme and structure are inextricably linked’. The artists’ books selected for ‘Valuing the Visual’ engage with the theme of literacy and the relationships between the written, the visual and other senses such as the aural and the tactile.

I would like to make it clear that whilst this brief introduction to artists’ theses and artists’ books draws heavily on the references below, any interpretations of the specific works selected for ‘Valuing the Visual’ are my own and not necessarily those of their authors/creators.

Select Bibliography
Biggs, M. and Karlsson, H. (eds) (2011) The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts, Abingdon & New York, Routledge.
Drucker, J. (1994, 2004) The Century of Artists’ Books, New York, Granary Books.
Nelson, R. (2013) Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances, Basingstoke & New York, Palgrave Macmillan.
Phillpot, C. (2013) Booktrek, Zurich & Dijon, JRP | Ringier & Les presses du réel.

List of works and authors

Published by MA Biliothèque, London

The Editions II, the Good Readers 2015

On the Fly Silvia Champion, Airplane Mode Michael Day, Sans Terre Bryan Eccleshall & Chris Graham, Read History Louise Finney, Rerreeadaadder Helen Frank, Removed From The Eyes Susannah Gent, Excuses Aylwin Greenwood-Lambert, Read HMR Collective, The Document Emma O’Connor, Variant Sail Bernadette O’Toole, Other Things Olivia Punnett & Sian Williams, Landscape Sarah Pennington, Do You Read Me? Jo Ray, Typecast 01 Katya Robin, Love Letters Janine Siddall Burton, On Reading And Not Reading Rachel Smith, Aroomofone Sown Madeline Walton
17 Pamphlets, bound with staples, collectively presented within a paper sleeve. Edition of 25

From The Editions III: The Preparation of the Novel  2016

Instructions from Light
Emma Bolland
Pamphlet, bound with staples Edition of 25

The Dreamers 2017
Ameena Anjum, Ameera Al-Aji, Andrea Berry, Emma Bolland, Luke Chapman, Helen Clarke, Louise Finney, Rebecca Jagoe, Sharon Kivland, John McDowall, Debbie Michaels, Rachel Smith, Rachel Taylor, Lunzhao Wu
Perfect bound book

Books from AMBruno

Red 2015

B Should be Scarlet
Rachael Hand
Printed digitally and bound by hand Open edition

Words 2016

Steve Perfect
Colour printed, perfect bound Open edition

Sharon Kivland
Digitally printed broadsheet newspaper, endorse folded, with accompanying pamphlet Edition of 100

[sic] 2017

Steve Perfect
Colour printed, perfect bound Open edition

Lines of Flight
Rachel Smith
Digitally printed in colour, hand-finished, perfect bound First edition of 25

Rachael Hand
Digital print; laser cut, etched and engraved card and cloth Assembled, painted and bound by hand. Edition of 15

Theses from Sheffield Hallam University

Process Made Visible: In And Outside The Object 2015
Jerome Harrington
Monograph containing pullout sections; DVD

In Search Of Space: Exploring The Dynamic Relation Of Person And Place 2015
Gillian Hobson
Monograph; Box containing six volumes of photographs (The Light Archive Volumes I-VI), DVD

How Do I Look? Viewing, Embodiment, Performance, Showgirls, & Art Practice 2013
Alison Carr
Monograph; Booklet containing 3 discs (Video Letters: Body & Voice, The Artist and How Do I Look? Viewing Spaces)

Reiterative Drawing As Translation: Making, Resistance, And The Negotiated Encounter 2016
Bryan Eccleshall
Monograph; Three further volumes (Interviews, 365 Drawings, and After After….Reflections on Twenty Two Drawings), Folder of reproductions of drawings

Delineating Disease:a system for investigating Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva 2009
Lucy Lyons
Delineations integrated within the body of the monograph

Investigating the Lived Experience of an After-School Minecraft Club 2017
Chris Bailey
Comics integrated within the body of the monograph