Wednesday, 8 February 2017

On testing what I don't know

This is phase one of an artistbook of a diatom chain. I'm not sure how it'll develop, beyond the folds and spots. I have a poem I could put in it, but have yet to establish how it’ll spread across the folds and if it is the right poem. I have a week to decide. As it represents a colony it seems appropriate to let my thinking grow incrementally, visually. 

I currently believe it’s also the starting point of a workshop I'm hoping to deliver with a group of 7-10 year olds in July on plankton, writing about plankton and making a simple concertina to contain the writing and any images.

It is the first time I've made a booklet before knowing what to put in it. I’m taking the year long artistbook making course at Hot Bed Press (thanks to the AHRC) and last night was the first in a two-parter on concertinas. I was immediately attracted to incorporating pop ups (those little corner folds that contain the green dots). I loved pop up books as a kid, how they extended the reach of the book, often asking for some interactivity; and while the geometric delight of these triangles aren’t in the same realm of tugging paper slips and revealing new words they do break the rectangular shape, add another layer of repetition and throw shadows on the card. The concertina is already three dimensional in its structure, the zig zag folds of the concertina and this will have two separate hard backed covers so the booklet will remain expandable as seen above. So to add the folded pop outs in the top and bottom corners creates addition to this depth, a representation of some of the beautiful patterns found in these microscopic algae.

Punching holes into the card may convey the silica, its lightness, transparency somehow. Someone in class last night had used their awl to pinprick tiny holes in patterns which gave me the idea of writing the entire poem in holes. Gulp. This would require neat writing, precision and the acceptance that you’ll only be able to read it from one side. Test required.

Question: how important is it that the two sides are mirrors of each other?

Another test: cutting thin strips diagonally to the folds. More light, more clashing lines, more shadows.

Another test: using ring binder strengtheners. More geometry, more texture, more layers of white.

Question: How much colour do I want for these creatures?

Since only have the one concertina to experiment on I feel limited in the explorations of adding text. There are two consequences to this: I don’t use text, I become entranced with the blankness; or I become bold, step outside how I’ve treated text previously, cut it from another block of text – interesting if I could find text on sunshine or photosynthesis. Perhaps I’m thinking back to the Humument here …

Question: How important is the threat of plastic to this colony?

Another test: Stamping ink circles from the end of Q-tips found on the beach.

Question: could these be random or in syncopated patterns?

Questions and tests stretch ahead, which need to be punctuated by walking and researching. John Cleese once said no one (or was it just Monty Python?!) was ever inspired by the computer. I don’t agree. It can inspire if tempered with interaction with the physical world. That lies as the foundation for my current thinking and writing: the mix of experience and scientific understanding. How essential it is for me to balance the multiplicities of how to engage with the world, especially a world that is so often remote, invisible or microscopic.