Collaborative materiality : poetry\poets\letterpress\artist books

  • Caren Florance

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Collaborative Materiality seeks ways to subvert traditional writer/printer relationships by using experimental collaboration with contemporary poets. It does this by situating the artist book as a flexible vehicle for collaborative research, a form that can act as a common ground for multiple creative practices. What started as a simple desire – to activate both my relationship to printing poetry with letterpress and the reader’s interaction with that printing – develops through this project into a series of questing negotiations with materials and studio processes that themselves open up broader questions about collaboration, the motility of ideas and the regional condition of Australian creative publishing. Letterpress has a long historical relationship with poetry, and there are many publishing crossovers between visual poetry and text art, both of which are instances of the actual writer engaging with the page visually, or the artist performing their own text. This project is more mediatory: I am a print-artist working creatively with a writer’s creative output, and my acts of mediation are simultaneously secondary yet primary. The core concepts are those of textual activity and the open work as championed by Barthes (1977(a) & (b)),Eco (1979) and McGann (1991),both ideas that have been tested over the last half century and that offer relevant pathways with which to approach the making of collaborative works. I explore the studio’s co-responsibilities in several ways, led by the desires of my collaborators. In the first of the two major collaborations, the studio becomes ‘a microcosm whose laws can be tested and revised’ and where ‘play is essential’ (McVarish,2014). Here the poetics of the letterpress process are foregrounded, especially its capacity to perform as close reading. In the second, the distributed cognition embedded in the equipment and my negotiation with it come into play as my collaborator and I re-voice and re-site institutional culture as performed narrative. Notions of time, labour, attention, mediation,constraint,disruption,deterioration,glitch,iteration,affect,embodiment and space are teased out through the doing (experiential studio time) and the done (the resulting artefact). Finally, this exegesis presents the various publication outcomes, in an exhibition space that was carefully arranged to encourage interactivity and reading. Reading Spaces attempts to create a transferable model of reception that addresses the ‘discrepancy between expectations brought to the experience of art and the actual encounter with an artist’s book’ (Kirschenbaum,1997: 90). Making the works physically accessible, and in some cases actively demanding reader collaboration extends the action-present (Schön,1983: 62) of the work and encourages further iteration, successfully performing the open work.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJen Webb (Supervisor), Jennifer Crawford (Supervisor) & Rowan Conroy (Supervisor)

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