I haven’t featured any Zine related stuff on the bookleteer blog for a while now, so whilst we’re busy producing the eBooks for City As Material 2, I thought I’d share a blog I’ve just discovered.
Zineage Kicks is a behind the scenes look at a number of the early Zines of guest contributors, chronicling their conception and what it took to get them made via interviews and testimonies. It’s a side of small scale publishing that rarely gets heard, unlike the wealth of talk that surrounds the inspirations and working practices of mainstream writers, artists and designers, and might surprise people who perceive Zines to be generally low-consideration, offhand artefacts. The blog seems to have been started a few months ago, but already I can see it becoming a regularly visited bookmark, especially due to the parallels with our latest series of eBooks, Material Conditions.
Oh, and I left the most obvious comment to last… great name, eh?
Last Thursday we travelled to Thetford, Norfolk, the first destination ofCity As Material 2, centered on the theme of ‘Migrations’. Joining us were Andrew Hunter and Lisa Hirmer from Dodolab, Josie Mills from the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, and Leila Armstrong. Oh, and the “itinerant avian scholar” (in his own squawks), Professor William Starling – Andrew’s alter ego, who is investigating the decline of Starlings and other species in the UK.
After a heinous early start and a couple of train changes, Giles and I were picked up by Andrew in Bury St Edmunds, a short drive from Thetford. He filled us in on what they’d been up to so far, and we started to discuss a loose route for the day. We arrived and worked our way into the town, along its contours of winding roads and down the High Street, where people drifted past in the slow, content manner of those living in a quiet market town on a warm Winter’s morning, then met the others in a Portuguese cafe. The 2001 UK census suggested that almost 30 % percent of the population in Thetford were Portuguese, drawn by work in the farms, fields and factories.
Andrew showed us an aging tome entitled ‘In Breckland Wilds’, which Professor Starling had been studying to get a sense of the area in past times. I immediately turned to the alluring chapter called ‘Traditions, Customs and Ghost Tales’, and learnt about the spectre of the “flaming-eyed rabbit” and other dubious local lore. Smirking aside, there was a genuine interest in Thetford’s folklore – tales that can allude to the real fears and anxieties of people in the area at the time. On that note we departed and headed for the ruins of Thetford Priory, which in the 13th century had drawn pilgrims to Thetford, after the discovery of a number of saints’ relics in a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Along the way, Andrew transformed into Professor Starling, donning grand attire and a giant bird’s head (crowned by a top hat) and spotted one of his namesake in a tree. Unfortunately it would be the only one we spotted that day. He chatted with passing locals who weren’t fazed in the slightest, cheerfully greeting our unusual ensemble.
I was expecting the ruins to be scattered rubble, but the crumbled perimeter walls were still visible, laid out in thick lines of fist-sized flint, two feet tall. It almost looked as if it was in the process of being built; the stonemasons away on an eternal break. I made some rubbings with tracing paper and a graphite block, gleaning traces of the past, and noticed covered grill pits, sadly filled with rubbish – traces of the now. Saying that, despite being a marvel for us, these ruins must seem very commonplace for the local youth.
We split up after returning to the city centre. Professor Starling and Lisa went to talk to more people on the high street, Josie and Leila set off for Ancient House Museum, and Giles and I took a scenic detour around the town edges, observing lovely flint cottages and houses overtaken by vivid green vines, then slowly passing along the river. We noticed statues of Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s Army, which was filmed extensively around the area, and by contrast, one of Maharajah Duleep Singh, who settled in the nearby Elveden Hall, on the opposite bank. There’s also an odd statue of Thomas Paine, born in Thetford, on King Street, poised with quill as if playing darts and gripping an upside down copy of his book ‘The Rights of Man’. A diverse trio indeed.
Reuniting with Josie and Leila briefly at the Museum, we saw a Narwhal tusk, taxidermy birds, and replicas of the Thetford Hoard, unearthed in 1979, and now housed in the British Museum. The circumstances surrounding the discovery are shady and it is thought the treasure is incomplete. We started to think about what might be missing, and what the treasures of Thetford today might be.
Over lunch, everyone together again, Andrew recounted some of the opinions he had gathered as Professor Starling. His favourite, in response to his question about why the numbers of Starlings had fallen in Thetford was “Cats!”. Following chuckles, we left for Castle Hill, one of the tallest Norman mottes in England, although nothing remains of the castle which once sat atop it. There seems to be many rumours about buried treasure and hidden tunnels, though our only surprise was how tricky it was to safely walk back down.
Lastly, we drove out to the remains of the Thetford Warren Lodge, surrounded by wonderfully spongy ground that felt like it was absorbing you into the land, and paths sprinkled with knapped flint. Peering through the bars which protected it gave a sense of the original fortitude and seclusion of the structure, standing firm amongst thickets of trees.
Tranquil as it was, we had another agenda: to drive back to town, and retire to the Bell Inn. Pints up!
Following in the fluttering wings of Professor Starling, who will be investigating the passages of Starlings across Europe and North America throughout the ages, we’ll be looking at the migrations of people to these shores, how these have influenced spaces and communities, as well as more intangible forces – the migration of knowledge, skills and beliefs.
Next up: London and Oxford. Look out for tales from the days, and the eBooks created, very soon.
City as Material recently became part of ARCHIZINES, an archive of independent architecture zines, journals and magazines from around the world, curated by Elias Redstone. I was lucky enough to be able to talk about City as Material and self-publishing at Archizines Live, part of November’s Friday Late at the V&A. Now the collection is touring the world, starting with an exhibition at Spazio FMG in Milan which runs until the 23rd of Feburary. Next up: Paris, Berlin and New York, with details to be announced soon. The photographs of the launch night in Milan look great – best of luck with the other stops!
I’ve been thinking a fair bit about bookleteer’s role in creating poetry pamphlets and short story collections, and the lack of much of either from budding bookleteers.
It’s boggling – they suit the format perfectly as portable, pocket sized A6 books, or the grander A5 size, and can be made very quickly without any design knowledge, in any word processing application. Use them as cheap and plentiful portfolios of work, or travel booklets for personal reading – anyone with a computer and printer has access to their own print on demand service. If you need to make changes, or they get damaged, make some more.
Or, use the online bookreader to share digital versions, and embed into websites. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve edited eBooks embedded in my portfolio site, but as the link remains the same, there’s no need to re-upload.
Despite the tone of this post, this is not a sale pitch. bookleteer is free, you skeptics. I just want see fellow writers embracing it and adding to our library of eBooks, Diffusion. Get busy!
This recent article from the Guardian Books blog, ponders whether or not it’s acceptable to make notes in the margins of books. Reading it, I was reminded of how annotating draft bookleteer eBooks during the editing and proofing stages of Material Conditions was an invaluable part of the process.
We were able to quickly transform the draft books into the final printed format to get a feel of what they would look like on the page, and then to cross out, change and empathise parts, scribbling notes without feeling they were too precious to make marks on. Having a hard copy of previous changes, with progressive layers all on the same page, lets you revert back if you change your mind – something I’ve also come to appreciate in my own notebooks, when early choices are all too often lost with a newly edited digital file. Working with multiple versions and backing up regularly are safeguards easily neglected, as we all know.
As an alternative, use the online bookreader to preview eBooks without messy edges or any dodgy printer issues, and to show collaborators your work instantly.
Yesterday, Proboscis launched the first series of Material Conditions, a set of eight eBooks created with bookleteer, asking professional creative practitioners to reflect on what the material conditions for their own practice are, especially now in relation to the climate of change and uncertainty brought about by the recession and public sector cuts – part of Proboscis’ wider programme of activities, Public Goods.
For this series, we commissioned 8 artists and artist groups (Active Ingredient; Karla Brunet; Sarah Butler; Desperate Optimists; London Fieldworks; Ruth Maclennan; Jules Rochielle & Janet Owen Driggs and Jane Prophet) to produce a book each. Half of the contributors took the opportunity to design their own layouts and use bookleteer to create their books themselves, whilst the other half (often busy working on various projects and unable to make the books from scratch) took advantage of our in-house design and production team (for the most, myself, with assistance from Giles Lane) to create their books. My practice, as a writer, is usually contributing text but for this venture I took on a role as co-commissioning editor and designer – coordinating responses, reviewing early drafts and producing front covers, guided by my co-editor, Giles. In this way, the process behind this project also echoed one of its main themes – how do we continue to be creative and productive everyday in the face of limited resources?
Collaboration and co-creation are at the heart of our practice and ethos, for the riches they bring as much as resources dictate their necessity. This stance has led to a very different, and I believe perhaps more exciting, output for this series, than if all the books had simply been commissioned by us and created entirely by the artists involved remotely. I relished the chance to guide and inform, alongside Giles, the direction of several of the books, to be the first set of eyes to witness a first draft outside of its author, to design covers – sealing a visual stamp upon a beautifully written piece.
Being able to instantly generate and preview drafts in the relatively new bookreader format has also been a huge boon during the design process, and it’s accessibility will ensure Material Conditions can be read, shared and used as a resource globally, by anyone, in addition to the printed set and the downloadable PDFs. In fact, all the printed books carry a QR code link to the digital version on the back cover, so they can be instantly shared amongst smart-phones and tablet devices.
Thank you to everyone involved – we’ve got a great, diverse collection on our hands.
All the books are now available on our archive of publications, Diffusion. Delve in, and enjoy.
The next series of Material Conditions is scheduled for June 2012, for which we’re planning another experimental approach, shifting away from individual commissions to a collaborative process generated through an intensive ‘booksprint’. Stay tuned for more details.
On December 15th we are launching a new series of eBook commissions called Material Conditions. This series asks professional creative practitioners to reflect on what the material conditions for their own practice are, especially now in relation to the climate of change and uncertainty brought about by the recession and public sector cuts.
The first set of 8 contributions will be published as eBooks made with bookleteer and available as downloadable PDFs for handmade books, online via bookreader versions and in a limited edition (50) of professionally printed and bound copies which will be available for sale (at £16 per set plus P&P). You can pre-order a set via paypal:
We’ll be releasing one eBook every day on Diffusion until the print launch on December 15th in our Clerkenwell studio, where copies of the full limited edition printed set of 8 books will be available.
(Material Conditions is part of Proboscis’ Public Goods programme – seeking to create a library of responses to these urgent questions that can inspire others in the process of developing their own everyday practices of creativity; that can guide those seeking meaning for their choices; that can set out positions for action around which people can rally.)
October saw a combo of eBooks created with bookleteer and printed using our Short Run Printing Service – ‘Picnic: Order, Ambiguity and Community’ and ‘Sites and Strategies’.
‘Picnic: Order, Ambiguity and Community’ by Kevin Harris, an author and community development commentator, and Gemma Orton, an artist, is an illustrated essay focusing on the relationship between food and social interaction, particularly on that “wobbly combination of conviviality and disorder” – the picnic. Using the A5 landscape to great effect, Kevin has placed footnotes and references alongside the text, interspersed with Gemma’s lovely images.
Fifty limited edition copies, complete with special signed wrappers, will be sold in aid of the homeless charity Crisis at the publication launch on the 14th November, at the Wellcome Trust Gallery. Register for tickets here.
‘Sites and Strategies’ by Gair Dunlop, a visual artist, is a portfolio of select artworks created between 2003 and 2011. A document of his numerous sculpture, media and installation pieces, as well as his approach, it can distributed fluidly both in print, through galleries and art festivals, and online, through the digital bookreader version (below), acting as perfect companion text to Gair’s work.
You can also download, print and make it for yourself on Diffusion here.
After some tinkering and testing, we’ve just uploaded the new eBook back cover designs to the bookleteer server. Alongside an improved colophon layout, all eBooks generated with bookleteer now automatically create a QR code link as well as a short URL, to the online bookreader version, featured on the bottom left corner of the back page. This means you can scan the code from a friends printed eBook with a smartphone or tablet device, to instantly bring up the digital version on your screen – another interesting dimension to hybrid publications. We’re looking forward to discovering similar intriguing uses…