More workshops are being held next week in Islington & Wembley Libraries as part of the Librarypress project. Below is the presentation I’ll be using to illustrate my talk on bookleteer to participants and explore the kinds of things they can do with it.
The ARCHIZINES World Tour is continuing its traversal of the globe, with added dates for Autumn. This collection of independent architecture zines, journals and magazines from around the world, curated by Elias Redstone, and featuring a publication from our very own City As Material, will be on show in various countries over the following weeks. Check the schedule for venues and dates.
The other week we fled London for serene, sunny Dorchester, joining Tim Wright and Joe Flintham, as well as a handful of intrepid walkers eager to try out The Haunter box they have developed.
Enamoured with the surroundings and bewitched by the box, we followed the routes Tim had set for the day. Walking, talking, and reciting Hardy’s poems from the handy booklet Giles had created, we were struck by how much the box can change the way you engage with the landscape, and the pace and manner in which you travel through it. There’s a grand charm to bearing its burden – carrying the physical weight, as if a stone ferried from the base of a hill to a cairn, and the weight of its words, surrendering to how Hardy saw the world in his mournful state.
The box is just a prototype at the moment, but Tim and Joe are planning to add several more features and capabilities. I can’t wait to clasp it tight once more and be led through the land. In the meantime, we’re thinking of what we will create from the experience and the subsequent discussions, to form part of our City As Material series.
Tim has written an account, and uploaded a host of videos and sounds recorded from the day on his site, which should enlighten and entertain in equal measure. Here’s a teaser…
For our next City As Material venture, we will be working with Tim Wright on his new digital public art project The Haunter, inspired by Thomas Hardy’s ‘Poems of 1912/13′, enacted 100 years after Hardy wrote his famous sequence of verses mourning the death of his first wife, Emma.
Participants will embark on walks along a specific route with a crafted wooden box, embedded with smart technology, ‘haunted’ by the legacy of Hardy’s poems. Able to speak, play recordings of poems, conversations and music, capture sounds and react dynamically using geolocation, the box will enhance and document their experiences.
On Tuesday 19th June we’ll be joining Tim and box developer Joe Flintham (amongst others) in Dorchester to try it out in the field – a day of ‘recording, beta testing, walking and talking’ – forming a book (or series of books) on what happened, ideas discussed, and creative responses to the walk.
For a detailed description of the day, check here – it would be great if you could join us.
Next week we will begin the task of scanning in all the children’s reviews and making a selection of the funniest, best written, most interesting reviews to include in a compilation book, which will also be made and published via bookleteer. We’ll invite the chefs taking part to have their say too – responding to the children’s reviews with quotes of their own, and ask Fay and head teacher Rachel Earnshaw (who’s leaving at the end of this term after 10 years) to write introductions. We hope to have the final book ready around mid June.
We’re inviting donations towards the printing costs and to contribute to the school itself – please use the Paypal Donation button below, visit us at our table in the ‘Dessert Ghetto’ at tomorrow’s Feast or, if you’re a member of the school community, drop into the office to make a donation and get your copy. We’re suggesting a minimum donation of £7.50 – for which you’ll get your name printed in the book as well as receiving a copy by post.
Bookleteer will be at this year’s Soho Food Feast on Saturday 26th May – a one-day event of demonstrations, tastings and cooking contests, boasting many of London’s most renowned chefs and restauranteurs, in aid of Soho Parish Primary School.
We’ll be encouraging children from the school to sample dishes and become food critics for the day, capturing their responses with a specially designed bookleteer notebook illustrated by Mandy and introduced by Fay Maschler, restaurant critic for the Evening Standard. We’re also going to compile a book of the best reviews which will be sold to raise money for the school.
The line-up is beyond tantalising, and needless to say, it’s all for a good cause. Nom nom nom!
“Magazine Library is a travelling series of events and exhibitions that celebrates print culture in all its forms, and it returns this spring for a 10th edition! For Magazine Library 10 – held for the first time at Hillside Terrace in Daikanyama – the basic premise of introducing innovative and hard-to-find international titles to Japanese audiences will continue, but this time accompanied by a series of workshops, installations, markets, and various live events.”
As I mentioned a while back, ARCHIZINES – an archive of independent architecture zines, journals and magazines from around the world, curated by Elias Redstone – recently embarked on a world touring exhibition. Last week we were invited to submit a publication from City As Material, to be shown at the New York and Berlin venues participating, alongside other spots yet to be confirmed. We chose City As Material: An Overview, an account of the first series, so as to share our documentation of the experience, and to give a sense of what to expect from future events.
Although reactions to the Professor during the first half hour of the day were restrained, with students and scholars rushing around us on the pavements or zipping by on bikes with only cursory glances, the route to the high street soon swelled with tourists clutching raised cameras and smart phones, the source of their amusement filtered through tiny digital screens. The more permanent residents of the city seemed to think a theatrical troupe had come to town, or that some odd collegial stunt was at hand. A group of contractors cleaning stonework engaged in light banter, despite clearly being busy, their voices strained over the hum of mechanical equipment.
We entered the Oxford botanical gardens to the patter of drizzling rain, and were greeted by several inquisitive ducks who had wandered from the water, obviously charmed by one of their avian brethren. Minutes later, the Professor was spotted by a gang of children on a school trip and was soon answering frantic questions, handing out cards to tiny delighted interviewees. After chatting to gardeners toiling on muddy patches and being targeted by a potential bird spotter with a huge camera lens, he departed, ambling down quiet side-streets and eventually into the Museum of Natural History.
There were some great scenes here as the Professor was accosted by visitors, prodding at his suit whilst he shared his knowledge of the Dodo and other feathered creatures. We witnessed a high school student gawping at all the taxidermy specimens, loudly asking if they were real, whilst others pressed their noses to the glass cases and shrieked at the preserved contents. It’s likely many people there believed he was associated with the Museum, who despite our initial concerns, were happy to let him wander around.
Giles and I looked around the Museum of the History of Science, containing beautiful early microscopes made from gleaming brass, and intricate astrolabes with mysterious shifting layers. I found a case dedicated to the origins of the Ashmolean Museum with a sketch of its founding collection, crammed from floor to ceiling – very different from the carefully curated space of today. One statement in particular interested me: “Not everyone liked the early Asmolean Museum. Some visitors were shocked that access was not restricted to scholars and gentleman”. Prior to our outing we had talked about the migration of knowledge, namely what routes and structures it travels through in a city of prestigious institutions, and who in society has access to it, especially in earlier times. The Ashmolean’s open door policy from the outset felt like an open challenge to a belief that certain information was the preserve of the academic elite and the upper classes.
Professor Starling’s next destination was the river, where we saw the college rowing teams in the midst of practice, whole boat-fulls staring in unison towards the bank and momentarily easing their grip on the oars. A river steward told him that she thought Starlings were likely to gather in nearby areas, but he had arranged to meet everyone else back in the market where we had started the day. Dodging a hectic stream of bicycles along the narrow path, we walked back into town and browsed the stalls.
Here, the Professor met a character with facial tattoos and a piratical grin whose name was allegedly ‘Raven Hawk’, and discussed Starling sightings with a knowledgeable trader. It’s great that the market, our final area for the day, yielded quite a few people who were eager to engage. On top of this, Josie and Leila said they had been shown around the amazing Pitt Rivers Museum earlier by an associate, telling of numerous priceless artifacts half-hidden in the niches.
Whiling away the time until shops started to shut and evening crept in, we took refuge in the Turf Tavern for food, beer, and to share the highlights of our Thetford–London–Oxford expedition.
Outside the British Museum was first, where we received hails of giggles from startled tourists and smirks from Londoners passing by. It was surprising that Professor Starling got so many reactions in London, where there’s plenty of street performers and PR stunts, compared to low-key Thetford. People that did engage with us seemed to be more concerned with the spectacle of the costume than talking about the awareness of Starlings and other birds. This was especially the case when we got to Trafalgar square, after checking out the second-hand book and print shops on Cecil Court, the Professor briefly mourning some of his stuffed kin in the window of an antiques shop.
A descent of the steps leading down to the Mall was next. They were curiously empty, lending a very regal air to the Professor as he grandly strode on, cane in hand, towards St Jame’s Park. Circling the lake amongst the many species of waterfowl, eagerly scrabbling at morsels of tossed bread through the fence, we overheard questionable tales of Starling murmurations in fantastical formations, and laments for the decreasing number of small birds in the parks and other public spaces.
Shedding his feathers and back in human form, Andrew and the rest of the team accompanied us to Gaby’s Deli on Charing Cross Road for lunch. It’s currently being threatened with closure by the landlords, after more than 50 years of service behind it – here’s hoping it doesn’t migrate elsewhere.
Tomorrow we’ll be in Oxford, the final spot of the series.