The Al-Mutanabbi street project, coordinated by Beau Beausoleil and Sarah Bodman, challenged over 300 artists to respond to the impact of a car bombing in a street of book shops in Iraq in 2007. I decided to enlist the collaboration of a poet, Ingrid Scheider, and a letterpress artist Umberto Giovannini to make my response to the project.

On reflection, I realised that I wanted to explore the  impact of such trauma on our perceptions of time and space. I started with folding paper to make a simple book with three double pages, with the central spread folded in on itself to reveal a space behind… It’s difficult to explain but perhaps you can see from the photos what I mean.

The first and last spreads show the figure of a sleeping girl taken from the beginning of Swallow Span, split by this central spread that seems to explode as you open the pages out.

 

 

The pocket of paper behind the folded area reveals a glimpse of colour, and tells of the humanity and life stories which were erased by these events. The final page symbolises the future, where a bird flies up from the girl’s hands, and the endurance of creativity is celebrated.

 

 

This was my first experience of a collaborative process. Ingrid Scheider came to the studio to look at my prints. The book had not yet been made, and we spent an afternoon working on splitting an image of a sleeping figure from one of my older prints with space for text. I really wanted her words to have prominence or an equal balance in the final piece.

I like the poem that she made because of its balance and rhythm, which fits the format well.

“Burning fires that now as ashes lie

Pallid sphere that was the sun

Our muse had flown, our words were broken

But once again, the dawn is come”

After I’d printed the book as a 5 colour double sided silkscreen on lambeth drawing cartridge, we roughed out where we wanted the words to be, and I posted them all to Umberto in Italy, via a friend who I’d bribed with icecream money in lieu of postage… There were a huge set of instructions (15 points long) on how to fold it, with numerous mock ups and scribbled text on proofs. Umberto set the type, tried various fonts and colours and positions, and emailed images over to me in America (where I was teaching for the summer).

The final piece is something that I could never have made alone, and I am really pleased with the result!

 

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