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Feral Fieldnotes

Feral Fieldnotes

Posted by on Mar 17, 2014 in Featured, fieldnotes |

This was the month of reading The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit. I have read a few of her books, and always start them with enthusiasm (I’m interested in the same stuff she is!) and gradually feel distracted and deflated. I figured out what it was this time, pointed to by a line in the book: “Like a lot of visual artists, she mostly plunged into the difficult books through which you hack your way slowly.” That line describes my taste in books, but I had always attributed it to my mild dyslexia (if it’s going to take me months to get through a book I want it to be worth the time). Solnit’s connection feels right, though. I read for texture and flavor and bits of ideas far more than for plot or characters, and I enjoy feeling lost in a sea of words that are inviting me to connect into a whole. And that way of absorbing art makes more sense for encountering and absorbing visual art more often than it does reading a book. Solnit’s books are documents of her thought process going through the world, reading meaning into things she finds along the way, and making connections. For me, the joy of reading a book is making those links, so reading her books feels a bit like opening the in-flight magazine to find the crossword already filled in. I can learn from the insights, but the fun and work of discovering them has already been done. As I was finishing the book this morning, I closed it to find the white cover set off by a fan of pink sticky notes marking bits of text that crystalized a thought. Her words are always lovely, and the time she spends with these ideas leads to a clarity that I rarely achieve in my own muddled ideas. One of those stickies marked this passage: Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone. Or rather writing is saying to the no one who may eventually be the reader those things one has on someone to whom to...

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IEEIE #1: The Master and Margarita

IEEIE #1: The Master and Margarita

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Featured, M&M&M, zine |

The kick-off book for the Infinitely-Expandable Extra-Illustration Exchange will be The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This previous post explains the IEEIE What is The Master and Margarita? It’s a lot of things. It’s magic and history and politics and literature. It’s about the Devil arriving in Moscow in the 1920s and Jesus and Pontius Pilate, censorship and a talking cat. And so much more. It is the book that I have recommended to more people than any other. It is dense and thoughtful and very strange. Want to know more about the book? Masterandmargarita.eu is an amazing compendium of all things M&M (in multiple languages) Here is how the IEEIE works: 1. Read the book. I recommend the Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor translation, which is recognized as one of the better versions and is based on the complete, uncensored text. The size of the final submission is based on the size of the paperback edition (8.3 x 5.3 inches), which has a maroon and black cover with a silhouette of a cat. There is no ebook version of this translation available right now, and it is one of several translations that often available at used bookstores. Goodreads has a pretty thorough discussion (with text examples) of the different English translations. 2. Make something inspired by the book. This can be anything that is reproducible in a 2D medium (drawing, print, map, poem, essay, recipe, photo, photo of a sculpture, dance diagram… you get the picture, surprise me.) The only rule is that the final, reproducible product must be the same size as the book (8.3 x 5.3 inches, see above). 3. Pass along this link to friends who might like to participate—the more people the better the final collection! 4. Send an email to me and you’ll get occasional updates related to the project: mary@feralresearch.org 5. Email me your item by Good Friday (read the book for the day’s relevance) April 18, 2014. I will compile all the submissions into a pdf booklet for you to download. The first ten people to submit material will receive a hard-copy version of the book via snail-mail, assembled...

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Infinitely-Expandable Extra-Illustration Exchange

Infinitely-Expandable Extra-Illustration Exchange

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Featured, zine |

A multi-volume biography of Charles Dickens on the Des Moines episode of Antiques Roadshow was my introduction to extra-illustrated editions. The hosts explained the Victorian-era trend of adding items to published books (prints, letters, maps, etc). Books were printed with blank pages to hold the extra pieces, and examples like theirs had been rebound to contain all the added material. Doing a little research, I found a couple of great explanations of the history of extra-illustration: The Folger Shakespeare Library hosted an exhibition of extra-illustrated books in 2010, and has an excellent overview of the topic on their website. The Huntington has a nice video showing how to inlay a print into a book and another displaying pages from their 60-volume extra-illustrated bible containing more than 30,000 added items. Oh how delicious—a book expanded to hold all the tangents the reader could find. Like hypertext 150 years before hypertext. I wanted to see one. I wanted to make one. And the Master & Margarita & Me project was just waiting for me to make one. And wouldn’t it be more fun to share the experience? I was an architecture major in college, and was intrigued/jealous of my friends taking print classes. They would have print exchanges at the end of the semester, bringing in an edition of, say, 15 prints, and trade one with everyone in the class, ending up with a portfolio of unique prints. Sharing their work, receiving back examples of all their classmates art. (Here’s a version that explains the idea.) So, put 2 and 2 together, and you end up with the INFINITELY EXPANDABLE EXTRA-ILLUSTRATION EXCHANGE. Starting this month with Master & Margarita, we will be hosting a recurring online version of a book club/extra-illustrated/print swap. Two or three times a year, I will announce the next book, along with the due date and any specific directions. According to the OED (by way of the Folger article), prior to the early 1800s the word illustration meant “an elucidation” rather than specifically a picture. In that spirit, works in ANY text or image medium are welcome (photos, drawings, prints, poems, essays, rants, scribbles). Any and all...

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On Politics and the Personal

On Politics and the Personal

Posted by on Feb 18, 2014 in Featured, fieldnotes |

I’ve started reading art books. I have a nice (smallish but growing rapidly) library of art books which I use for inspiration and reference when I’m working on projects. I flip through the pages, scanning the images, looking for something that catches my imagination with a connection to my aims for a project. But now I’ve started reading them too. And by reading I mean actually paying attention to the words on the page and not just the pretty pretty pictures in these beautiful books. It turns out there’s lots of great stuff buried in those words. Showing how an artist developed, putting little weird/random illustrations/photographs in context, explaining how pieces came to be. Below are a couple of books that I’ve spent time with this month, with the text that got pinned with a pink sticky note. William Kentridge Five Themes Andrew was writing about political art recently on twitter asking whether it was possible to create (I believe he said) “quiet” political art. This struck a chord: p.64 Kentridge’s work in inherently political, for it intimately reflects the conditions of his locale: Johannesburg, the South African state, and Africa in general. The son of a politically minded family, Kentridge was raised on the political ideals of earlier utopian societies. Yet, though his work engages with that of past artists who were deeply involved with political themes, he has moved beyond what is traditionally considered political art. His is an art that does not seek to present (or re-present) tragedies or express outrage, as was the case with Picasso’s Guernica (1937). Rather, he introduces he perspective of the perceiver-ego. In effect, he is said that the macrocosm offers only unspeakable horror, whereas the microcosm—the individual—offers possibilities for art. and this: p.115 “This ‘responsible’ attempt to keep certainty at bay implies a negative dialectic, and also a suspicion of the possibility of a direct, positive communication of meaning. For the philosopher Theodor Adorno, that which is immediately (and unmediatedly) understandable is essentially false, and the truth of artworks lies in their ability to avoid it: ‘The truth of discursive knowledge is enshrouded, and thus discursive knowledge does not have...

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M&M&M Field Trip, Part II

M&M&M Field Trip, Part II

Posted by on Nov 2, 2013 in Featured, Fieldtrips, M&M&M |

After failing to see the Bulgakov museums, the guide took my mother and I to Bulgakov’s burial site: the cemetery at Novodevichy Convent. It was opened in 1989 and is filled with the graves of important Soviet-era Russians. After a bit of searching–the place covers several acres of densely-packed markers below a cover of pine trees–we found Bulgakov’s gravestone. Bulgakov’s grave was completely unremarkable except for it’s rather lumpy appearance. I mention it only as an excuse to tell you about the rest of the cemetery, which was amazing. I’m a fan of cemeteries. I love seeing the care put into cutting stone before water jets and laser etching took the human hand out of the marking of graves. I love wandering around quiet parks, and cemeteries are made for quiet contemplation. I love the implied stories. And I love to see how different cultures honor their dead. I visited a pet cemetery on a private estate in Ireland that had small marble stones for each of their dogs, marked with a description of their personalities. I’ve visited small cemeteries next to tiny mission churches in New Mexico where the markers, exposed to the sun and the sky in a landscape without trees, feel small and lost. I’ve been to pauper’s graves marking unknown immigrants that died trying to cross the Arizona desert. And I’ve strolled along the stone-lined streets of the Buenos Ares cemetery that resembled a tiny urban city with rows intricately-formed sarcophagi lining the streets. The New Maiden’s Cemetery at first glance looked like many I had visited before, in deep shade with neatly-tended lanes of unique markers. But I’ve never seen anything like it: an atheist cemetery. (That’s not precisely true. There is an occasional cross–Gogol’s grave, which was moved to the cemetery, has one, though apparently his marker has gone through several changes over the decades–or other religious marker.) It’s a cemetery dedicated to honor individual’s contribution to the state. Military cemeteries honor service to a country, but the lines of identical markers make an individual grave melt into the mass, reinforcing their role of of one among thousands. And even these graves, set...

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