Received: Chapter Draft Documentation for Cheryl Penn's "The Crimsoned Giant" Mail-Art Book Project (Durban, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa)

Chapter from "The Crimsoned Giant" mail-art book project coordinated by IUOMA member Cheryl Penn (Durban, South Africa). Contributors: Bifidus Jones (Minnesota, USA), Jen Staggs (Texas, USA), Erni Bar (Hamburg, Germany), Marie Wintzer (Wakoshi, Japan), Austin Wills James (Texas, USA), and Batgirl (New York, USA).

November 21, 2010 - This blog is an addition to the IUOMA-based documentation of the "The Crimsoned Giant" (hereafter TCG) mail-art book project being coordinated by Cheryl Penn. Cheryl sent me a revised version of her chapter. Her original chapter was produced before anyone had begun their contributions. I note many changes in the two drafts that I think are her response to chapters as the various mail-artists produced them. I am going to move back and forth between the two versions (draft #1 and draft #2). I am also working with an earlier and later set of scans. Thus, you won't find linear continuity from page-to-page. Being a vispo fan, I am interested in how Cheryl has changed her approach to representing symbols. Above - the opening photo - is draft #2. Compare this to similar pages from draf t#1:

Perhaps the explanatory text is being moved to another section. I'm sure Cheryl will explain how that works; we didn't get a chance to compare notes. The Babel image has become more expressionist, I think, now with an over-lay of text. Below is the next spread of TCG draft #2:

When another member posted their copy of this chapter, I was immediately struck by the fact that Cheryl had decided to use overlaying. This is an aspect of vispo and concrete poetry that has been discussed here many times. I also wonder if this relates to the "confusion of tongues" discussions that have emerged involving TCG. The earlier draft seems much more stark and open. Here's draft #1:


The first thing I noticed about Cheryl's art was that the symbols she uses are not the standard fare you see in Western visual-verbal work. Now for her contribution to the book, she has decided to over-lay the symbols on recognizable words. The result is certainly more chaotic. The over-laying produces new symbols. While there is possible distortion and fragmentation often associated with the industrial and post-industrial, I note the organic quality of the piece has increased. This could be something worth exploring. Here are more details from draft #1:

This, to me, is a strong image from draft #1. Discussions have affirmed that TCG will be a text whose main focus is an exploration of the nature of language(s). In draft #1, words are separated from symbols; in draft #2, they are connected. One thought I had about this: Cheryl has built the process of revision into the text. With books, we are conditioned to expect a "finished product." Numerous drafts that led to the creation of the finished draft are usually not considered. The approach in TCG shows the accumulation of different versions. It raises very pertinent questions: When does composition begin? When is it complete? Do different drafts present competing and possibly contradictory views? Are our own views shifting? How can they be integrated? Should they be integrated? More detail from draft#1:

For me, there is real impact on the draft #2 "Chaos" page with the over-lays. My favorite in draft #2, for sure. The use of the grey (or silver?) adds to that impact, relating back to the discussion about using color with asemic writing.

Another similarly powerful spread from draft #2. Subjective response: I think of Street Art. How is this possible?:

Cheryl's TCG chapter images are very strong and interesting. My comments amount to random thoughts. I do think the record of process here is illuminating. I find myself wanting to know why the choice was made to go in this direction. I noticed that with TCG, contributors began altering their distinctive styles as soon as chapters by other contributors were posted. I'm not used to collaborative projects like this - especially involving so many people. The discussions about individual chapters in many cases seemed to involve collective decisions about theme and the direction of the narrative (or purposeful lack thereof). We associate artistic production with the individual. With projects that require the involvement of many people, there is usually someone designated as ultimately being "in charge." This has not been the case with this project - decisions were made collectively without any final authority. Perfecting a system and the ability to work this way is going to provide tremendous advantages - especially when culture is largely defined as warring factions. I hope to be involved in more of these projects, and I'm very interested to learn more about the dynamics of collaborative projects of this nature.

Thanks for putting up with the rambling, Cheryl. Perhaps it raises some issues of interest related to TCG. I'm glad to have documentation of your chapters for my own records.
Mail-art word of the day: Red (TYCP)
Mail-art country of the month:Russia
Postal weather conditions: Winter approaches - think south

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Comment by Marie Wintzer on November 23, 2010 at 11:56pm
It's sometimes painful to look back at what one did a few months ago. But here, the chapters fit very well together IMO. They are all so different and yet they make a story. The beauty of it.
I don't think I was influenced by what other people did, but it surely raised the pressure to do well because they looked so gorgeous. It was really though for me to come up with a chapter, producing a piece of art on a given topic doesn't come easy (maybe that's the difference between true artists and people like me who "enjoy" art). One day I just sat there and did it all in one go, and there it was.
Comment by cheryl penn on November 23, 2010 at 3:57pm
Jen- that WAS the initial plan on the book - the giant, the observer of Babel - so your interpretation FITTED right in there.
Comment by Jen Staggs on November 23, 2010 at 3:41pm
I think I was influenced by the initial story of the giant as a flaneur and I sped off in that direction. Others were influenced by the giant himself. I think my booklet is more Alexander-like than crimson giant. If I did mine over, I'd focus more on the giant as the subject and not the mere observer.
Comment by cheryl penn on November 23, 2010 at 1:06pm
I hope so - once everyone has recovered from this one!!!
Comment by cheryl penn on November 23, 2010 at 12:10pm
Can I ask you three if your work was informed/changed by what was posted, or did you have - and do, your own reactions to the title? Its an interesting point De Villo has raised about the nature of this collaborative book in particular.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on November 23, 2010 at 5:34am
Jen - you're the lucky one who gets to have your chapter follow mine. You know how much I want to redo mine? It looks like something executed by a firing squad. I like how the woman in your chapter is looking at those holes in total horror. She's going to spend a lot of time with them. Cheryl said I could do another chapter, I think, but the old one had to stay. I'm getting to like yours the more I see it - the whole thing is a study in contrasts. Hi Marie, of course I never considered Cheryl might be adding a separate chapter - it makes a lot of sense. Marie's chapter does seem to provide a kind of closure, based on what we know about the chapters so far.
Comment by Jen Staggs on November 23, 2010 at 5:10am
Oh blerg. Seeing it all together makes me want to redo my chapter. Ugh. I love that Marie's is last, it seems an appropriate evolution in color and faction.
Comment by Marie Wintzer on November 23, 2010 at 12:38am
How did I not make the connection with street art? Now that you point it out it seems obvious.
I still haven't got Cheryl's first version, which she had to do from scratch again because it got lost somewhere in outer space. But I always regarded her second chapter as an entirely new one, an evolution in the story, rather than a replacement or a different version of the first one.
As for the order, hmm, it's quite difficult to tell without seeing the rest of the contributions, but I like the flow of ideas, Cheryl.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on November 22, 2010 at 3:45pm
Cheryl, fantastic! What a contribution to add the chapter layout. I can only hope the other contributors will find this and share their views. The chapter sequence add a whole new perspective.
Comment by cheryl penn on November 22, 2010 at 3:19pm
Hoo-Boy - great blog De Villo - as usual opening new areas for exploration and leaving the world wide open for questions. Two things on my approach to this (bearing in mind I first and foremost make books which although not always logically narrated are definitely thematic): Firstly, my section two was a direct visual information reaction to Bifidus' pages - thematically/narrative-ly it appeared as though the giant (himself being a symbol) was liable for ejection. This evoked a) a denial of identity of self and b) an acknowledgment that he was not identical to himself:

The reaction to this crisis for him brought on a 'symbol/ic rebellion' - at the same time the chaos of language happened at Babel. The ensuing chaos resulted in abandonment of self and language. Then your pages arrived which bespoke (for me), so well the angst of his abandonment. They lay so well together:

Jen's piece had actually arrived before yours, but, (TO ME) needed to go after yours - once he had had his reaction, the giant took on a new identity - the Dallas Texas Flaneur. He did not, as Bifidus commanded remain identical to himself, he chose the fine:


And here the story comes to a grinding halt for me!!
I have ERni's piece and will wait and see once the other two arrive how the narrative will progress.

Marie's pages to me are the last pages. They are the final alone-ness told on paper of the ages.


SO! Yes, this is a completely organic process - the pages will determine each owners decisions on the order in which their book will be bound. There is no rule that even each of the 7 books will be the same - we already know they are not - I have the one original of Marie's version. I have Erni's original, we each received the same of my contributions, I noticed was Bifidus's had different color combinations - the way I have interpreted the narrative of the book will not be the same as someone elses - perhaps the other participants will not even see a progression of narrative. That's up to them. That's the joy of collaborative projects where people contribute to the good of the whole. No factions here :-) This project has actually been fantastic, although I dont feel I've actually answered any of your questions!

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