Some of the research I have been undertaking around ‘call and response’ has led me to consider ideas of tribes and image projection… what are the messages we give out and how do others receive them? How do we find ways to visually connect with ‘them what think like us about that’ and repel ‘them what don’t’?
One vehicle for this that intrigues is the t-shirt. I like their chameleon like quality, their humour, and their potential for disobedience. It is not just what the t-shirt says but what it is saying about the person wearing it. I will explore this idea further and build in more research to consider ideas of belonging, identity, virtue signalling and protest. What do we project, when, and why? Do certain circumstances allow freer forms of expression…
In the meantime, and as a way to finish my first MA year with an actual real piece of work, I set myself a project that would utilise some of some existing & new-found printmaking skills. Whilst at Catton Hall, for the 10th Bearded Theory Festival (which was amazing by the way), I took ten minutes every day to bond with a pint of Thatcher’s, ‘the perfect breakfast cider’ and make a list of the t-shirts that went by. These were edited to become ‘found’ poems and formed the textual elements for the Bearded Poe(t)ry book.
I was keen to get back into the screen printing studio to get more comfortable with the process before the academic year finished. I set myself the challenge to increase my limited colour palette (there is life beyond the black and red) and explore the outcomes when combining printing techniques, in this case screen print, letterpress and rubber stamping. I used geometric shapes to echo isotype and directional elements as the foundation blocks of screen printed colour and I also included an illustration made by Alys in my sketchbook at Catton Hall, to include a drawn element (her response to what she found).
I over-printed the text elements in letterpress, along with some ornamental border in gold. It was so enjoyable to spend a proper chunk of time on the Arab, printing something for the simple joy of it. The rubber stamping takes the form of a hand cut homage to the Bearded Theory logo, the home-made and imperfect adding a humanity and character to the more ‘formal’ or ‘rigid’ printed elements. The happy accident of printing the stamp upside down was the perfect, though maybe subtle, solution to communicating the New Model Army vs Ferocious Dog ‘t-shirt off’.
I have long been an admirer of Theresa Easton’s work and keep coming back to the egalitarian ideals of chapbooks and broadsides and so for this decided to combine them both.
The broadside element was printed in the garage on my trusty Farley proofing press, not perfect but perfectly adequate, the home based approach further enabling the prINtDEPEDENCE (which will increase once the mice have been properly rehoused after their eviction from the sofa hotel).
The finished ‘chapside’ is Japanese slit fold book with a single one line ‘t-shirt’ poem as a proclamation broadside on the reverse. The whole thing is kept together with the poe(t)ry wristband.
Bearded Poe(t)ry is in an edition of 20 copies and will be included in the Off-Set Exhibition at the Christmas Steps Gallery in Bristol from 29 August until 3 September 2017.