Archives for posts with tag: Al-Mutanabbi Street project

This project has played on my mind constantly and I was relieved last week to be able to post the booklet . But I am now in the process of re-editing the zine once again before my deadline on the 27th of October, a long side looking at the possibility of developing one project from this past 12 months work to show in a gallery setting.

I found it hard when trying to address the kind of issues brought up by this project to find a place of solid understandings and then create a clear way to communicate those understandings.

Today I completed printing and binding copies of ‘Response’

(Al-Mutanabbi Street Book Artists Project).

The booklet is b/w printed on cream paper, hand stitched and contains images taken from several book and art projects I undertook over the past 12 months in response to the projects brief.

A week or so back I was invited to submit a piece for an arts group crit discussion organized by Megan Pickering.  Below is an outline of my submission.

I have frequently wondered recently about the idea of shared cultural understandings represented/residing through/in books and the idea of the destruction of books as seen as an attack on shared intellectual freedoms.

Veneration/the value placed on books can be understood as part of a means of cultural establishment.

 So began looking at the idea of cultural identities being exploited and used as means of propaganda and social control.

 For this piece I use a 1900’s composite doll body to create a paper cast with pages from two books, ‘The Greek Commonwealth in the 5th Century’ and ‘Strangelands’ Tracey Emins autobiography.

 I have been working with these books for a few months.

‘The Greek Commonwealth’ as it is a study of a template of society which our own is based.

Tracey Emins autobiography is a book I have been thinking of in terms of representing current gender issues.

Close to completing work on my piece for the Al-Mutanabbi street book project. It has given me many headaches for the past year.

It has been really good to have the project and work through many questions and ideas.

‘Baghdad’s literary neighborhood has a long history of dissent and a well-practiced tolerance of other ideas. Under Saddam, Al Mutanabbi Street was a center for small anti-regime cells who published illegal copies of their tracts, under fake names. Because the place was known for intellectual resistance to the regime and as a center for liberal ideas, the government hated it. In the manic days after the fall of Baghdad, a flood of Western journalists came to Al Mutanabbi Street to meet dissident Iraqi writers, and in the cafes and shops there was always the excited roar of conversation.’

After doing some more recent research I have begun to think of books as objects of as cultural artefacts and as a form of organizational culture:

‘A system of knowledge, of standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating and acting . . . that serve to relate human communities to their environmental settings’   (Allaire and Firsirotu 1984).

 ‘The deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are: learned responses to the group’s problems of survival in its external environment and its problems of internal integration; are shared by members of an organization; that operate unconsciously; and that define in a basic “taken -for-granted” fashion in an organization’s view of itself and its environment’ (Schein 1988).

Also researching the idea of the changing form of books in our own society or their replacement by interactive devices such as the ipad or Kindle.

 Books=ideas(not containers)

‘The human mind, no matter how cultivated its memory  or refined it’s recording systems can never fully and faithfully recapture the past, but nether can it escape from it. Memory and imagination supply and consume each other’s wears.’  Jerome Burner


Have been looking at some old quilts, interested in the way the fabric perishes or the thread unravels (see the center photo of a crochet Afghan squares quilt), or the threads loosen and pull out.

Currently reading;

‘Skin: on the cultural border between self and the world’ by Claudia Benthien (translated by Thomas Dunlap) 2002 Columbia University Press

‘Al-Mutanabbi:Voice of the Abbasid Poetic Idea.’Margaret Larkin 2008 (One world Publishers)

Here is the , MAT Zine a new zine created as part of the Freebirds Apathy in the UK show including work by artists Betty Brown, Caroline Divine, Elizabeth Plain as well as by  myself.

Mat Zine is a departure on from Mail Art One.  Creating a new zine format was an aim I out lined in a previous post at the start of the year. I wanted to use  this new zine format as a means of beginning to look at possible developing directions for the Al-Muntannabi-street-project.

A PDF version of Mat Zine can be viewed here by clicking MAT Zine.

Through out December the weather was too extreme to get into  work in the studio plus there was an option to change spaces which triggered a bout of uncertainty and indecision on my part, meaning that through out December I wasn’t  in the studio much at all.

That enforced exile has been useful, providing a natural period of reflection for the first six months post the MA.

I tried to use the past few months to take time and try out new ideas or re examine old ones with some new perspective gained from the course. Suspected that the first months after completing the MA would be a period of re adjustment; that it would take time for things to fall into place.

Finishing the MA I made a conscious decision to put down the video camera. There are still questions that still bothered me about using it. I feel there are issues to do with choices surrounding editing and planning shots; the implications of choice/meaning of including certain visual contents.

So I moved away from video and started by dismembering text books from research for the MA to create new text/Lost Letters a piece for the autumn issue of Mail Art One (Mail Art One faces a change of format due to the costs of producing/posting it and also to give it a shift of emphasis and hopefully free it up somewhat)this also marked  a beginning to try to think about ideas for the Al-Mutanabbi Street project.

Just before christmas I became aware of Rosemary Butcher’s Critical pathways 2011 course: From Here To There:

which began me thinking again about walking as a journey and wondering if a journey necessitated movement/walking or if it could also be viewed as a chronological happening and if the act of  standing might also be seen as a kind of chronological journey and think about standing as a possible starting point/context for the Al-Mutanabbi Street project.

Back in November I was working on some ideas in the studio to do with surface/building and identity, and was considering the relevance of the act of standing; of walking being made difficult or constrained. (An idea I had tried to look at in some ways during the MA).

Aims for the next month are:

1  reacquaint my self with video process.

2 look at environment

3 research social understandings/references to the act of standing

4 produce the Winter issue of  Mail Art One in its new format with a smaller edition of 50

I applied to take part in this project this week:

and from this past Thursday now have 12  months to create and forward the edition of 3 to Sara Bodman.

Below is a copy of the information to do with the project:

An Inventory Of Al-Mutanabbi Street – A Call To Book Artistsfrom Beau Beausoleil

On March 5th 2007, a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. Al-Mutanabbi Streetis in a mixed Shia-Sunni area. More than 30 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded.Al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, holds bookstores and outdoor bookstalls, cafes, stationery shops, and even tea and tobacco shops. It has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community.The Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadside Project has completed its call to letterpress printers after reaching a goal of 130 broadsides from 130 individual printers. Now the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition is issuing a call to book artists to work on a project to “re-assemble” some of the “inventory” of the reading material that was lost in the car bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street. We are asking book artists to join our project and further enhance the work of the Coalition by honoring al-Mutanabbi Street, by creating work that holds both “memory and future,” exactly what was lost that day.

This project has brought me into contact with many book artists who responded to our call for broadsides by turning to a nearby letterpress to join our project. I have learned much about their thoughtfulness, dedication, patience, and the tenacity they bring to bear on any project they take on. The more I thought about it, the more I have felt that it is impossible to leave book artists out of this visceral response to the bombing of al-Mutanabbi street.Book artists represent what is intangible between the pages of any book they create, the interior space that they enter, and from which they slowly fashion a book brings to the visible world the myriad emotions of any text, be it their own, or someone else’s.

The coalition asks each Book Artist who joins the project to complete three books (or other paper material) in the course of a year, books that reflect both the strength and fragility of books, but also show the endurance of the ideas within them. We seek constructions of all the various vessels of the printed word, ones that pay homage to the truth that can rest between any two covers.

We are looking for work that reflects both the targeted attack on this “street of the booksellers” as well as the ultimate futility of those who try to erase thought.1As in our broadside project, we will be donating one complete set of 130 responses to this call to the Iraq National Library in Baghdad. The other two sets will be used in conjunction with shows of the broadsides as well as in shows of their own. Each book artist will have one year from the date they join the project to complete their three books. The books need not be the same, but can be concurrent reflections of their own thinking on this bombing, including a representation of what books mean, and have always meant, to any people.

The inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street was as diverse as the Iraqi population, including literature of both Iraq and the Middle East, history, political theory, popular novels, scholarly works, religious tracts, technical books, poetry, mysteries; even stationery and blank school notebooks could be purchased on this street, as well as children’s books, comics, and magazines. Arabic was of course the predominate language but books in Farsi, French, German, and English were also represented. Because books have their own journeys, ones quite unknown to us, I imagine there were a few books in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, or Italian, as well as classic Greek and Latin, Hindi, or even Russian. Your own text for this project can reflect the multiplicity of this linguistic crossroads.

This project is both a lament and a commemoration of the singular power of words. We ask that the work move within these parameters. We hope the books created will use al-Mutanabbi and its printers, writers, booksellers, and readers, as a touchstone. We hope that these books will make visible the literary bridge that connects us, made of words and images that move back and forth between the readers in Iraq and ourselves.

These books will show the commonality of al-Mutanabbi Street with any street, anywhere, that holds a bookstore or cultural institution.And that this attack (part of a long history of attacking the printed word) was an attack on us all.The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition is not an anti-war project, nor is it a healing project. The coalition feels that until we truly see what happened on this one winding street of booksellers and readers, on this one day in Baghdad, until we understand all the implications of an attack on the printed word and its writers, printers, booksellers and readers, until we see that this is our street, until then, we cannot truly move forward.

Understanding this one day may also help us understand our own role in helping to create the still open wounds that exist on the cultural and literal body of Iraq.The Book Artist, Sarah Bodman, has agreed to work on this project as co-curator with me. I could not ask for a more steadfast partner in this project.Here are some details from Sarah Bodman for “An inventory of al-Mutanabbi street” call for artists’ books contributions:Please could you produce your book in an edition of 3, by any means: hand printed, digital, POD etc.

Do feel free to make as many more of the edition as you want to use/sell however you want, we are asking for three copies in total to be donated to the project.Any kind of format that would normally be found on a street of booksellers, this is a broad call for any kind of paper-based artist’s bookwork for example:Pamphlet booksZines, newspapers2Miniature booksPaperback, hardback, etc.Folded and sewn or stapled sheetsAltered books, if artists want to make these, they can be 3 different versions or an edition of 3. Please make sure they are robust, not too heavy, and able to close for packing/transport (so that they are no bigger than the size of an average hardback novel when shut).Please remember that the books will tour for a while, with national and international exhibitions and a complete set will be sent to the Iraq National Library, so please keep them as light as possible to help save postage costs.If you produce any large newspaper-type bookwork, please allow for it to be rolled for transit.Also please do not include anything in the books that could hold up their transit through customs such as metal, currency, food, dried plants, dead insects etc. (this may sound strange but has happened with touring book shows before). If you’re not sure please ask!An Inventory Of Al-Mutanabbi StreetBeau Beausoleil – Curator (North and South America, Canada, The Middle East)overlandbooks@earthlink.netSarah Bodman – Curator (Europe, The Middle East, andAsia) either one of us, from any other Book Artist worktable around the globe!!This call to Book Artists commences on Sept 1st, 2010 and runs until Sept 1st, 2011.

Book Artists will have one year from the date they respond to the call to complete their work.Thank you!