Posts Tagged ‘Rauschenberg’

“Blood on Paper” at the V&A – 2008

July 8, 2013

– – – and so eventually I came to the V&A and walked through the exhibition ‘Blood on Paper: the Art of the Book’ .  How odd and appropriate that I had just felt so impelled to buy a notebook  (pretentious Moleskine – but my very first) and a pen.  The exhibition had much to say about the need to inscribe; to make art; to write as part of life.  It showed life, art and writing-as-printing all intersecting and feeding one another.  And so I write in my notebook straight away, here outside:

The exhibition made me feel really happy . – I felt understood, and full of understanding at the same time.  It shows that one can make (I can make) my life (my life’s artefacts?) into an art work.  There is an issue about how to display them, though.  I can display myself, but I can’t print myself off in copies. I liked the Rauschenberg:


Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925) ‘Traces Suspectes en Surface’ By Alain Robbe-Grillet 1972 – 1978 Published by Universal Limited Art Editions, Long Island, New York National Art Library, V&A, pressmark: 81 Drawer 13 © DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2008 Lithographs

and the Francis-Ting:

The 1c Life


and, of course (but in a different way) the Bacon.  These are works that put words into a really assertively visual medium . . . and then both are intensified.  The chap doing a philosophical (or pseudo-philosophical?) analysis of colour was good too.

Daniel Buren

Daniel Buren (b. 1938)
‘Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal’ by Aimé Césaire
Published by Editions du Solstice, Paris
Courtesy Jean-Claude Meyer, Les Editions du Solstice
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2008

Silkscreen prints; letterpress


Outside, in the open air – children and fountains – I can’t help overhearing the quiet conversation at the next table: a father and daughter.  I wish it would go away.  The tottering children are so stylishly dressed – perhaps that’s another kind of life-as-art.  Soon I will go and look at the jewellery section.

Sorting and packing my own books yesterday has made me very conscious of beauties and possibilities – of how lovely these printed texts are.  At Northampton the art students’ showed a collection of  ‘Altered Books’ – books that had been cut, pasted, re-jigged.

from 2009 - but it gives you the idea

from 2009 – but it gives you the idea

The way in which they are altered adds to the story they tell – or maybe just changes it.

altered book - Northampton U. 2007

altered book – Northampton U. 2007

Northampton U. - 2007

Northampton U. – 2007

They made me think of the ‘prepared piano’ – relating to conventional narrative as such a piano relates to conventional music.

John Cage - Prepared Piano

John Cage – Prepared Piano

It also reminded me of the photos I had to take of my flood-damaged books, so that the insurance company would believe me. At first I was literal about it, but then I started to see their beauty, too.


a Loeb volume of Plutarch’s ‘Lives’ – expensive once – but the colours of the staining here strike me as subtle – delicate as a bruise


a little, cheap paperback – that strange green shows its age

a library copy that has been damaged in several ways

a library copy that has been damaged in several ways, not just by the flood


I wondered whether those art works at the V&A could strictly be counted as books – many were one-off works.  Certainly the ‘altered books’ were not replicable.  My son used to play a game called ‘Altered Beast’ – which makes me think again of deformity and mutation.  Why and how are we consciously mutating our books?  What is it in our culture that makes us thrill to these transformations?


This Moleskine is like a little machine of a book.  It has working parts: an ‘expandable inner pocket’ – what joy!  – a ribbon marker, and the elastic band to hold it closed.  So, insofar as a book’s need (and its duty, and its gift to us) is to open and close, this one does that very thing, that very essence of bookness, only in extra ways.   Like the Ahlbergs’ Jolly Postman it goes beyond expectations, and like the child reader, I delight in it.

Such generosity!



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