(Re) Presenting – Grassroots & DIY – Project: Art Journal – three years of DIY artist books – Made. Creative Space Toowoomba: a social memory 2011 by artist Elysha Rei (Gould) http://www.elysharei.com
Project: Art Journal – three years of DIY artist books
“Seeking Artists, Designers, Writers, Photographers, Students, Print-makers, Book Lovers, and Creative Personalities” – this was the call to arms in our national artist book project that ended up spanning three years and multiple countries. Coordinated from a grass roots DIY artist -run space hidden up a stairway on the main street of Toowoomba, Project: art journal flourished as an annual inclusive opportunity to complete a blank passport-sized art journal however you pleased.
As a community initiative, Project: art journal offered a gateway to exhibiting that was cost effective ($20 to enter including the journal), and with the creative licence to experiment and play. Entrants included aspiring, emerging and professional artists of all ages. Entries came in from around Toowoomba as well as Melbourne, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Some were completed through daily rituals of art making, others at the last minute. At the end of the exhibition period the journals were lovingly returned to each entrant as a keepsake to their months-worth of creation.
Project participants had three months to ‘complete’ their artist book then return it back for exhibition to our AIR Made Creative Space. Over three years 150 journals were received from artists, designers, writers, photographers, and creative types living all over the world. Without theme or medium restriction, entries included fold out maps, collaged designs, cut outs, prose, sketches, photography, paintings and even a recorded performance art piece playing on loop on an iPhone embedded into the book’s frame.
To share these creations with gallery patrons, we wanted to ensure these were accessible as tactile adventures of the artist’s ideas. Without much budget or facilities in the first year, we turned to a simple trouser hanger solution, clipping two books to each hanger and suspending these from the ceiling at varying heights. The following year we upgraded to small clipboards for each journal. For those with concertina features, these were installed on shelves or plinths around the gallery. The result was a kaleidoscope of curiosity, with pages fanning out offering glimpses that enticed a closer look. Visitors came and took the time to leave through each journal on display.
Heads faced down engrossed in reading and admiring a hard copy art journal rather than a smart phone. Those that entered the project and lived locally brought their friends and their families to share their hard-earned efforts during the exhibition. In the final year of the project we also toured the art journals to Dogwood Crossing in Miles and Blockwork in Toowoomba, expanding the audience and engagement with these artist books.
As a medium, these artist journals side-stepped the presumed barrier between a viewer and an artwork and created a participant with an experience. A book, so instinctively tangible as an object, invited touch and interactivity. As a self-published outcome the contents of these artworks became archived in their context – some artists may still hold their art journal to this day. Without the added task of making the art journal, the creative endeavour was all in the detail. Words, images and ideas were shared with complete strangers, eager to know what was hidden inside.
Multiple pages represented multiple moments of inspiring and challenging tasks to fill that blank space. Some art journals weren’t finished in the sense that they may have had empty pages. But once they were sent back for exhibition, the works became complete.