Silverwattle Bookfoundry, Queensland College of Art
Touch, the haptic and smooth space are the primary concerns of Tim Mosely’s art practice. With an identity formed within the confluence of three disparate cultures his practice holds together in tension insoluble parts from each. Papermaking, printmaking, bookbinding and collaborative practice compliment these concerns. Artists books in particular offer him a way to combine conceptual and material content that invites our touch. Adjacent to making books his writing specifically seeks to contribute to the emerging critical discourse on artists books.
A Definitive Haptic Practice
and a methodological model for an artists book practice.
This paper contributes to an application of the haptic to the emerging critical discourse on artists books.
In 1999 Jacques Derrida observed that, “there is no reception or evaluation of a work of art through touching. … It is a strange situation: … the reception and the experience (of artworks) are never haptic as such.”
The Haptic refers to intimate, immediate and close experience, touch being a primary means of haptic perception. The general absence of touch within the reception of artworks stands in contrast to the necessity of touch to read books. For those of us who read artists books and who support the development of artists books into a critical field Derrida’s observation raises a question. Is it reasonable to consider that we could evaluate and then attribute meaning to an artists book, that is ‘make sense’ of it, through haptic perception? If there was a medium well placed to investigate Derrida’s “strange situation” the book would be it. His engagement with the haptic is part of a long discourse, one that Deleuze and Guattari draw from for their ‘smooth space’. Smooth space is realised through haptic perception and provides a framework within which haptic reception and evaluation can be investigated. An example of smooth space can be found in David Lewis’s book We, the Navigators. Lewis documents a navigation technique that emerged within the Polynesians who settled the Pacific Ocean. It relies on the haptic perception of signs in the ocean generated by islands beyond the horizon. Once the signs are perceived they are used to literally feel the way to unseen/unknown islands. When all other Polynesian navigation methods fail this technique can be relied on to navigate the Pacific Ocean.
a quintessential medium for a haptic practice
In his seminal essay The Medium Is the Message Marshall McLuhan discusses the capacity for a population to be numb or blind to the character of a medium. Ironically it is the content delivered by a medium that numbs not the medium itself. While ever a medium remains the vehicle for content that enamors a population its character generally remains transparent.
The ‘book’ is a medium. The printed book in particular, having played a crucial role in the development of western thought, has been accorded a significant status because of the content it has carried. This content has long numbed the west to the character of the book as McLuhan describes in the The Gutenberg Galaxy. However just as manuscripts lost their content to the first printed books, so now is the mass produced book loosing its content and its currency to the new mediums of digital technologies. Released from its historical role the character of the book can emerge to engage an established audience. Significantly McLuhan identified artists as uniquely able to exploit this opportunity. Ulises Carrion exemplified such an artist, one who understood that the character of the book was still largely unexplored.
Silverwattle Bookfoundry is the realization of an artists book practice
initiated in 1991 by Tim Mosely. With over 30 years of professional experience Tim maintains a lucid perspective on the book as a potent element of creative practice. This focus has generated artists books that engage the vocabulary of the book and semiotics within the relationship between image and text. With an output of over fifty unique and editioned artists books Tim is represented in prominent Australian and international artists book collections. The Foundry is underpinned by a substantial expertise in printmaking, papermaking and bookbinding. Collaborative practice is a strong aspect of the foundry exemplified by ‘the codex events’ initiated through the foundry.