The British Art Show arrived at Leeds Art Gallery on 8th October 2015, and I was invited to participate in a socially engaged performance as a bookbinder as part of one of the selected works. The work in question was by Italian designer, Martino Gamper. Entitled ‘Post Forma’, it situated custom-designed, functional objects in the galleries to be activated by local artisans.
“Martino Gamper is a designer who resists the distinction between design and art. He describes his approach – which has seen him dismantle existing furniture, craft new items out of discarded ones and produce 100 chairs in 100 days – as both ‘conceptual and functional’.” (http://britishartshow8.com/artists/martino-gamper-1513)
In the foyer there was a beautifully inlaid bookbinding table which has been produced by Gamper and I was almost scared to use it in case my craft-knife accidentally slipped off the cutting mat. Alongside the table were seat frames waiting to be re-caned, and a cobblers chair (although all of the cobbling had to be done off-site, due to the nature of the machinery required). In the other gallery there was a loom for a weaver to work at. Each of the artisans worked in view of the public and answered questions about the project.
“As part of Post Forma [Gamper asked] the public to bring along belongings to be renewed rather than thrown away. This new commission [was] driven by Gamper’s interest in how an object can be transformed or reused and by interactions with the public.” (http://martinogamper.com/post-forma-british-art-show-8)
My role in the project was to rebind ‘treasured tomes’ which had been brought in by members of the public. Included in the materials to be used for this purpose was the bookcloth which had been screen-printed by another of the BAS artists, Ciara Phillips, as part of her own participatory practice. It was fascinating to see the kinds of things that people were willing to trust me with, and I heard stories about all the books, such as a unique edition of a self-published book by the audience member’s grandfather, a scrapbook of family history dating back 100 years, and a wooden bible from the 1950s.
It was also interesting to see people engaging with the process, and often visitors would stand for an hour or more watching each element of the book come together. During this time, they would ask about my work as an artist and tell me about their creative interests and endeavours, as well as finding out more about elements of the book making process. I really enjoyed being part of the artwork and it reminded me that people are still interested in craft and enjoy learning about how things are made.