Between my last post on the subject and now, I have been on a voyage with Small Press Publishing. My first post, Small Press Experiments, was written as a promise (or rather a warning) of what was to come. I have a lot to share since my birth in the world of Small Press, a journey of steps each leading ever closer towards the release of the long-awaited first issue of BRICKED magazine. But I shouldn’t jump the gun; in this post, I would like to explore how creating Small Press objects helped serve as a gateway opening into a creative space where I can explore and consolidate my memories.
Back in the October of 2018, I had a very busy weekend where I was lucky enough to attend both the wedding of my cousin and a very exciting matinee concert hosted by Australian improvisational jazz trio The Necks. Between me wondering through the halls of the 19th century wedding venue, and getting lost in the labyrinth of The Necks’ mesmerizing performance, I had a lot of memories that I was afraid of losing to time. On my way back to University, I sat on the train, looking down the barrel of a ~2hr journey with little to do other than to stare at my memories like paint drying on my mind, cracking, and then eventually peeling. I feel this is an anxiety that I share with many others – the fear that photos are not enough.
It is undeniable that there is more to a moment than the material. The position our muscles have us pinned to in the instant a camera flash goes off is not enough to capture what a moment means. There are words and phrases that flash through our minds, pictures, images, and the aftermath – the specific toll the event has taken on our bodies and minds. It is more complicated to capture the exact balance a moment in history creates within ourselves, a balance that will come only once and never again, particularly as the weighing scales within us rust with age. I sat on the train thinking about this balance, fearing the loss of my memories, fearing that they in their simplicity might be lost in the dark and empty prism of my body. Lost as soon as my mind decides they cannot save me from some life-endangering suffering. Lost beneath layer after layer of survival instinct.
It was then that I reached into my bag and retrieved a side of A4 paper. Using the method identical to that discussed in Small Press Experiments, I folded a side of A4 into 8 pages, and pulled a pen out of my bag. I started out by documenting my experiences at the wedding. The standout memory in my mind was during a short moment of reflection, when I visited the toilet. On the inside of a cubicle door, there was a glowing appraisal of the venue, reading something along the lines of;
Close your eyes.
Imagine yourself in a 19th century manor.
You are here.
Of course, it was not that simplistic. But after reading the first line, I followed the instructions and closed my eyes, so unfortunately I do not remember much about the glamorous decadent descriptions of the venue. But it was to that same effect. It made me laugh, because I did not need to imagine I was in such a venue, I was already there! Unless, of course, that was a message from beyond the matrix. All jokes aside, it was quite a funny paradox; a paradox which seemed to switch my autopilot off. It silenced me, peeling back the film of normalcy. I started taking my environment straight into my brain, and my brain started to leak out. My experience became mutual, rather than one way. The fruits of my reflection sit below:
The small booklet gave me the opportunity to explore both the language and images behind my memories. Using hand illustrations rather than photographs, I was able to toy around with impossible perspectives, such as on pages 6-7 where I show both sides of a mirror. It took me no longer than 15 minutes to put the whole thing together, close to the amount of time I spent in the bathroom. I was able to retrace my memory using multiple modes of representation, that being both text and image. I was able to manipulate space in ways that accurately portray my own sense of scale. I was able to combine absurdist humour with the sort of wistfulness that I was feeling while confronting the idea of losing my memories. My fear of forgetting overlays the entire presentation in that sense.
After I finished forging Going to the Toilet in a 19th Century Manor, I started writing about my second hot memory, that of seeing The Necks perform live at Cafe Oto in London. This experience was surrounded by sickness; I had not eaten, and although the windows had been smashed in, the venue was very crowded and hot. Like most crowds at ‘trendy’ gigs, the audience was painfully aware of its situation, and spared no time securing each and every seat in the house. I could have really done with one of those. I suppose the early bird catches the worm, but I like to think people have more etiquette and humility than birds. Perhaps I just found the crowd to be suffocating in their self-awareness. Each member of the audience was like a black hole, demanding eye-attention. It became a conscious effort to not look around the room, thinking, “cor blimey.” I think these feelings are reflected in my second Small Press object:
I found this quite enjoyable to put together. It was fun to outline the human awkwardness that surrounds what could be described as a transcendent sonic performance. To distract myself from the hunger, the standing, and the crowd, I enjoyed working out who each member of the trio reminded me most of. Building up to the performance, I rush through the thoughts just as I had hoped the thoughts would rush the performance along. In my illustration of the performance itself (page 6-7), I retraced the essence and purpose of each musician, as if I were transcribing braille from my mind onto paper. The final page documents the somber reflection that encouraged me to put these two works together in the first place – the mark of a weird sort of cycle attached to the process of creation. 99 + 1 = 100. Reliving the memories elevated me.
The books were perfect spaces to explore short, sweet memories. Surely enough, these spaces built creative clots, which eventually snowballed into boulders of my lifeblood in later productions. Each little book was like a room that I had the opportunity to decorate – after decorating two, it actually increased my creative capacity when approaching new ideas. It trained my mind’s eye to see more depth, both spacial and temporal, in my ideas. Best of all – if I wanted to distribute any of these creations on a larger scale, all I would need to do is unfold the 8 pages back into one side of A4, and photocopy it. Perhaps that is something I might want to do in future. It is certainly something I would like to see happening in the works and ideas of others. I think some memories are too big for people to selfishly hoard for themselves.