The Art and Writing of David & Ping Henningham
Header

We are delighted to announce we will be exhibiting at FREE VERSE, London’s pre-eminent Poetry Book Fair.

If you are a poetry reader you will probably already have this event in your diary, but we would urge anyone at all interested in Independent Publishing and Literature to come. It brings together some of the most vibrant and innovative small publishers and is a peerless introduction to contemporary poetry in all its forms. More than a hundred half-tables putting big publishers to shame.

Ten Years of Concertinas with Henningham Family Press and Sophie Herxheimer (12 noon)

Join us at 12 noon in the Brockway Room when we present a survey of our best concertina books from the last ten years, including a British Council commission printed live in Moscow. Renowned artist-poet Sophie Herxheimer will read from our 30 metre long The Listening Forest collaboration, and her dazzling new homage to Emily Dickinson: Your Candle Accompanies The Sun. Find out how this simple binding could help you disseminate your poetry and prose.

All Day Book Launch

Free Verse will also be your first chance to handle and buy our latest publication:
Your Candle Accompanies The Sun, My Homage To Emily Dickinson
by Sophie Herxheimer
Come find us at our table.

FREE VERSE
30th September, 11am-6pm
Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4RL

FREE entry

 

 

 

Share Button

We are proud to announce a dazzling forthcoming book.

Artist and poet Sophie Herxheimer re-imagines Emily Dickinson’s self-imposed seclusion as an act of empowerment. In a series of collage poems, Sophie’s words and images re-present a paradoxical poet, fixed in space, yet ranging freely in imagination and innovation.

This is a homage to the human spirit, which can shine light into the world and in its complexity accompany the simple power of the Sun. Sophie’s collages are preceded by a selection of Emily’s poems. This unique binding interweaves two pamphlets, and talents, into one volume of dazzling poetry.

Your Candle Accompanies The Sun,
My Homage to Emily Dickinson
by Sophie Herxheimer

40pp full colour
HP Indigo
hand-stitched with a unique duo-pamphlet binding
11″ x  8″
ISBN 978-1-9997974-0-9

Pre-order notice £20 (+p&p)

 

Share Button
Henningham Family Press return to the Urban Village Fete to present a Pop-out DNA Poetry Game. Visitors will use the same body-building rules that DNA uses to build a chain of visual poetry. Just like a human body is built through the writing and reading of base-pairs, solidarity in a body of people is made through our arts and language. We will guide you through the simple steps, chance and basic word pairings that enable people of all abilities to write poetry as part of a group.
From ‘Letters Home’, a National Poetry Library commission.
The aim was to create a resource using inspirations that the children might not have got to hear about until university – and that’s if they got lucky.
Chris McCabe in The Times Educational Supplement​
Urban Village Fete
G
reenwich Peninsula
noon-5.30pm
Sunday 21st May 2017
FREE
Share Button

Is it worth buying a guide book to a city that no longer exists? There are guides to places that never existed. Invisible Cities by Calvino provides a kind of general purpose guide to our curiosity about life in exotic places. Tolkien and every goblin-merchant that followed him always provided a map at the beginning of the book. But what if the guide book is merely out of date?

Notting Hill Editions recently sent me a review copy of Nairn’s Paris, an expertly timed encore to Penguin’s reissue of Nairn’s London. But unlike Penguin, this is no paperback facsimile. This is a stylish stitched hardback that has been newly typeset and given an introduction by current Paris resident Andrew Hussey. But was it worth the bother, now that some of the more transient sights have disappeared, and new buildings will be omitted? And the book is especially vulnerable to transience (Baudelaire would approve) as Nairn opens with his customary disclaimer “This book is simply a record of what I enjoyed in Paris.” The answer is yes.

I always find it interesting to read an earlier written account of a place I am visiting, if enough of the built environment remains. I’m not overly fond of standing in empty fields where medieval battles once took place, although it is good timing. I’m not a born psychogeographer. Yet Guy Debord’s Paris is the birthplace of such geography, and it was roughly the same Paris that Nairn was visiting, which surely makes this confluence of two kinds of fashionable plodding, Subtopia and Psychogeography, of some kind of academic interest.

Guy Debord, 1955 (?) Psychogeographic guide of Paris

Just look at that imprint date! 1968! If Nairn had visited a year later he could have added a chapter on Manifestations. So not only is this a lyrical and practical guide to one of the great cities, it is the description of the scenery behind a significant period in its history. Speaking of Baudelaire, Nairn becomes rather the flâneur in Paris, more so than in his films. He looks at you looking at him looking at the city. But I’m not going to write this PhD for you. The point is that Nairn is such a wonderful observer that the book is a pleasure to just sit and read.

Rive Gauche is everyone’s dream of Paris. And it is still true, one of Europe’s least likely miracles. For how much longer I don’t know; but at the moment the boulevard Saint-Germain is still a place in which it is honourable and decent to be either intellectual or unintellectual.

His usual pessimism about likely preservation. My favourite part is his account of Pont Bir-Hakeim (p. 122), comparing it to his lodestar Newcastle, where road traffic passes below the Metro. It’s a location I found startling when I happened across it and felt the same sense of accidental industrial theatre. “The pedestrian is king all the time”, take note Urbanists he is saying, “This pattern, which could so easily be brutal, has been transformed into an outdoor room.” He then walks into a Hitchcockian cross-fade; a synoptic fairground scene with waxwork fortune tellers whose worn out cogs leave them out of sync. Surely a metaphor for something.

Nairn’s overall thesis is that it is the assemblage of buildings itself animated by the signs and people that makes it a magical place. The monuments themselves are underwhelming, as any etching or plan of them will emphasise.

Paris is a collective masterpiece, perhaps the greatest in the world.

The introduction is very good, at introducing both Nairn and his book and grounding it in 2017. I applaud the fact Andrew Hussey doesn’t leer over Nairn’s alcoholism, which with Nairn is the biographical equivalent of eating a doughnut without licking your lips. The only thing I didn’t like about the introduction was that he said all that stuff about Debord, 1968 and Psychogeography, which I had though of all by myself when reading the book (I always read introductions afterwards) and I’d thought I was being unusually clever.

The physical object demands comment because it is so considered. It’s pocket sized, has a ribbon, therefore perfect for its intended use. The book block is wonderful. Black type with red details, such as numerals. The paper is light, thin but durable. An excellent book-white colour similar to Munken Pure. Charles Boyle’s typesetting is dignified and elegant, the margins increasing by about 20% from centre, up and outwards like a Kelmscott Press book. This means you have room for your thumbs at the side and bottom, and the text creates two windows between three neat columns of negative space. But it only works so well because the book is stitched. Perfect binding would require a lot more space in the middle because they don’t lay flat. The cover is good but less successful. The green cloth is contemporary and will age well, similar to Windsor from Ratchford. The endpapers are the same shade of green and tough, like Fedrigoni Sirio. Excellent for the pocket. But the foiling is less successful. The quote on the cover seems too large, or long, to me. Wide coverage with drop-outs in some areas, light serif letterforms nearby; it’s asking a lot of foil going onto book cloth. Foilco have a product that will do it, but what they used has acted like a Kurz foil and the press either ran slightly too hot or too slow and there’s light flashing around the glyphs. The back text has a more shallow impression so as to not fill in the type, but it sits on top of the weave and lacks definition. But I’d have done the same when faced with these extremes. These things are best resolved at the design stage, and designing for cloth is difficult. There are no shortcomings that obscure the fact this is an excellent book bound beautifully.

Nairn’s Paris
Notting Hill Editions
ISBN 9781910749494
£14.99
Available from 19th April 2017

Share Button

31331368961_92e02dfa47_oOwning the means of production is one of those luxuries which can change your trajectory in life so much, it is a gamechanger. This especially applies if you’re an artist or writer at those fragile early stages where you are full of skills and promise and energy, but have nothing much to your name (yet). The Hogarth Press was exactly this kind of instrumental luxury in Virginia Woolf’s life. The effect its existence had on her creative and political output is still, I feel, rather underrated in current Woolf scholarship. The absolute freedom of speech the Hogarth Press allowed Woolf had an enormous impact on her ability to think and experiment. Not only was the mental space it provided essential, but, since there are so many handbound Hogarth Press books by Woolf in existence, as artefacts they also have an important story to tell. And of course, in addition to to Woolf’s own writings, there was the tremendous intellectual legacy of the Hogarth Press publications, for example, the first English translation of Sigmund Freud’s Complete Works, or the first UK edition of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, lynchpin of the Modernist Canon. Could the Woolfs have known that by putting down their £19 5s 6d on 23rd March 1917, and becoming proud owners of a small hand press, they would so profoundly sculpt the terrain of literary and intellectual modernism for years to come?

The Hogarth Press’ informal beginnings as a hobby-turned-business makes this seem unlikely. In fact, in many ways, the cheerfully enterprising spirit with which they plonked their money down for the first press was central to its future success. It is well known that the Woolfs first decided to print books by hand partly because they needed to find a therapeutic activity to absorb Virginia outside of her writing. The fact that the couple’s first flawed but charming hand-pressed publication, Two Stories (1918) quickly broke even, and then was followed by the unexpected success of Kew Gardens (1919) encouraged them to carry on in an ad hoc way. The expansion of their original vision meant they tackled more ambitious projects which gradually led to many Hogarth Press books being outsourced to commercial printers and binders. However, despite the increased production and greater distribution that outsourced production made possible, as well as the fact that the professionally made books were generally better printed, bound, and designed, the Woolfs continued to hand make books for sixteen years; producing at least one handset (if not also hand bound) book a year alongside many more outsourced titles.

There is no easy explanation as to why the hand made books abruptly stop in 1932. It is likely that it was not merely because, despite being as Leonard Woolf writes, ‘a mongrel in the business world’ (p.242) the Hogarth Press now had enough stability and notoriety to survive without the attention-grabbing and money-saving device of hand made editions, but also perhaps because that year marked a significant turning point in the Woolfs’ lives. 1932 was a difficult year for the Woolfs in many ways. Firstly their good friend Lytton Strachey died a slow courageous death from stomach cancer and, as Hermione Lee observed, it was a death that for Virginia ‘left the greatest silence.. a closing down of the past; it made her feel (as she always in anycase tended to feel) older, more mortal, part of an age that was past.’ (p.630) It also affected Leonard acutely as he felt that, coinciding with the rise of Nazism and the Second World War, ‘Lytton’s death marked a point of no return.’ (Lee, p. 630) Their grief was augmented in March when Dora Carrington, Strachey’s companion, shot herself in response to his death. Next, John Lehmann, the last of many bright young things whom the Woolfs had engaged as a manager/potential partner of the Press, walked out and they were left to struggle without a proper manager for several years. Lastly, in October of that year, Virginia’s many preoccupations suddenly came together into one new project. Thus she embarked wholeheartedly on what was to become The Years, a book which so consumed her energies it had an ill effect on her mental health. Perhaps this stressful series of events sapped some of the original energy and enthusiasm needed for a literal ‘hands-on’ approach. When John Lehmann returned in 1938, Virginia sold her half of the Press to him. Since Virginia was the stronger typesetter and binder out of the Woolfs, perhaps her lesser involvement also contributed to the discontinuation of handmade titles.

Whatever the reasons for in-house handmade production ceasing at the Hogarth Press, by this point the cultural space they had hoped the Press would provide had clearly become a stable reality. However, the same dynamic and independent spirit behind the handmade books was still very much at the heart of the Hogarth Press. What this paper deals with is the rubric of the handmade books themselves, since as objects they are neither fine enough to be included in the fine printing tradition nor conventional or numerous enough to fit in the publishing world proper. This inbetweeness characterises the cultural niche that the Hogarth Press opened up and occupied as was conceived and grown under the Woolfs’ direction. By understanding where the handmade books stood or stumbled in terms of being art objects, part of the book trade and as ideological statements, we will see how they are physical manifestations of the process by which the Woolfs freed themselves to write as they pleased. The handmade books, as objects made not by accomplished book artists but rather by prolific writers, were a curiously unusual form of luxury. Yet it was exactly this unconventional approach that made possible the necessary luxuries of the Hogarth Press.

Virginia Woolf described in detail the environment of luxury necessary for a creative writer. In both the seductively entertaining A Room of One’s Own and the polemical Three Guineas, Woolf makes a strong case for the material means that women need at their disposal if they are to write with uninhibited creative freedom. Throughout the texts she highlights luxuries which generations of men have taken for granted and purposely barred women from obtaining. These necessary luxuries start from material consumption but lead to intellectual space and nurture. As Woolf concludes after a depressingly plain dinner at a women’s college in Cambridge,

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. The lamp in the spine does not light on beef and prunes. We are all probably going to heaven, and Vandyck is, we hope, to meet us round the next corner – that is the dubious and qualifying state of mind that beef and prunes at the end of the day’s work breed between them.” (p.17)

This contrasts sharply with the deliciously opulent dinner Woolf describes a few pages earlier, given at a men’s college. It is significant that the glorious flight of her prose produced by that dinner, in which rapturous thoughts spiral closer and closer to more weighty considerations of the consequences of war, are cut off by a ‘plain gravy soup’. Likewise, the failed visit to the college library also shows how intellectual restrictions are embodied by physical disadvantage. The parable of Shakespeare’s sister demonstrates this, as an attempt to follow in her brother’s footsteps leads instead to scorn, indifference, the imposition of chastity and the denial of material wealth. Her rapid descent, ending in suicide and obscurity, paints a tragic picture of ‘a woman at strife against herself.’ Thus Woolf concludes, a woman ‘born with a gift of poetry in the sixteenth century, was an unhappy woman’. This was because, ‘[a]ll the conditions of her life, all her own instincts, were hostile to the state of mind which is needed to set free whatever is in the brain.’ (p. 46) By this it is clear that Woolf thinks nurturing the whole of life – that is, material comfort, spiritual freedom and as well as familial and societal support – is absolutely necessary for true creative endeavour.

The epitome of these examples is the actual room itself where a writer can set his or her own cultural agenda, a physical and psychic space where the only mental state which Woolf thinks is conducive to creating masterpieces can be cultivated. At this point perhaps it is interesting to remember how Woolf not only found the Stephens’ family home in Hyde Park Gate oppressive due to the heavy darkness of the Victorian décor, but also because, psychologically, she fell trapped and vulnerable within it. As Gill Lowe writes in her introduction to Woolf’s Hyde Park Gate News, ‘Remembering the house in 1897, Virginia calls it a “cage”. She likens herself, at fifteen, to “a nervous, gibbering monkey” sharing a perilous territory with her father, a “pacing dangerous, morose lion” who was “sulky and angry and injured” after the devastating deaths of Julia and Stella.’ Later, when rationing throughout the winter of 1941 means the Woolfs can only maintain a fire in the sitting room, Virginia notes in her diary that she is now unable to write, because Leonard is always present and she has no room of her own to work in (Lee p.752). Thus Virginia’s own life was a testimony to her belief that creative endeavour can only truly happen when supported by physical and financial security, expressed by the luxury of a personal workspace, where the privacy and freedom to work can be protected. As Woolf observes through her analysis of past female novelists, the minimum of material conditions –that five hundred a year stands for the power to contemplate, that a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself’ – are relative luxuries, inaccessible to most women of and before her time (Room p. 96). The ability to determine their own finances, and to escape to a workplace where the endless demands of the domestic realm (such as children or servants) could be locked out was usually available only to men. For most women, such autonomy and peace to follow their own interests was a luxury beyond reach. But only with these luxuries will women, like men, be in a position to follow Woolf’s formula for true expression;

There must be freedom and there must be peace… [The writer] must not look or question what is being done. Rather, he must pluck the petals from a rose or watch the swans flat calmly down the river. (Room p. 94)

The luxurious languidity of this image is paradoxical. Woolf is showing that idleness is a necessary buffer that the mental space needed for creativity and free thought requires. She repeats this point in exhortations to her female audience; ‘By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.’ (p.98)

What that statement describes is an alternative economy that overturns a spendthrift morality which expounds thriftiness as a virtue and luxuries as unnecessary evils. This capitalist reversal is explored extensively in Mrs Dalloway. As Jennifer Wicke suggests in her analysis of Modernism and consumption,

Clarissa tentatively and tenuously reverses the disenchantment of the world characteristic of modernity by the generosity of her gendered acts of consumption, where consumption is reformulated as the nature of the gift. (p. 126)

This aura of generosity is expressed in Clarissa’s intense love of life, people and her gift in bringing all these elements together as ‘An offering for the sake of offering’ (Mrs Dalloway p. 123). The beautiful humanity of Clarissa’s many pleasures and gestural ‘sacrifice through spending’ (Wicke p. 129) contrasts with Miss Kilman’s material poverty which leads to a meanness of spirit that spoils her ability to enjoy anything at all;

It was her way of eating, eating with intensity, then looking, again and again, at a plate of sugared cakes on the table next them; then, when a lady and child sat down and the child took the cake, could Miss Kilman really mind it? Yes, Miss Kilman did mind it, she had wanted that cake – the pink one. The pleasure of eating was almost the only pure pleasure left her, and then to be baffled even in that! (p. 131)

Financial poverty being equated to social barrenness in Mrs Dalloway is again highlighted by Ellie Henderson when ‘her panic fear, which arose from three hundred pounds income and her weaponless state (she could not earn a penny) [..] made her timid’ (p. 171). By showing these women suffering in situations where they should be enjoying themselves, Woolf puts forward the paradox that one must have enough of a financial reserve so that the act of consumption itself do not consume the consumer. Thus, Woolf’s alternative economic morality also denotes that material goods have their uses, but in order to enjoy them properly (i.e. as they are meant to be enjoyed) accumulation of them must reach a certain standard, that is, beyond what is absolutely necessary to possess them. In short, to live a full life, one must have both social and financial status which is beyond simple necessity – the very definition of luxury. Furthermore, although necessity dictates that life must start from materiality, ideally this will be a means to a nobler end, and not the end itself.

For Virginia Woolf, the luxury of independent intellectual freedom was created by the Hogarth Press. Its insulating effect gave her the courage to write experimentally. For example, it was not until the Woolfs had purchased their first hand press, issued notices of their first publication (Two Stories) and already started printing Leonard’s contribution, that Virginia started to write in a way that really broke away from conventional realism. Although she had already published two novels to some success through Gerald Duckworth’s publishing house, Duckworth & Co. were not really avant-garde publishers, and Virginia still harboured some ill-feeling against her half-brother. (She would later accuse him and his brother George of sexually abusing her as a child.) When we factor in, as Leonard Woolf observed in his autobiography, Virginia’s ‘hypersensitiveness to criticism’ (II, p. 223) – which paralysed her with horror at the completion of each novel until she had received a favourable reception from trusted critics – it is not difficult to see how the prospect of having to submit another work to her half-brother would not have been conducive to bold experimentation on her part.. Just as her Bloomsbury circle afforded freedom from the conventions of chastity, the dynamics of self-publishing as the Woolfs conceived them meant that the ‘inestimable price of editorial freedom’ was theirs. As J. H. Willis Jr. noted, though a fearful and anxious writer, the Hogarth Press was instrumental in freeing Woolf to become ‘what she wished as a writer without the real or imagined criticism of a publishers’ reader’, plus it also meant that ‘[she] need never feel an unsympathetic or repressive male editor looking over her shoulder’ (p. 400). Woolf herself wrote in her diary that she was, ‘the only woman in England free to write what I like.’ (Willis p.401) Furthermore, from 1929 to 1939 the Press contributed at least £1000 year to their existing income and since their expenditure had remained much the same in this period, they were able to use the money to make major lifestyle changes. Thus they were able to afford the luxury of being able to discard the model of Victorian domesticity by replacing the cook and other live-in servants with ‘things which make it easy “to do for yourself”’ and staff in off-site accommodation. Profits from the Press also contributed directly the purchase of their first car – a second-hand Singer in 1927, which added welcome speed to their pace of life (Leonard Woolf, Journey, p.99). It is interesting to note how the intellectual autonomy of the Woolfs’ was paralleled by an increased sense of freedom within their lifestyle in general.

It seems that the space that these necessary extras provide is essentially a springboard to better things beyond the present; a means to a nobler end, and not the end itself. But an actual Hogarth handmade is not luxurious. At least, not in the material sense. An examination of the British Library copy of The Waste Land reveals inadequate inking (i.e. too light to be comfortably legible in places), a badly cut cover label and the absolute minimum of stitching unevenly spaced – features evident in nearly all the handmade Hogarth books I examined. The Senate House copy has similar problems, plus ink blots throughout, with botched gluing sticking the title page to the leaf before it. Furthermore, page twenty-five is cut short at a diagonal and they appear to have run out of the marbled cover paper, which comes just short of the endpaper. As James Beechy observed, they are noticeably absent from most private press histories, perhaps due to the marked difference in production values, ‘Unlike many private presses founded in the slipstream of the pervasive Arts and Craft movement, The Hogarth Press was not concerned with editions de luxe’ (p. 15). This summary of Hogarth Press production is a polite understatement. The books themselves are almost precocious in their material inadequacy. If there is anything deluxe to be found in the press publications at all, it is that they were made by highly skilled writers, and it is this auratic intellectual association which give them their market value, not the quality or durability of the material product.

It seems that for the Hogarth books to be classed as deluxe, a different definition of luxury must be found. In The Price of Modernism: Publishing The Waste Land, Lawrence Rainey gives very interesting and detail-oriented revision of The Waste Land’s process of canonization, and in order to do so he depends upon an established avant-garde ‘tripartite publishing program’ of elite, deluxe and mass dissemination (pp. 77-106). This method of tiered publishing is so established today, we hardly notice it – for example everyone expects a paperback to follow a hardback, with a fine-bound limited edition sometimes commissioned for the discerning elite. Even indie record labels have adopted this form of publishing, with CDs and digital releases being followed by special edition vinyls and the suchlike. Rainey’s assumption that deluxe in book publishing means a limited edition made from valuable materials is well-founded considering the output of other contemporary presses. The examples he gives for the deluxe level of modernist tripartite publishing, such as William Morris’s Kelmscott Press or Yeats’ sisters’ Dun Emer (later Cuala) Press produced exquisite work. An examination of the Dun Emer Press’ Broadsides: A Collection of New Irish and English Songs (1937), a collection of ballads written by Yeats and printed by his sisters1, reveal rich, even inking, with the illustrations coloured by hand and musical notation on every ballad sheet adding to the sense of luxurious printing. Looking at a Kelmscott Press book, A Dream of John Ball (1892), a political treatise written by Morris himself, it is clear from the quality of the design work and execution why they were the benchmark that most later presses aspired to. The printing is, of course, impeccable, which is no mean feat when one considers the intricate woodblock illustrations and illuminated text, and that Morris’ bespoke inks caused much frustration to his printers due to their viscosity. The binding is similarly exquisite; the specially commissioned white vellum cover creating an almost translucent effect. Morris was second only to the Vatican in his demand for unleaded, flawless vellum. Needless to say, the materials used in both these projects are of the highest quality and both these specimens, kept in the same collection as most of the Hogarth Press books I examined2, do not appear to have aged at all. This is generally the norm among fine hand-crafted books. High quality paper and glues coupled with skilful application of tried and tested binding techniques usually ensures this. Thus these books are a marked contrast to the Hogarth handmade books whose naïve enthusiasm and unselfconscious experimentation in binding (often with disastrous results) share more with the energetic scribbles (and frequent ink blots) of the Stephen children’s Hyde Park Gate News than with the accomplished history of fine print and bookmakers.

Perhaps it was the Woolfs’ eagerness to utilise the work of friends that led to them printing things which should have been beyond their ability. Examples that spring to mind are not only The Waste Land, but also Hope Mirrlees’ Paris, both of which employ several languages, both roman and italic type, and enough specialised spacing to give even an expert typesetter trouble. The resultant texts (including these last two examples) often had to be hand corrected by Virginia after printing. Another good example is the first edition of 12 Original Woodcuts (1921) by Roger Fry which again is only secured with the minimum of stitching – only three holes. This is especially inadequate for this particular book because of the thickness of the paper used. Much thicker than usual Hogarth Press stock (perhaps in honour of it being ‘fine print’ book), they end up forming a ‘V’ shape at the spine because there are too many sheets to comfortably fit in just one fold and choir. This ‘V’ shape is also echoed by the page ends, which have not been trimmed after binding – a characteristic which is again apparent in most Hogarth handmades. With fewer sheets, five holes and a trimmed edge this would have been an acceptable method, but the best and most orthodox way to bind pages like these would have been to stitch them in smaller numbers, then sewn the subsequent three or four choirs together. This appears to have been too labour intensive for the Woolfs, who, as far as I know, never employed this practice. The result is a ‘fine art book’ which neither opens nor shuts properly. The inner pages are also folded against the grain direction of the paper, which decreases the lifespan of the book; as every professional bookbinder knows, the grain should run parallel to the spine. These technical errors are exacerbated by an amateurish appearance; the ‘marbled’ paper that Fry himself made by throwing paint in random splashes at ‘recycled’ wall paper was far too heavy and poor in quality for this purpose. As Donna Rhein points out, the traditional method of marbling is to suspend colour on water in order to float the design onto the paper. (p. 27). Fry’s unorthodox approach means that the cover, now brittle, is prone to cracking and breaking off in parts. One might give Fry and the Woolfs the benefit of the doubt, perhaps as amateur binders they simply did not possess the depth of experience to have foreseen what problems using inappropriate materials might create, but mere inexperience does not explain the lack of care in execution – for example the front label is not even cut squarely. These recurring technical imperfections, as well as many others too numerous to list here, are all regular features throughout Hogarth handmades and mean that they are quite justifiably left out of fine press histories.

The fact that Rainey neglects to physically describe a Hogarth Press edition of The Waste Land, is perhaps because of the frustrating incongruity between its aspirations and humble appearance. Simply put, the handmade Hogarth Press books, the category which is usually deemed ‘deluxe’, were so badly made that, even their mass produced counterparts tend to wear better than they. In the Lilly Library (Indiana University) copy that Rhein describes in The Handprinted Books of Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press there is even an advertisement for past titles from the Hogarth Press printed in the back of the book (Rhein pp.23-24). Far from treating the production of this book as a limited deluxe English edition, the Woolfs appeared to have decided they would make the most of the publicity from what they thought would be a good seller. Rainey’s suggestion that Eliot’s commission of The Waste Land was an afterthought of Eliot’s to complete the tripartite system also seems less convincing if one considers that it was not necessarily limited, since the Woolfs were not averse to making more copies to cater for demand – even when the original materials had run out. In the case of The Waste Land, the suggestion that the Woolfs ran out of the original marbled paper is supported by the fact the British Library copy is covered in a completely different, textured, black paper.3 In fact, for a handmade book by amateur book-binders, the 460 copies of The Waste Land could be considered a large print run. The lateness of the publication may also be due to the fact it always took the Woolfs a long time to typeset anything, especially because in this case Virginia took extra care to ensure the poem was spaced well, which it was. Indeed, Eliot himself said that he preferred the appearance of this edition to its American counterpart. Having examined both editions, it is evident that the unconventional proportions of the Hogarth Press edition caters much better for the spacing of the lines than the Boni and Liveright edition which is not wide enough and breaks up the vast majority of its long lines. Thus the personal care and high priority with which the text is treated by the Woolfs is clear, despite the dubious quality of its total execution as a ‘deluxe’ book.

Perhaps what the Woolfs considered to be luxury can be illuminated by the suggestion ‘The Woolfs’ intentions were more cerebral.’ (Beechy, p.15) The ‘luxury’ was not in the materials but in being able to bring together individuals they hoped would have an affect on the existing consciousness. As Leonard Woolf noted, ‘We were interested primarily in the immaterial inside of a book, what the author had to say and how he said it; we had drifted into the business with the idea of publishing things which the commercial publisher could not or would not publish.’ (Lee p 234) In the light of this, one can see the marketing behind The Waste Land as part of a long-term project to centralize a certain culture of intellect. Rainey presents The Waste Land as well branded product successfully sold within an already established system of publishing. This may be true but, at least from the Hogarth Press side, the eagerness to publish was also due to intellectual ideals the Woolfs shared with Eliot, which tended towards a more amorphous kind of subjectivity. Just as T.S. Eliot was aware of mass consciousness being greater than the individual’s thoughts and advocated the ‘continual extinction of personality’ so that ‘the mind of Europe’ may surface (Eliot,’Tradition and the Individual Talent’, pp. 39-40), so did Virginia Woolf have a similar sense of social responsibility;

‘[T]he public and the private worlds are inseparably connected, the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other [..] we are not passive spectators doomed to unresisting obedience but by our thoughts and actions can ourselves change that fire. A common interest unites us, it is one world, one life.

(Three Guineas, pp. 270-271)

Thus one can see that, as a group of already famous individuals, the material commodities were simply vessels used to distribute awareness of a fragmented yet interconnected world. Their belief in the power of private consciousness to affect mass culture shows how, ideologically, this was the most important result that the luxury of independent intellect could bring forth. As friends of Eliot at the time, and critics whom he trusted, it was the Woolfs’ pleasure to extend to him this same luxury of unadulterated exposure made possible by the Hogarth Press.

It seems strange, then, that scholars who have written insightful histories of the Hogarth Press tend to end with a rather rigid view of how the Woolfs achieved what they did. As J. H. Willis Jr. puts it, ‘[T]he twenty-four year journey of the Hogarth Press, complete and seen in its entirety, seems one that may never be repeated.’ (p.402) Similarly, S. P Rosenbaum’s reasoning that the Hogarth Press existed due to a combination of luck and the Woolfs’ realisation that the publishing conditions of their time created the need for an alternative press’ also leads him to the conclusion that ‘[t]he historical moment of the Hogarth Press is passed; even if one could find another Virginia Woolf, it would not be possible for many reasons to do anything similar now to what they did nearly eighty years ago.’ (p. 24) These departing words with which he sums up the enterprise seem to belie the inherent values of the press. It is precisely this kind of whimsical attempt to ossify history which is antithetical to the dynamic vision of the Hogarth Press. At this point, the image of Virginia Woolf berating the outdated ‘Edwardians’ for wilfully overlooking Mrs Brown as a person in herself springs to mind. By reducing her to a trope through which they can convey their premeditated patriarchal judgements, they have failed to appreciate Mrs Brown’s own agency as a conscious human being. In the same way, by sealing the Hogarth Press up as an unrepeatable one-off, these well-meaning historians smother its inspiring effect under a blanket of mystique. Ironically, it is the fact that the works of the Woolfs now command so much stature in cultural history which makes them vulnerable to this kind of treatment. Yet just as Mrs Brown’s presence being negated renders her voiceless, so does Willis and Rosenbaum’s final judgement on the Hogarth Press, as a bounded historical entity, ultimately silence Leonard Woolf’s own convictions. As he writes in his autobiography,

I am not so foolish as to believe that our advantages could not occur again. There is no reason to believe that it is impossible that tomorrow.. there may not be a circle of young, unknown, brilliant writers whom someone might begin to publish on a small scale as we did in 1917. And there is no reason why he should not succeed as we did… (Journey p.126)

A niche as culturally significant as the one that the Hogarth Press occupied is not simply spotted but made. The fact these historians do not realise this is perhaps due to a misplaced ‘sense of perspective.’ One might suggest that it is this inflexible kind of ‘sense of perspective’ that drives Septimus Smith out the window in Mrs Dalloway because it does not give enough credence to the possibility of consciousness being ‘a seeing that literally makes and re-makes life moment by moment’ (Wicke p. 120). That an anomaly like a market for badly made ‘deluxe’ books persisted reinforces the idea that the Hogarth Press’s self-published and self-made ethos permeated the consciousness of the people around them. Although the material success of the press was founded upon factors like good artistic choices, sensible accounting, and good timing, above all, it was holding steadfast to the self-knowledge that the only way they could guarantee the longevity of their enterprise on the terms they wanted it (i.e. complete artistic control despite being a part-time occupation) was to limit their operations, and not be self-conscious about the fact they would remain ‘a mongrel in the business world.’ The physical fruits of their labour, exemplified by the handmade books, express this hybridity in every hurried misplaced stitch on the edge of beautifully spaced text, every enthusiastically chosen avant-garde cover-paper which was as personally loved as it was impractical.

Other presses which followed in the footsteps of the Hogarth Press and had similar aims, such as Laura Riding’s Seizin Press, or Nancy Cunard’s Hours Press (both authors of Hogarth handmade books) simply lacked the ability to grow and become stable, sustainable cultural challengers, as the Hogarth Press did. At least part of the Hogarth Press’ longevity must also be due to the way they pursued this ‘leisure’ activity of a hobby-turned-business with the same all-consuming intensity with which they tackled the ‘proper’ work which occupied their mornings – that is, writing. The way the Woolfs kept the Press physically close to them, (literally living under the same roof until bombing during Second World War forced them to relocate), intertwining the functions of the Press with their daily lives and resisting opportunities to expand so they could maintain total control over all aspects of the business showed that their personal investment in it was much more than just money or time – although Leonard’s shrewd business sense played as much part in their success as Virginia’s talent. Thus although both the Seizin Press and the Hours Press produced beautiful books of some cultural weight, they folded in less than ten years, in contrast to the Hogarth Press which, even after Virginia’s death in 1941, had been in production for over two decades and was still a strong presence on the publishing scene.

The slow and humble beginnings of the Hogarth Press was an advantage when it came to cultivating a nursery for new talent because the support network was mature and the community real. By preferring to limit editorial meddling to the bare essentials the Woolfs also, to some degree, extended the luxurious freedom of uncensored creativity to others. In this way, the Hogarth Press increased the status of the Woolfs amongst their peers. And unlike other private press owners who mainly published their own work, these acts of generosity – like Clarissa Dalloway’s reversal of the spendthrift economy – stood them in good stead as it also extended their cultural potency far beyond their immediate circle.

Although the cultural worth of the Hogarth Press could easily be measured by the impressive number of Noble prizewinners they produced, perhaps the most remarkable consequence was how it allowed Virginia Woolf, as a woman, to create without restraint, be published and read. Thus she influenced society’s values on her own terms – that is, with independent intellectual thought, without having to compromise any of her ideals. That the press could not have succeeded as it did without her, nor could she have written as she did without it, shows that Woolf fulfilled her own prophecies on what a woman needs to create. Here, we return to the territory of Shakespeare’s sister. As a woman wanting to have a real voice in society, financial independence coupled with real cultural influence was not actually a luxury but a necessity only available to the very few. The fact the Virginia Woolf achieved this and now attracts ever increasing scholarship is a testament to the successful in-roads she made by writing a better status for women into being. As Peter Alexander writes,

[S]he gave women a voice at a time when too few good writers spoke for them. To compare her with the other outstanding women writing in English of her period – among them the Modernists Gertrude Stein, Katherine Mansfield, Dorothy Richardson, H. D. Bryher, Djuna Barnes, Harriet Monroe, and such non-Modernists as Violet Hunt and May Sinclair – is to recognise that she was and remains a centrally important figure.” (p. 211)

That just under thirty years ago, Hermione Lee (who has since become the go-to academic on Woolf) classed her only ‘in the second rank of twentieth-century novelists’ (Lee, 1977, p.14) shows how the dynamic force of Woolf’s writing has continued to affect our consciousness. In the many decades following her death, the feminist legacy which Woolf worked on under the shelter of the Hogarth Press continues to grow, albeit not always in a fashion she would have approved of. However, despite having to deflect no small amount of scorn along the way, her stature now as a central figure within the modernist canon shows how well she used the uniquely privileged position she made for herself.

The significant move Virginia Woolf makes from a feminised object, vulnerable to the whims of a male-dominated publishing culture, to a potent cultural subject in her own right, was due to the empowerment and influence afforded her by press. As Willis puts it,

From the initial frustrations and delights of hand printing [..] to the more complex and time-consuming activities of publishing [..] the Hogarth Press provided Virginia Woolf with physical, emotional, and mental stimulation that must have been as valuable to her as a writer as it was sometimes exhausting to her physically. In the same way that involvement in the activities of the Abbey Theatre did for W. B. Yeats, or Faber and Faber for T.S. Eliot, the press objectified Virginia Woolf’s world, allowing her to keep one hand on the vigorous pulse of daily life in the basement rooms of Tavistock Square. (p.400)

Having created the intellectual space to write and be taken seriously, surrounded by peers and aspiring writers in a place she had real cultural clout, dealing with ideas such as reconfiguring consumption or rewriting women through work like Mrs Dalloway or ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’ – it appears that, with the community of writers, artists, staff and customers they gathered around them, the ‘society of outsiders’ which Woolf called for in Three Guineas was already assembled within her lifetime. The associated luxuries of the press were entirely necessary in creating this, at least in Virginia Woolf’s eyes. As she wrote in her diary (27 October 1930) when considering the possibility of selling the press,

‘What’s money if you sell freedom?’

 

Ping Henningham is Co-Director of Henningham Family Press with her husband, David Henningham. She studied BA Art History at UCL and MA Modernist English Literature at Queen Mary University of London. This essay was originally written as part of her MA, and has been published as a blog in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Leonard and Virginia Woolf starting the Hogarth Press.

 

To see photos of some of the books I examined for this essay, you can now just click onto the British Library blog.

1 Issued as single ‘ballad’ sheets but later collated and bound for collectors.

2 This is the Sterling Collection which is now kept by Senate House Library, University of London.

3 As Rhein notes(p.23), it was quite typical of the Woolfs to underestimate the amount of materials needed and have to buy in more, often completely different papers to complete the run. As with many Hogarth Press handmades, there are also several variations on the front cover label for The Waste Land, some with underlinings, some with asterisks and some with no other embellishments.

WORKS CITED
Alexander, Peter, Leonard and Virginia Woolf: A Literary Partnership, (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992)
Anscombe, Isabelle, Omega and After: Bloomsbury and the Decorative Arts, (London: Thames & Hudson, 1981)
Beechy, James, The Bloomsbury Artists: Prints and Bookdesign, Cat. by Tony Bradshaw, (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1999)
Collin, Judith, The Omega Workshops, (London: Secker & Warburg, 1983)
Eliot, T.S., ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’, Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, ed. by Frank Kermode (London: Faber, 1975)
Lee, Hermione, Virginia Woolf, (London: Chatto and Windus, 1996)
– The Novels of Virginia Woolf, (London: Methuen, 1977)
Rainey, Lawrence, ‘The Price of Modernism: Publishing The Waste Land ‘, Institutions of Modernism, (London: Yale University Press, 1998)
Rhein, Donna, The Handprinted Books of Leonard and Virginia Woolf at The Hogarth Press 1917-1932, Studies in Modern Literature No. 52 (Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1985)
Rosenbaum, S.P., Leonard and Virginia Woolf at The Hogarth Press, (Austin, Texas: The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, 1995)
Wicke, Jennifer, ‘Coterie Consumption: Bloomsbury, Keynes and Modernism as Marketing’, Marketing Modernisms: Self Promotion, Canonization, Re-reading, ed. By Kevin Dittmer & Stephen Watt, (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1999)
Willis Jr., J. H., Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers: The Hogarth Press 1917-1941, (Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1992)
Woolf, Leonard, An Autobiography, II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980)
– The Journey not the Arrival Matters: An Autobiography of the years 1939-1969, (London: The Hogarth Press, 1973)
Woolf, Virginia, A Room of One’s Own/Three Guineas, (London: Penguin, 1993)
– Mrs Dalloway, (London: Penguin, 1996)
Woolf, Virginia, Vanessa Bell with Thoby Stephen, Hyde Park Gate News: The Stephen Family Newspaper, ed. by Gill Lowe, (London: Hesperus Press Ltd, 2005)
Woolmer, J. Howard, A Checklist of the Hogarth Press 1917-1946, (London: The Hogarth Press, 1976)

Share Button
box-title
The New Concrete

The New Concrete

box-title

Some of you will remember the delicious Clotted Sun loose leaf book we made with Chris McCabe. His recent editorial collaboration with Victoria Bean, The New Concrete (Hayward Publishing), has led to another similarly satisfying project with us; an edition of 15 deluxe solander boxes containing a copy of The New Concrete and five giclée prints by five instigators from the original Concrete Poetry movement.

Our Epson Pro 7890 inkjet technology and several digital remastering techniques made this a perfect expression of the anthology’s theme – the revitalising effect digital technology has had upon the idea of concrete poetry. The beautiful bespoke black boxes we made are in themselves an edition, as we lined them with a black foil debossing of ‘Paradise’, a print from our Unknown Soldier series which looms in the back of the box like a secret track. This accompanies our Grand Eagle print which is included in the anthology itself.

Victoria took the boxes to America recently where they were acquired for several illustrious collections. If you are interested in finding out more with a view to purchasing one you should contact Victoria directly. It’s a great opportunity to get both a landmark anthology and an exhibition in a box.

I love making solander boxes. There’s a moment when they become synergetically taut as the glue, cloth and board lock together. They are the pinnacle of my craft.

open-box

secret-track

lining

Share Button

I

Five metres from a slipper bath filled with ice and cocktails, discussing Modernist Art with Paul Mason, Jenny Broom, Aysulu and Anna (from British Council Russia) we found we had experienced the same epiphany as Paul at the Tretyakov Gallery that day. We had been confronted by an alternative narrative of the origins of Modernist figurative painting; confronted by a different version of Malevich’s Black Square than we had previously seen mediated by magazines and text books.

The black pigment of the square was parched so that yellow and red oblongs were visible through the cracks. Where the black persisted the surface texture betrayed numerous oblongs underneath that crossed the threshold of the famous square.

An X-Ray of Malevich’s Black Suprematic Square, 1915

The didactic square from art history turned out to be the completion of numerous false starts and revisions towards simplicity. That’s a very different story. Black Square was preceded and followed by masterpieces we’d never seen. Marc Chagall on an epic scale was a revelation for many of us at the table. Exhilarated, we began flicking through everything we know between Beveridge and Woolf, wondering if we had been sold a partial version of Modernist art history.

This encounter with The Square was emblematic of our whole experience of Moscow. The painting and the place, when mediated, are both abridged. The Black Square loses its texture and presence, just as Russia becomes reduced to its foreign policy and Putin fridge magnets. My ignorance of Russia’s view of itself, which is the result of Russian politics and British media, prevents me from understanding the spectrum of their fears and ambitions. The red and yellow oblongs under the square remind me of the striking diversity of peoples within the Russian Federation. Their government very consciously celebrates this, and a new park will feature all four terrains found within the Federation. However, this cosmopolitan theme was already commonplace under the USSR, evident in the regenerated park at VDNKh where pavilions were built from the materials and styles of different distant Soviet Republics. Today, Russians from some of these races find actual social mobility within the Federation does not live up to the ideal. How familiar. Yet what I found embarrassing is that such an important tension within Russia was news to me. And is this any surprise when on Russian TV their politicians do normal things, like look at their smartphones, but British media employs the same old newsreel shorthand of earnest white faces bobbing on a sea of little communist claps. Russian ‘alternative media’ does no better, piping out mirror image foreign policy to Anglo-American discontents who are still hoping for one accurate news source. Its fanbase would do far better to visit Russia and get a sense of its diversity, contradictions and tensions over Georgian dumplings.

II

The British Council delegation we belonged to was assembled to represent the UK as guests of honour at Non/fiction Literature Fair during the UK Russia Year of Language and Literature 2016, and satellite events in bookshops, museums and galleries. Over dinner Jonathan Coe made the kind of fascinating, nuanced observations about innovation in contemporary fiction you would expect from an accomplished novelist who is also B.S. Johnson’s biographer.

Jonathan Coe introducing B.S. Johnson

Jonathan Coe introducing B.S. Johnson at Non/Fiction

Like A Fiery Elephant executes the manoeuvre of engendering sympathy and admiration for B.S. Johnson, at times an unpleasant person, salvaging his life and his art without employing the unsatisfactory excuse that they are distinct. He did the same for a Russian audience in the UK Pavilion, briefly a revivalist tent where the majority pledged to read some Johnson. I hope they also read Coe’s new book, Number 11.

Jim Crace

Jim Crace

Jim Crace, author of Harvest, was another inspiring personality. He has what my Russian friend calls ‘a face accustomed to smiling’ and his conversation alternates between humility and encouragement. Much like Paul Mason, who is always animated, active, alert to whatever political events are unfolding and the fact that news can appear from anyone anywhere at any time. He often interrupts himself mid-sentence to greet a new arrival at the table, “Hi, we haven’t met, I’m Paul.” There were many more people like this. These Islands produce some impressive people sometimes, and we were enjoying all this from ‘the kids’ table’, with Emma Healey, whose novel Elizabeth Is Missing I enjoyed greatly, delightful children’s author and publisher Jenny Broom, and comic artist Tom Gauld. The latter two and ourselves also spent some time working with students at the British Higher School of Art and Design; Russian students, primarily, taught in English in Christopher Rainbow’s groundbreaking BA Illustration department.

III

British Artists were a bit late to Modernism. It was a reaction to what was happening over there. Less a response to Modernity, than a plaintive “why can’t modernity happen here?” emerging from a stuffy sitting room. What better subject for my lecture at the British Higher School than the link between one of Moscow’s most enthusiastic citizens, Kandinsky, and London’s avant garde. Edward Wadsworth praised and reported On The Spiritual In Art in BLAST! for the advancement of abstract painting in Britain. I also told the story of David Bomberg at the Ballets Russes, and London’s rejection of Italian Futurism. The students contrasted Marinetti’s machine worship with our blasé use of technology, contemporary interest in the hand made and ecological design. They were brilliant students.

Next day I led a day-long collaborative workshop in which we would design a system of simple cut-out glyphs that we could use to screenprint sounds commonly used in both English and Russian. I had sent a lesson plan to prime them for my arrival, but so well prepared were these excellent students that we had done the pre-lunch part of my plan by eleven. Just as well, as I’d not realised how long lunch would be. Three students had pretty much fully realised alphabets of their own before we began, so we had plenty to work with, but it must belong to all of us. We worked through strategic questions. Would our glyphs refer to Cyrillic or Latin or ignore them? Would they be diagrammatic? Would they, like Kandinsky’s art, be forms that refer to gut feelings or the elements of art? In pairs, we made cut outs representing different sounds that had been distributed. In response to these questions we critiqued our results. Finally, my lesson plan long exhausted and pedagogical improvisation taking its place, we extracted elemental flourishes we could all agree on, then used these to make a final stab at our assigned sounds.

The BA Illustration Students' Final Glyphs

The BA Illustration Students’ Final Glyphs

We stopped short of creating modifying punctuation marks. And just as well, as I suddenly realised I was no less than four hours late for my next engagement and I had lost my voice. (Which is normal for work like this. Often that phone in your hotel room will ring soon after you enter it, knackered, and someone who has been looking after you and that you are yet to meet will ask you a question that you cannot answer about where you are supposed to be). Yet our process of refinement could easily have gone on to create a very minimal set of shapes with modifying dots and circles to create a universal phonic set. How Modernist is that!

David discussing the students' phonics with Dame Marina Warner

David discussing the students’ phonics with Marina Warner

IV

A screenprinting workshop was built for us within the British Pavilion. While talks and signings happened we contributed to the general hubbub as we worked with our groups of students to improvise screenprints; composing, choosing colours, binding sheets. The drying prints bobbed overhead while the public witnessed and contributed to our process of creation and execution. A favourite exchange was with a man who works in a screenprinting factory who couldn’t believe we could print with so little equipment. “How are you doing this!” he kept asking, as if we were magicians.

BA Illustration class continues in the UK Pavilion

31331368961_92e02dfa47_o

Preparing to print

30621831594_e1da6f30c5_o

Learning to Screenprint freehand

30635724243_e910f09fc5_o

Two print stations running simultaneously

31298445932_2d6fcdcf44_o

Drying the prints

31298445622_855625fdea_o

Each colour represents a beat in the spoken rhythm. Each shape a phonetic sound.

30635726613_a3137e9dc4_o

Reviewing the first print and composing the next design with cut out paper.

31410339736_ebce331ff6_o

Strips of five feet being bound into one book.

 

The dry prints were made into a massive book, five foot-long pages in each line, like the five metrical feet of Shakespeare’s Iambic Pentameter; ti-TUM ti-TUM ti-TUM ti-TUM ti-TUM. Here is a decoding of the concrete poem we wrote as we went, which became a kind of picture story about love, with two characters, or souls, living on a mountain in the spring. A betrayal leads to quarrelling, one soul leaves for the sea. Sorcery, dreams, comfort eating and finally forgiveness and reconciliation. How Shakespearean is that!

весна душа гора душа весна
мечта весна мечта весна мечта
весна душа гора измена весна
измена мечта измена мечта измена
гора душа хула душа коралл
душа гора хула коралл душа
гора немой немой немой коралл
гора ворожба мечта измена коралл
еда мечта немой мечта еда
мечта еда немой мечта еда
весна ворожба прощай измена весна
весна душа прощай душа весна
прощай душа гора душа прощай
село село маяк село немой

spring soul mountain soul spring
dream spring dream spring dream
spring soul mountain treason spring
treason dream treason dream treason
mountain soul reviling soul coral
soul mountain reviling coral soul
mountain dumb dumb dumb coral
mountain sorcery dream treason coral
food dream dumb dream food
dream food dumb dream food
spring sorcery forgive treason spring
spring soul forgive soul spring
forgive soul mountain soul forgive
country country lighthouse country dumb

Of course, in the original, the colour panels are like a tapestry creating rhythm through repetition and their position in space in a way that text on a page alone cannot. The panels are more like characters moving on a stage than tiny printed words. It concludes with a nod to Mayakovsky (маяковского), no stranger to recording tempestuous love affairs in print, in the form of a lighthouse (маяк) set in a landscape.

V

Representing Britain. The British Council (and Literature) made this easier, representing as they do the best of British. One Russian cab driver welcomed Brexit as a sign that white people everywhere can now federate at arms length in championing their ethno-national interests. Most Muscovites were far more cosmopolitan in their views. But international opinions I heard brought one moral dimension of Brexit to mind; envy.

The thing about coveting your neighbours wife, or their ass, is that the fantasy never includes the process by which it could come to pass. Fantasy demands the suspension of logistical realities. A person may think they’d be happier if they were married to the woman next door, but once the work of obtaining an ex-wife, breaking up the neighbours’ marriage, traumatising the kids, moving house, alimony and so on and on – it can hardly be the same dream in the end. Many, though not all, of British referendands displayed this kind of self-delusion about what we would get in terms of money, resources and trade outside the EU. Politics isn’t merely about declaring ones own wishes, but pursuing a civil society that includes those on the breadline and EU citizens now at home in the UK; those with the least say by volume and set to lose the most. Should the United Kingdom remain.. Can the United Kingdom remain united.? Apparently not.

This is a lesson from literature, from Shakespeare, where for centuries actors have committed the same mistakes, lusts and treasons, imagined the same delightful ends and fallen short with foolish means, staged twice daily so we don’t have to. What is the point in rehearsing tragedy when all the world insists on being a stage? And, in this era of global citizenship, will geriatric Britain be content with dishing out Cowerdly put-downs it believes give an air of sophistication, when in fact they betray British insecurity? The UK merely tolerated for the money it generates? Or conceals? Yet Britain, for now, is still admired for its culture; our biggest “export”. Is culture, like most exports, rarely consumed by the natives?

One Official, dressing wisdom as wit like a Shakespearean fool, made a speech in which they declared that we will unite the world through art. Solidarity! I agree. Building society is what art is really good at, delineating a territory for objective human cooperation and appreciation.

Our delegation’s experience would be valuable for all. Our Government can support the pioneering work of the British Council by cancelling costly visas, Russia could begin by making holiday and trade visa concessions to Moscow and St Petersburg. This would allow a groundswell of humanity to take root and bypass the old discredited, divisive diplomatic channels.

My lasting impression is that Muscovites and Londoners can scarcely ever have been so similar as we are now, and we must not let the populist opportunists and the politicians who pander to them keep us apart.

Share Button

Nothing In The Rulebook Interview

February 1st, 2017 | Posted by David in News | Press Cuttings - (0 Comments)

We were interviewed recently by an online magazine called Nothing In The Rulebook while waiting for an aeroplane. By way of introduction they say:

It seems old hat to say that mainstream publishing has been facing an existential crisis in recent years. As profit margins thin, the go-to response from the biggest publishing houses has been to retreat from investing in new ideas, and to banking on “sure things” – which, as Julian Barnes has noted, essentially amounts to republishing copies (or imitations) of commercially successful novels. Indeed, the mainstream publishing industry has become so risk averse and sold on the idea that committees of sales and marketing gurus that millions are now spent on orange-headed celebrity books whose pie charts and spreadsheets appeared to augur well but are in the bargain buckets shortly after they first appear.

Within this risk averse culture, new outlets for unique and creative expression, through art, writing, and fine book making are increasingly rare. Those that do exist must therefore be cherished.

Henningham Family Press (HFP) is the collaborative art and writing of David and Ping Henningham. Both Artists and Authors, HFP combines writing and art through fine art printmaking, bookbinding and performance. Based in Dalston, London, the pair primarily work with National and Regional Cultural Institutions and civil society groups, and are always looking for new institutions, such as museums, libraries and publishers to collaborate with.

It is an honour to bring you this detailed interview…

You can read the full interview HERE 

Share Button

The British Council have commissioned us to make a major public art contribution at The Central Hall of Artists, Moscow.

We are among the British artists and writers being despatched to Moscow next week to represent Britain as Guests of Honour at Non/FictioNo.18 Literature Fair, including Sebastian Faulks, David Almond, (and several people I think I know are going, but don’t seem to be announced yet). This is a key part of the UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature 2016.

Our commission is two-fold. At the Fair we will be creating a live screenprinted book in a workshop built and embedded for us into the UK Pavilion. Our fellow artists will be BA Illustration students from the British Higher School of Art and Design, Moscow, led by Christopher Rainbow. We will create a concertina-ed concrete poem visualising the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare’s verse. This tome will be donated to a British library, and a British folio will be created for Russia in exchange.

David Bomberg - The Mud Bath - 1914

David Bomberg – The Mud Bath – 1914

In preparation for this, I will be teaching a seminar in Modernist Art History at the School that draws out links between Malevich, Kandinsky and European art movements, with a special focus on David Bomberg, Edward Wadsworth and the Vorticists. I will then lead practical workshops with the students in which we will collaboratively create a new set of glyphs for visually expressing sounds common to English and Russian. It is these glyphs we will use to print words suggested by the Moscow Public:

Музыка шекспировского стиха

Henningham Family Press и Британская высшая школа дизайна

3-4 декабря, 12.00 – 18.00

Любовь питают музыкой; играйте
Щедрей, сверх меры, чтобы, в пресыщенье,
Желание, устав, изнемогло.
перевод М.Л.Лозинского
Двенадцатая ночь, Акт 1, сцена 1, 1-3

В пьесах Шекспира на протяжении четырех столетий сохранялся определенный стихотворный размер. Каждое предложение – это пять повторяющихся волн: «ти-ТУМ, ти-ТУМ, ти-ТУМ, ти-ТУМ, ти-ТУМ». Это пятистопный ямб, и он – главная мелодия английских стихотворений.

Британские художники Дэвид и Пинг Хеннингемы вместе со студентами курса иллюстрации Британской высшей школы дизайна на основе шекспировской строфы создадут прямо на Ярмарке non/fictio№18 книгу методом трафаретной печати. Получившееся произведение, как и многие пьесы Шекспира, будет посвящено «делам сердечным».

Мы приглашаем вас помочь студентам Британской высшей школы дизайна подобрать слова, которые будут соответствовать этому ямбическому ритму: слова о любви, зависти, страсти, обмане – о том, что составляет любовь по Шекспиру – на русском и английском языках.

  • Студенты отпечатают эти слова с помощью трафаретов, используя разработанные ими символы, объединившие фонетику английского и русского языков.
  • Затем напечатанные страницы будут склеены вместе, образуя пятистопный ямб, пять вьющихся лентой «ти-ТУМов».
  • Это длинное любовное послание в виде книги отправится в Великобританию, где будет создано ответное послание.

A Line Of Five Feet

The Music Behind Shakespeare’s Verse

Henningham Family Press and British Higher School of Art and Design

December 3-4, 12.00 – 18.00

“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”
Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1, 1–3

There is a rhythm that has carried Shakespeare’s plays for four hundred years. Each sentence sits on five undulating waves, ti-TUM ti-TUM ti-TUM ti-TUM ti-TUM. This rhythm is called iambic pentameter, and it is the music of English verse.

British artists David and Ping Henningham, together with BA Illustration students from the British Higher School of Art and Design, Moscow, are celebrating Shakespeare’s verse here at non/fictio№18 by creating a screenprinted book on site. Their book, like so many of Shakespeare’s plays, will be about “affairs of love”.

You are invited to suggest words to the students that follow this iambic rhythm. Russian or English words about love, jealousy, passion, trickery – any words suggesting Shakespearean love.

  • The students will screenprint these words using a new sound alphabet they have created, uniting Russian and English language.
  • Next, the printed pages are glued together into lines of five “metrical feet”, five ti-TUMs that snake back and forth.
  • Once bound, this long love letter in concrete poetry will be sent to the United Kingdom, where a response will be created and exchanged.
Share Button

Formerly London

October 6th, 2016 | Posted by David in Literature - (0 Comments)

London was wiped out shortly after the USSR perfected their H-Bomb. It could so easily have happened in real life, but thankfully it was only to be on British Civil Defence plans that our capital city was erased and replaced by “Area 5a”.

It is extraordinary how quickly the ubiquity of Civil Defence planning has been forgotten, yet it contributed a huge amount to our contemporary way of life, and an explosion of commuter suburbs oriented towards cold war aeronautics and economics. A volunteer Civil Defence Corps, which never quite got to full strength, prepared, drilled and enjoyed pot-luck dinners and dinner dances. It was manned by joiners-in, optimists, patriots, and the kind of aggrandised social secretaries who George Orwell feared might pervert the course of English Socialism towards Totalitarianism. The CDC is a much better fit for 1984 than a cut and paste job between the USSR and UK. But Dystopia isn’t the only treatment World War Three gets on film and in literature. Surrealistic Satire is particularly suited to depicting Mutually Assured Destruction.

record-copy

This song’s airplay was restricted for fear it would undermine morale. I’m not sure if it is Satire or just plain silly, but Satire has attracted legal action for millennia. Litigation is its litmus test. It’s silliness is altogether different to the absurdity of officially approved images and advice offered to citizens by Civil Defence; Civil because the Home Front is the new Front Line in nuclear conflict. The Family fall-in to prepare for the fallout.

One thing you should take away from this presentation is that it takes 16” of books to protect you from the fallout. There is no point cowering behind a Kindle. If you find Finnegans Wake hard going, be thankful that the gamma rays will too. Yet how many families have this many books? Perhaps a Civil Servant might, or a Professor. The central thing we should take away from this slideshow presentation is that official Civil Defence advice for surviving M.A.D. was itself insane. Insane in a cold-blooded clear-headed calculated kind of way. But what was the real agenda? Look at this man:

2-blackboard-copy

He doesn’t really think you stand a chance, but he has a job to do. A story to tell. In the USA, approved plans were available from Civil Defence, in the UK the unhinged advice was that a door turned on it’s side would do the job, yet you too could have built your own fallout shelter in the basement or bought one from a contractor. Or what better way to return to the Dark Ages than in your very own barrow.

7-barrow-copy

You could try role-playing as King Arthur, returning to rescue Albion, to keep up morale.

Depicting this as an Ideal Home Exhibition for the nuclear family enabled the authorities to create the fiction that everything will be alright. That the institutions of government, family and law and order would survive. Everything is under control.

But it wasn’t. Our technical ability had outstripped our humanity. Governments were being dragged towards disastrous conflict by their nuclear weapons like two men taking too many pitbulls for a walk.

13-chess-copy

These slideshows are obsessed with morale. The family enjoys a game. Later, how about a nice game of chess? Plan a varied diet for interest: pasta, pulses, dried fruit, or a stray dog, perhaps? While the male constructs a shelter, the housewife undertakes stockpiling with the children. The fixed benign grins in these slides are like the ones you find in safety advice leaflets you get on a plane, yet here we have Olympic level denial. And endless stacking. Keeping organised, prepared, civilised.

11-supermarket-copy

It’s like a miserable family holiday. With parents who are making the best of it, chirpy and chipper, and clinging on desperately to institutions that have become null and void.

14-ready-copy

The Bed-Sitting Room, a play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus adapted for film by Richard Lester, exploits this disparity between reality and defeated institutions brilliantly. Their characters feed off those institutions like rations stockpiled in their memories. Memories of London – the City only exists in their heads.

The authorities are now two madmen in a makeshift hot-air balloon (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore), yet the survivors constantly submit to them and the bureaucratic language that is mangled by their jobsworth tongues. The survivors often ask where in reality they are.

If this is Regent’s Park, then to the South..
I must get to Belgravia..
Don’t you know your London?
Why, this is Paddington!

In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt argued that the Patriarch that once ruled the household in Greco-Roman society was replaced in the modern nation state by Bureaucracy. She describes a mental picture of a table that has vanished yet leaves everyone seated in the same position.

chairs-copy

So we see ancient household concerns, like wealth and health become elevated to a kind of national housekeeping, the Economy and Healthcare system. Yet the difference is hard to spot because individuals occupy so many of the same roles as before and labour to satisfy similar needs. At one level Civil Defence was just this kind of interference, one of the many bureaucratic structures that filled the void where the patriarch once stood. But what happens if the unimaginable happens and Bureaucracy itself is destroyed, leaving a few atomised families to encircle a power-vacuum?

In the Bed-Sitting Room this is precisely the kind of shift that takes place. The authorities have created the conditions for their own destruction and the family they have failed to protect fail to grasp that Britain is over. American disaster movies often revolve around a family unit (or surrogate) pitted against distant odds. The Bed-Sitting Room is far more British in that it is about institutions. “I am the BBC,” intones the telly man.

thebbc

The characters are Nurses, Doctors, Soldiers, Police, a Priest, all covering themselves with the signs of institutions that have been destroyed, “because we’re British?” One could even say that a film depicting a family buffeted around a political vacuum, shambling around a china clay pit obsessing over the past is a perfect parable for Britain today. It is what happens when the social structure described by Foucault (or Hobbes) wherein people practice mutual oppression through a sovereign, through uniforms and rituals, loses its centre, its elastic tension, and it slaps them in the face with official clobber. Their sovereign investment is returned with insufficient postage paid. Either they get dressed or they admit that it’s all over. It is all over. The charade has become an obvious charade.

pier-copy

But why is Satire so appropriate for imagining nuclear war? Or World War One for that matter? There are several references to it in The Bed-Sitting Room. Oh What A Lovely War is a very similar film in its surreal imagery and biting satire.

somme-copy

The connection is the unthinkable destruction. After World War Three the past, present and future would all have been destroyed. Satire works in the opposite direction to the Civil Defence slideshow. Satire’s hysterical absurdity makes the viewer more sane, not less. It removes delusion by revealing its contradictions. The slideshow, however, invites you to share a collective delusion and ingrain it in yourself through pointless activity.

This has always been Satire’s agenda. Indeed, the purpose of all Greek plays was to protect society from corruption. A tragedy like Antigone was performed by and for the politicians of the city state to remind them that tyrants like Creon will always lead them to disaster. The Old Comedy of Aristophanes, satires such as The Birds, had the same job. But they did it through shaming those who were already corrupt.

Every theory needs a control sample, so let’s take a straightforward thriller like WarGames from 1983. Ferris Bueller has an even more disastrous day off when he hacks into the Pentagon and plays Thermonuclear War. The computer locks out the authorities and it looks like World War Three is unavoidable.

hacker-copythermonuclear-copy

As we know, the US Govt. takes a very tolerant view of hackers, so they allow him to give it one more good old college try.

ttt-copyarresthim-copy

He makes the computer play itself at noughts and crosses, which always ends in a stalemate. The computer cross references this with thermonuclear war and realises that it can only win by not playing. This is the intended message of the film. However, satire is lurking in the wings and subverts the final scene with this:

mbjtnsx0w

“How about a nice game of chess.” Chess? The game based on grinding seasonal medieval warfare? Chess is the home game of Henry V! This film ends up subverting itself and asking, what do you do when you can’t play nuclear war? Play proxy war! *The military history of the post-war years explained in a single unintended joke about chess*. A joke that says you can’t ‘not play’ nuclear war – you can’t turn the clock back. The truth is that nuclear weapons are not a mistake. They are a perfect expression of what we are like as a species. They are what you get when you multiply our accelerating technical ability with our inhumanity to man. This is what happened in World War One. The only way to get rid of these weapons for good is for all of us to become the kind of creature that can make them, but chooses not to. But I fear this work is overdue and nuclear weapons will not be abolished. Rather they will be superseded by weaponised Fusion Power. Our chance to not create this is fading, and another technology that should spell free energy for all will spread ubiquitous fear, just in case “the others make it first”. Can we ever unlearn this logical fault?

Satire is one of the arts that allows us to imagine a way out. The Bed-Sitting Room invites us to become more humane by laughing at our self-destructive self-delusion. But this makes it even more worrying that our politicians are so uncultured and unliterate.

Share Button