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

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

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

The Maximum Wage Magazine is now available to buy!

magcover_web

A 72-page A4 full-colour glossy magazine splashed on every page with photos from the live show and packed with brand new art and articles on earning a living.

Only £3.50 & FREE delivery within the UK.


Where Are You?



Performance combining hectic game-show silliness, satirical bite and economic critique – David Collard, The Times Literary Supplement

East London has become a prime example of the divide between the UK’s richest and poorest. It’s also where a group of artists are teaching people about income inequality. – Helen Amass, The Times Educational Supplement

magcover_web

Gainful Unemployment

“The times I’ve felt most employed, society has deemed me unemployed.” Eddie Farrell

An Insider’s View of The City

Investment Manager turned activist Clive Menzies explains how the rich transfer wealth from all of us to the top 10%

The NHS: A Private Investigation

Artist Marion Macalpine reveals a new and unreported threat to hospital estates.

The Metabolic Economy

David and Ping collage texts* and imagine a resurrected R Buckminster Fuller crashing an East End Artists’ studio. “Energy Is True Wealth! Survival for all, not just the fittest, is now a fact!”

AND Julie Rafalski shares out the commonwealth pie. Ladies Of The Press subvert lifestyle magazines to sell you back to your Self. Sophie Herxheimer collects life stories. Janice Macaulay‘s treasure trove of thrifty tips. Julie-Rose Bower dismisses the CV. Four pull-out posters Smash Hits stylee. Orwell vs Osborne on a living wage, Salary Amnesty and more!


Where Are You?



Inside the venue, it’s hectic, a little ramshackle, with a DIY, handmade aesthetic. It’s as far as you can get from the white cube art gallery experience. Although the art world may be driven by money, you feel a little uncouth if you actually ask how much something is. Here the mechanics of making and spending money are in the foreground and in your face. You’re being asked to think about wealth and value, and how these are not objective facts but constructed ideas. – Anne Black & Katherine Dike, galleryELL

*Utopia or Oblivion, 2008, Lars Muller Publishers
Critical Path, 1981, St Martins Press
The World of Buckminster Fuller (DVD), Robert Snyder, 2010, Microcinema International
R. Buckminster Fuller, Everything I Know

Share Button

One of the most common gut reactions to the idea of a Universal Basic Income is unfairness. It seems unfair that someone’s taxes would be redistributed to everyone else regardless of need. That would indeed be unjust if it were necessarily at the heart of UBI, but ‘redistribution of wealth’ in the old sense is not what is intended by many UBI theories discussed over the last fifty years. This post is about redistribution of commonwealth.

Redistribution of wealth is a ‘corrective’ feature of the current monetary system, perceived as taking from one person’s pocket to give to another. Key to R Buckminster Fuller’s description of a Fellowship To Think (UBI) was a redefinition of what wealth actually is; a redefinition from Physics. Social status and ‘income’ help us to group people together who are earning a wage, but this doesn’t reveal if they are actually Productive in an economic sense. Adam Smith described how servants earn a wage by consuming on behalf of their masters, but do not actually produce wealth. Fuller’s idea of Energy Wealth is one key idea for finding fair ways to establish UBI from true commonwealth.

Three years ago Ping and myself wrote an as yet unpublished book about Money and Income Inequality. With current interest in UBI increasing after policy changes in Finland we decided it is time to share an extract of the draft online, especially as we will be launching a live event and publication early next year as part of our project. More later.

In this part of the book we imagine what would happen if R Buckminster Fuller were to appear today in London. There are some direct quotes, but much of it is imagined conversation on his part with a group of artists in a studio complex:

..I remember when I was in the Navy…
‘What? Joel, is that you? Listen honey, I can’t hear you –’
..all the millions of beautiful bubbles…
‘I’m so sorry,’ sighed Marcia, ‘It’s all a big misunderstanding.’
..all the millions of beautiful bubbles…
‘What bubbles? Joel?’ Esther was glaring at her phone, ‘What? Some kind of interference, look honey, can you just –
..I would look off the back of my ship…
‘Ship? Honey the rain isn’t all that bad-
..at all the millions of beautiful bubbles…
‘I hope you haven’t been drinking. I need you to PICK ME UP IN THE CAR-
..In the schoolroom we are taught…
‘Oh shit!’ exclaimed Esther, ‘My phone is really hot!’
..that spheres are made with pi…

..I don’t think nature is using pi…

..for all the millions of beautiful bubbles…

Everyone immediately turned, tracing Esther’s phone as it arced through the air. Alex turned too quickly and fell suddenly against the scaffolding, causing it to list to one side and the polythene to billow upwards. The rest of them turned where they stood, following the trajectory of the phone. Xiao Gua stepped forward and caught the flying phone softly in both hands like a cricket ball. The air was shimmering above the phone as something that looked like wisps of smoke came together and began to glow. What looked like an array of tiny fluorescent tubes was organising itself into a rapidly increasing number of triangles. Alarmed, Xiao Gua reverently lowered the phone to the floor. Then the mass of triangles became brighter as it increased in density, suddenly ballooning outwards like an object falling into water, then upwards, creating the figure of a man. Some of these triangles then concentrated themselves inside the man’s throat into two great chains that began to rub together, generating a rasping, binary sound, like a row of glass bottles trying to talk. And it became clear that the figure was in fact talking, and with a little effort, everyone in the room, perhaps with the exception of Xiao Gua, could understand what it was saying,

‘Now I don’t want you to be afraid.’

Chapter Three

Freedom for the Wage-Slave!

‘I know that my appearing in this form is quite unexpected and alarming. It is in fact a very new experience for Man, that I stumbled upon through trial and error. An experience that many Men may have already had, but been unable to control or articulate. But I am a man, as you will understand presently. To this end I’d like to explain how I got to be standing here with you now, apparently a spectre of some kind and quite suddenly entering the room from nowhere.

‘My name was and still is Richard Buckminster Fuller. Without the animation of my first physical body, which I had the use of for eighty-eight years, my life was seemingly at an end. But fragments of my drifting consciousness found a foothold within another complex carbon structure somewhere, and I must have undergone a simple kind of synaptic experience at that level. My working hypothesis is that, like a knot passed along a rope, our person is a very complex pattern in space. The knot is not a part of the rope, but a pattern that moves along it. Now it may be that the complex of vectors we call “mind” or “personality” is in fact the most complex pattern integrity ever created. Perhaps what we are used to thinking of as our lives is just such a length of rope, and this pattern integrity can continue into new forms? All just speculation on my part so far. But as I was saying; as my thoughts were able to coalesce and deal with greater levels of complexity I found myself having some memory of who I was and my environment.

‘I found I was able to have some small influence upon the natural materials around me, and constructed for myself a rudimentary brain system to support these thoughts. Thus I learned to stand aside from the work and, gaining perspective, to use only my brain to rearrange the flows of inanimate energy-transformation patterns external to my own integral “body” energies. I have no idea where this was, as it would be some time before I was able to gather sense data. The principles I learned from Nature in my lifetime were still ingrained in my pattern. For example, one of my earlier motor experiments in the field was to hinge myself around a single point. A more successful version of this was to create a gossamer net out of tetrahedra, to hook myself onto the wind. This way I was able to travel much greater distances. I was able use these principles to pick up where I left off in life and construct a highly mobile and efficient body for myself over time. Before too long I was able to gather whatever energy I needed from nature to have complete freedom of movement, and rearrange my elements at will to my own advantage. How mistaken men are in assuming their days are going to be short and filled with struggle! Who knows how many have made this discovery, perhaps very few, but maybe we are in a position in time where it can be disclosed for the benefit of all men everywhere.

‘During one of these experiments, I was able to appear in front of the Dean of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where I had been professor in the School of Art and Design, in the form of an octet truss. He recognised me immediately and, aware that something interesting was happening, he had SIU assign me a small corner of the faculty where I was able to continue with my experiments, including compounding elements, increasing my mass, accumulating a number of internal protein processes to channel energy from the sun, and improving my mobility. I had already travelled some hundreds of miles westwards, despite my primitive condition at that time. It was as if I entered the world naked, ignorant and helpless for a second time, but because I had already lived a whole life once, I was able to rapidly regain ground.

Meanwhile, there has been a world-around leap forward in technology. Man now communicates at the speed of light, using fibre optics and a computer-processing power that doubles every two years. My current experiments are in transmitting this manifestation of myself around the world through these energy-transmission networks. Actually my destination today was meant to be elsewhere so I don’t mind telling you I am a little surprised to have arrived here. But there is much I have yet to understand about this process. The story I have just described to you in a few seconds actually took me over 20 years.’

R. Buckminster Fuller’s appearance had, at least to begin with, mesmerised everyone in the room. His authoritative, tumbling, buzzing speech and electroluminescent glow lent to the room a sense of occasion, like the début of cinema. In fact Tom and Xiao Gua had actually begun talking over what the Professor was saying towards the end of his speech, like people sometimes do in the middle rows, apparently unaware that this figure may be more than just a hologram. Esther kept hushing them out of respect, because she understood the spectre to be saying that he was in reality Professor Fuller himself standing there in the room, and yet he made no bones about the fact that he had died in the 1980s. This had to be a trick right? That was obviously the most likely explanation. After all, people who have died don’t generally come back after thirty years. But then, who had created this illusion, and why? They couldn’t deny that the holographic creature projecting out of Esther’s phone, from his abstracted tetrahedral feet up to his geodesic head, was apparently interacting with them as fluently as would any other person in the room.

None of this fazed Fuller, who simply carried on with his train of thought, as if it were the startled onlookers who were of questionable reality; ‘Perhaps I have experienced the same thing as when lightning passes through a conductor?’ But while he considered the means of his arrival, the others continued to wonder what he was. Was he alive somewhere else? He might be a ghost. Or a projection from another time? A recording that can respond robotically from the archives? Bibs asserted that “collective hallucinations” are a myth, and oxymoronic. Even ergot in the bread only gives a town simultaneous private visions, like smartphones do. So it was Marcia who, as chairperson, welcomed the necronaut to their little symposium and congratulated him on his interesting researches into immortality.

‘Why, thank you for your welcome,’ replied Fuller, ‘but my research is much broader than that. Immortality may be an application of my work, but there is other work, much more important work I would not leave undone. Consider how many of those currently living, even, are not truly permitted to live. In spite of the facts. That is what concerns me.’

Fuller was used to causing a disturbance when he entered a room, particularly since he had died. Almost out of habit he took hold of these prone minds and, like a pedestrian taking a moment to straighten a street-sign, began to teach.

‘Yes, I regret that in spite of the scientific facts, even so many decades after revolutionary discoveries, many people are not truly permitted to live. But what are the facts? It is now normal for man to be a success. Some of you may not agree with that statement. Some of you may think, in this harsh world it’s just “you or me.” Many people would say so. Just before I went to Harvard in 1913, before the start of World War I, a very rich “uncle” gave me some counsel. My “uncle” said, “Young man, I think I must tell you some things that won’t make you very happy. Those few of us who are rich and who really have the figures know that it is worse than one chance in one hundred that you can survive your allowed days in any comfort. It is not you or the other fellow; it is you or one hundred others. And if you are going to survive – and have a family of five and wish to prosper – you’re going to have to do it at the expense of five hundred others. So, do it as neatly and cleanly and politely as you know how and as your conscience will allow. At any rate, that’s what you’re up against.”

‘But it’s now normal for man to be a success. We have to abruptly accept that it is now normal for man to succeed. The abundance produced by industry has made survival of all, and not just the fittest, a true fact for all humanity. In 1927, I decided that man was operating on a most fundamental fallacy. He was operating on the basis that man was supposed to be a failure and therefore he had to prove his right to live. And each man then thought he had to say “I can show how I can earn my living and the other people are supposed to die.” No, I thought, this was no longer true. I decided that man was designed to be an extraordinary success, his characteristics are just magnificent.’

‘But isn’t it just common sense that there isn’t enough to go around?’ protested Sarah, looking a little surprised to hear herself speaking.
‘It’s a common opinion, but it doesn’t mean it’s right’ said Esther.

‘The problem is people don’t share it,’ added Hannah, eager to add to the normality.

‘Yes,’ said Laura, doing her bit, ‘these Dictators and their cronies get fat while everyone is starving. And 70% of Americans eat everything.

‘Well, something like that,’ said Esther, cringing. ‘But it doesn’t have to be like that. I mean, Professor Fuller has been suggesting this for the longest time, way before the idea that we could Make Poverty History. That was unthinkable twenty years ago, but most people have some idea that we could feed everybody today.’

‘Right,’ said Tom, ‘it’s the distribution that is the real problem, and corruption, war and debt that keep people hungry.’

‘Yes,’ continued Esther, ‘most people now no longer simply accept that failure to reach the normal standard of living should be the inevitable outcome for the unlucky majority. That’s what Professor Fuller means when he says it should be normal for Man to be a success, isn’t that right, sir?’

‘But “success” is a weird word to use for this isn’t it?’ asked Tom, ‘I mean it could mean so many things other than being fed and clothed. I mean, it doesn’t sound weird to talk about someone being a “successful artist.” But it does seem strange to refer to someone as being a successful human just because they have enough food. Surely having enough food is just a basic right?

‘Of course nobody wants to just be on life-support.’ added Esther, ‘The Professor means that Man is successful when we all have enough for our daily needs but also freedom and opportunity. You can’t have one without the other. Perhaps the Professor could elaborate?’
‘Yes,’ added Marcia, ‘we would be most honoured if you would continue, sir. Humans Rights is what we are all about, even for artists.’

At this Fuller smiled and closed his eyes. ‘There is a lot you will need to understand first if my answers are going to make any sense to you.’ Placing the palms of his hands together and the tips of his fingers against his chin, he looked intently at everyone in the room, as if taking in and processing the expression on each face in turn.

‘If we choose the most basic, strategic point to begin from’, began Fuller, pausing periodically and looking up and around as he composed his thoughts, ‘We should ask ourselves the question, “what is industry?” From what we know of energy and the principles Nature is using, we find that Industry is a working model of Nature. Not some otherworldly reality imposed upon Nature, no, Industry is instead a working model of Nature herself. An extension of the principles of Nature. Industry uses the same principles as Nature, obtains its energy from Nature, and satisfies the repeatedly, regularly occurring energy needs of Mankind. We could think of the energy of the sun being stored in crops season after season, the energy of any given mass being released in nuclear fusion, the harnessable ocean tides, wind, sunpower and alcohol producing plants. This energy can be made to flow through wires and pipes. The connection between Nature and Industry is direct. And it can be more, but not less, efficient, because we can only learn more, not less, about re-routing this energy.’

During this, everyone present had found their way automatically to their chairs as if following their migration routes. Hannah produced her jotter and Sarah likewise clicked her mechanical pencil into action like a gas hob. Otto even returned to the comfort of his smoking-window. Alex too retreated to his alcove, perhaps more deeply unsettled than anyone else there, not quite able to get into the normality the others had erected together, like the makeshift polythene tent that still rippled overhead and reproduced Fuller’s glow in every wave-crest crease. Ever helpful, Xiao Gua considered offering a chair to their, obviously distinguished, but also possibly supernatural speaker. Eventually, deciding he may offend the electric spirit, Xiao Gua sat down in the chair himself, and periodically asked Tom to explain what was happening. Fuller was saying,

‘Science states the entire physical universe is energy. Energy cannot be destroyed – it is one hundred percent accountable. It is energy that satisfies all of our needs, giving us heat, light, nutrition and also driving all of our machinery, therefore energy is true wealth. With energy you can meet all material needs, without it, you can do nothing. But that energy has no design of its own, it is constantly moving in every direction and transforming from one form into anther. So energy must be directed if it is going to be of use to Man. Wealth is therefore of two constituent parts; the first is energy and the second is knowhow. Wealth is energy compounded with intellect’s knowhow.1

‘But there is more. Energy cannot decrease, and knowhow can only increase. It is therefore scientifically clear that wealth which combines energy and knowhow can only increase. This is true wealth, it increases as fast as it is used. The-faster-the-more! Those are are the facts of science. Those are the facts of life. The proper accounting of wealth is now scientifically feasible. Man is now learning through the repeated lessons of experimental science, that wealth is explicitly the organized tool-articulated energy capability to sustain his forward hours and days of metabolic regeneration. In other words, true wealth is channelling energy through machines to supply our needs.

‘And there is still more! Because energy is wealth, the integrating of our world’s industrial networks promises access of all humanity everywhere to the total commonwealth of earth.’

At this, Fuller paused, and in the gap, Hannah put up her hand, as if in a formal lecture.

‘Yes, lady in the blue?’

‘I’m sorry to interrupt,’ said Hannah, ‘but I just can’t help but think – I mean, doesn’t it cost money to produce energy? Wealth doesn’t just come from nowhere.’

‘Thank you, young lady, for your constructive question,’ replied Fuller eagerly. ‘The kind of wealth we’re actually dealing with – the industrial wealth – has nothing to do with the old monetary gold. That kind of accounting based on speculation and credit is the mark of an innocence of society, and an economic expansion cancer. This is not the kind of accounting that can measure true wealth. We should come to accept that our present real wealth is exclusively the tool organised capability to take energies of the universe, and shunt them through channels onto the ends of circularly arranged levers, so that the energy turns wheels and shafts to do all the work. We can measure these values exactly, and we find that we are taking nothing from the energy capital of the universe. The physicists make it very clear that energy can neither be created or destroyed. You can’t exhaust that kind of wealth.

‘But, as your question has revealed, our present wealth-accounting continues to be unrealistic and does not reflect the actual conditions for humanity. These entirely obsolete world accounting systems fail to disclose the exclusively increasing wealth of Industry. The old economic accounting begins with Thomas Malthus’ assumption that there is and always will be only enough of the essentials of life to support a minority of mankind. This view made failures normal. This concept, as I said, is now acknowledged by science to be invalid. This obsolete accounting is based on Newton’s assumption that “at rest” is normal for the universe, and that the universe will eventually “run out of juice” and “run down” or “stop.” But Einstein’s continual evolution norm says 186,000 miles per second is normal. The speed of light is normal. Change is normal. Twentieth Century physics discovered that energy would escape from one system only by joining another system – that energy was therefore always one hundred percent accountable, and can be directed to man’s advantage. The old economics assumed that metals mined and put to use would always “rust” or oxidize and eventually become disintegrated and vanish from the cosmos. But now we discover that all metals may be remelted and reused. The old economics assumed that “you can’t lift yourself by your own bootstraps,” ergo flying by man was impossible. It cannot explain what we know from practical experience, from commercial industrial processes, that the synergetic tensile strength of chrome-nickel-steel – 350,000 pounds per square inch – is entirely unpredicted by even the sum of the tensile strengths of its constituent materials. That’s over 90,000 pounds per square inch that old economics cannot account for when it assumes “you can’t lift yourself by your own bootstraps.” No wonder that in the old economics, no man could fly.’

‘But that’s science, Mr Fuller,’ said Tom, ‘we were talking about money here. I mean, they’re not the same thing. Money is more of a cultural thing, I would have thought anyway.’
‘That’s right, they aren’t related,’ agreed Laura.

‘Ah, but they are,’ said Fuller. ‘In the old economics, the world is finite and a closed system, resources are scarce, failure is the norm and everything in universe moves entropically to a static norm. But in the Twentieth Century, we learned that energy is one hundred percent accountable, continual transformation of energies in universe is the norm. The old economics cannot account for this because it is based on lack – lack of time, lack of resources.. so when it comes across abundance instead of lack, it can’t account for it.’

‘Absolutely!’ agreed Esther, ‘Scarcity is bunk! We spent heaps of time talking about this in the seventies. But I had a frustrating time talking about this working in an NGO context in the Eighties. In health, agriculture, and development circles – ‘

‘But why isn’t that the way the world works then?’ said Hannah. ‘Surely people would have noticed?’

Fuller smiled,

‘Young lady, that is another good observation. I’ll tell you why; because politics is a blockage. To start with, here is an educational bombshell: Take from all of today’s industrial nations all their industrial machinery and all their energy-distributing networks, and leave them all their ideologies, all their political leaders, and all the political organizations and careful study shows that within six months, more than two billion people will die of starvation, having gone through great pain and deprivation along the way. However, if we leave the industrial countries with their present industrial machinery and their energy-distribution networks and leave them also all the people who have routine jobs operating the industrial machinery and distributing its products, and we take away from all the industrial countries all their ideologies and all the politicians and political party workers and send them off by rocketship to forever orbit the sun – the result will be that as many people as now will keep right on eating, possibly getting on a little better than before. It may even remove all barriers to complete free-world-intercourse and thereby permit realization of enough for all. So you see, when people like my “uncle,” or politicians assumed it was either YOU or ME, they were wrong.’

‘That’s seems like wishful thinking, if you ask me,’ said Bibs. ‘A totally hypothetical argument. When would it be possible to ever put such an idea to the test? Are you seriously proposing a technological solution to every problem? How would you remove politics completely? Apart from shooting politicians off into space of course. It may appear inefficient, but people have achieved a great deal through the power of debate, especially internationally.’

‘Yet no political leader has a mandate to make the whole world work,’ continued Fuller, ‘consequently, we cannot look for political help in making all of humanity successful. Politicians only have a mandate from their home countries,’

‘Or even just the Home Counties – ‘ Tom sneered,

‘They create boundaries for industry which are national and compete country by country. This is not a way of making the whole work. It is a way of making some people successful at the cost of others. The fact is that for the last half-century, all the political theories and all the concepts of political functions – in any other than secondary roles as housekeeping organizations – are completely obsolete.’

Bibs was having none of it,

‘Oh, it is quite the reverse. For a start, if competition from company to company makes them more efficient and productive, which I assume would be your point of view, why does this suddenly not work country to country? And in fact, true diplomatic politics has created and preserves a degree of freedom, even encouraging it globally. Far more freedom that corporations would grant.’

‘It is the first time that this abundance has been provided in the history of man,’ replied Fuller, faltering a little, ‘so I understand that it may be surprising to you, but all of these political theories we are referring to were developed on the you-or-me basis. This whole realization that mankind can and may be comprehensively successful is startling.’

With this Fuller opened his palm towards them and a small crystalline form blossomed from it, becoming a globe, complete with continents and ice-caps.

‘I once invented a game, a strategic game, which was a kind of wargame against need. I thought, instead of these wargames where superpowers rehearse nuclear oblivion, what if we were to turn these computers to face Nature and stage a World Game, where the aim is to achieve success in making the world work. I invited a lot of very smart people to play it, for many years on various university campuses. We published a lot of very interesting results. A couple of versions are still played today in schools and offices but, when I returned to society, I was disappointed to find these versions focus on allocating lack rather than engineering abundance. I had even hoped the World Game might even become a popular spectator sport. But never mind. We’ll continue our discussion along the lines of our original version, in the light of the realisation that there is enough to go around handsomely.’

He moved his free hand above the globe and a figure appeared on its surface, walking about. And then another person and another until there were hundreds of them busily doing things.

‘The essence of “success in making the world work” will be to make every man able to become a world citizen and able to enjoy the whole earth, going wherever he wants at any time, able to take care of all the needs of all his forward days without any interference with any other man and never at the cost of another man’s equal freedom and advantage.’

A line of energy snaked across the top of the globe to the foot of every continent.

‘We have seen that wealth is our tool-organized capability to deal with the forward metabolic regeneration of humanity in terms of forward man-days of increasing mutual enjoyment of the whole of the earth without interferences and without the gains of one to be realized only by the loss of another. But has anybody noticed, as this young lady put it earlier? 2

Six decades ago there was a meeting in Geneva of all the world’s leaders, and by chance the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations was meeting at the same time. What I have just been reporting to you came so clearly into scientific view at that time that the leading world politicians could even acknowledge it to be true. Gerard Piel, then publisher of the Scientific American, reported unequivocally that for the first time in the history of man, it was in evidence that there could be enough of the fundamental metabolic and mechanical energy sustenance for everybody to survive at high standards of living – and further more, there could be enough of everything to take care of the increasing population while also always improving the comprehensive standards of living. Granted the proper integration of the world by political unblockings, there could be enough to provide for all men to enjoy all earth at a higher standard of living than all yesterday’s kings, without self-interferences and with no one being advantaged at the expense of another. In other words, for the last fifty years at least, it has been known in political and scientific circles that Malthus was indeed wrong and there now could be enough to go around – handsomely. But, inasmuch as I have found that the majority of people around the world have still never heard of Malthus – add to that our observation that not more than one percent of humanity read what Piel said – it is easy for me to understand that what I am saying to you now must be jolting. Yet sixty years ago, Utopia became for the first time feasible.’

As Fuller spoke, a small percentage of the figures on his globe began to glow with an orange light.

‘On the false working assumption that there is nowhere nearly enough to go round and never will be, that it has to be YOU OR ME, man has then said “You must earn the right to live. You’re supposed to die. You must show you are better than the other man.” This is the basis on which society has been assuming that it’s a handout or a Socialist system if you’re not earning a living in some job somebody has set out for you. So we have the idea of a job as something that you have to do, that you don’t like to do very much, in contrast with what your mind tells you needs to be done, or what you would like to do. So the idea then – this is the earning-a-living idea – this is what they said: “we don’t want you to do a pick and shovel kind of a job, we do that by the bulldozer, we don’t really want you to be blue jeans, that kinda gets your hands dirty, we want everyone to be white collar.” But now; what we’re going to do instead, and this is to simply make some sense of the situation now, what I propose we say now instead is: “I don’t want you to be taking a job where it’s not really what you like to do, I want you to go back to when you were a kid. What were you thinking about when they told you you had to earn a living?” I’m going to give everybody a fellowship to think. Out of every 100,000 you give such a fellowship to one will make a breakthrough that will pay for everybody, so we’re going to afford it easily.’

‘Just a moment, Mr Fuller,’ said Bibs, ‘I think we could do with a recap. First you were saying that there is enough to go around for everyone. But what was your next idea? People should move out of labouring jobs into “white-collar” jobs?’

‘That’s a good question,’ he replied, ‘but no, I was explaining that we shouldn’t require people to have either a white-collar or a laboring job to prove their right to live. That is the obsolete idea, and it should be replaced with a “fellowship to think.”
‘But even people in factories don’t want to lose their jobs, do they?’ said Hannah, ‘I mean when they want to replace them with machines it can be disastrous for whole communities.’

‘But note,’ Fuller replied, ‘Labour opposes automation only because everyone is scared about their jobs. It’s perfectly logical for them to be scared about their jobs. It is logical that we think of unemployment as a negative, rather than realising that it is signalling that society now has the ability to free people from the necessity of demonstrating their right to live by gaining and holding employment. That logic is mistaken. That is why I was saying it is an obsolete idea. What makes our “fellowship to think” possible is that it is probable that for every 100,000 people we “educate” through a bachelor’s degree, there will be a science-technology accomplishment by one of these 100,000 so world-advancing that it will pay for all the other 100,000 people’s education and livelihood without their direct contribution to any scientific breakthrough.

‘We might as well make up our minds to the fact that we are, all of us, about to go back to school. For the first time mankind does not have to say, “How do I earn a living? How do I prove my right to live? How may I keep my family going?” For the first time in the history of man we are going to ask, “What would you like to do? In what direction do you have some spontaneous urge to develop or make social contributions? If some people say, “Well, I would just like to go fishing” – very good. If you go fishing it is a good place to do some thinking about what else you would like to do. You don’t expect a man to come up with his best long-distance thoughts right away. And even if he doesn’t come up with the thought that provides for the other 99,999 no matter. One of the other 99,999 probably will, that person will pay for the 100,000. And meanwhile at least our fishing man has spent his life doing something he enjoys, instead of being white-collar, or blue-collar, or any collar at all.’

‘Well, if I made an amazing discovery, I don’t see why I should be forced to share my earnings with a million other people,’ said Sarah. ‘People are always doing that, sponging off the rich. They must think just because you have lots of money you’re just dying to give it away.’

‘No, it’s the people who have to do all the work, and the bosses just try and keep all the profits for themselves,’ said Laura, ‘They should share it out more, because the people who actually do the work are entitled to their share, not the fat cats on top.’

Tom was puzzled,

‘But if they’re not working anymore, which is what Mr Fuller is suggesting, then they’re not entitled anyway. I don’t understand how everyone can be out fishing, whilst one poor bloke is in the lab slaving away for the discovery that pays for everyone else?’

‘And they’d better be successful on their fishing trips,’ sneered Bibs, ‘ because there certainly won’t be any food in the shops.’

‘He’s not suggesting that an inventor, er,’ Esther thought for a moment, ‘James Dyson! All right. The professor isn’t saying someone like Dyson should be forced to give away all his profits from his inventions. Inventors and entrepreneurs like him are among those who benefit from the sort of blanket discoveries we’re talking about, the kind that the 1 in 100,000 will discover. You know, what we call “gamechanging” discoveries. For example, Einstein discovered E=MC2, and that changed the way the whole human race thinks and has lead to so many discoveries that put so much more energy at our disposal as a species, that the standard of living has increased around the world on a level that doesn’t register accurately in any one national economy. So we’re not saying that money made by one person is redistributed to 99,999 other people, but that the discovery made by one person has the power to raise the standard of living for themselves and everyone else on a global level. It goes on to be worked out in various ways by lots of people.’

Aware of the wall of frowns now facing her, Esther searched hard for examples from her previous working-life, eager to make her point clearer,
‘Erm.. ok, I got one! Take Norman Borlaug. He has literally saved billions of lives. Actually billions! In ’68 a biologist called Paul Ehrlich wrote a best-seller called The Population Bomb in which he said the battle to feed the world’s population was already over because mass starvation was going to “deal” with the problem. But he didn’t know that at the same time Norman Borlaug’s team was working on a new high-yield form of wheat which is hardier. The concrete example of this was in India where millions of people were hit by droughts in ’66 and ’67. When the Indian government heard about what Borlaug was doing in Mexico they took the plunge and flew in 16,000 tons of seed as a last ditch attempt to save their population.’

‘Wow,’ said Tom, ‘why hasn’t this been made into a film?’

‘I know! And it has more than one happy ending. They didn’t just save millions of lives in the short-term, but they went on to feed a population that then doubled, and even went on to export cereals. They went from starvation to surplus in less than ten years! India’s population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold. Borlaug’s work is even now being carried out all over Asia and Africa.’

‘And I suppose it doesn’t even have to be just particular inventions that do it,’ added Tom. ‘Showing the world that something is even possible makes a huge difference.’
‘That’s right. But of course Norman Borlaug could have been a clerk in an office somewhere waiting for his pay check to roll in instead, if we all prefer that way of doing things.’ said Esther.

‘Crikey!’ said Tom, ‘How many Normans are stuck “actioning” and “appraising” things when they should be in a lab somewhere! I mean, if you tell a careers advisor you want to be a researcher or an inventor, they immediately discourage you. I did an aptitude test at school and it told me to become a policeman or a fish-farm manager.’

‘I was told to be a dog-walker,’ said Laura.

‘You?’ said Sarah, ‘You don’t even like dogs!’

‘I know.’

‘Or walking!’

‘We must do away with this absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living,’ said Fuller, smiling. ‘We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors and so on, and so on. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.’

‘Obviously I am behind saving the starving millions,’ said Tom, ‘but I still don’t see how people will end up with cash in their pockets unless they’re working, even if their job is a bit pointless.’

To Be Continued

 

 

Share Button

Reading T.S. Eliot’s pageant play ‘The Rock’, I mistook the statement Make perfect your will to mean one’s Last Will and Testament. Yet reflecting on my mistake it seemed apt, first that Eliot’s play should reveal my preoccupation with money, and secondly that I had imported the essential Capitalist pact into the play. Our Will confers ownership of the hearth and wealth that outlasts us onto our children, simulating permanence. It is not a Blessing, which predicts our fate and passes on the wisdom needed to outwit it. It isn’t Immortality because we do not experience its outcome,

The lot of man is ceaseless labour,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
The things that men count for happiness, seeking
The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
With equal face those that bring ignominy,
The applause of all or the love of none.
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.

‘The Rock’ was performed in Sadler’s Wells Theatre between 28th May and 9th June 1934 to raise money to build churches. It is an argument in favour of churchbuilding in a Modern world; despite Modernity. New churches for new converts, yet perhaps a few in attendance already suspected that Modern air raids would necessitate the rebuilding of churches, which Jonathan Meades points out would be gleefully undertaken by Modernist architects with atheistic pretensions. Eliot in 1934 was coming to see Christianity as the only viable alternative to Nazi paganism. Anglicans today, still giddy from the good fortune of having one of the greatest poets of all time on their team, sometimes turn to ‘The Rock’ to harvest quotes that may vicariously endorse Anglicanism. They look for sentiments that support the simplicity of spirituality over Materialism, and superficially the choruses that Eliot wrote for it do house some wonderful juxtapositions of that kind,

What life have you, if you have not life together?
There is not life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD.
Even the anchorite who meditates alone,
For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD,
Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbour
Unless his neighbour makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
Nor does the family even move about together,
But every son would have his motor cycle,
And daughters ride away on casual pillions.

In a crowded Palestine square Jesus was asked ‘who is my neighbour?’ but the same question has an alarming literalness when it pops into a vacant head sitting in a stuffy suburban sitting room. Yet this Anglicanism a la Amazon, those who bought Eliot might also buy Christ, overlooks Eliot’s ambivalence towards Modernity. He had a state of the art typewriter. This weak reading is at the expense of Eliot’s economics; his analysis of the spiritual dimension of finance and labour that is the true central concern of ‘The Rock’ and a theme that has stimulated great art for centuries,

In the vacant places
We will build with new bricks
There are hands and machines
And clay for new brick
And lime for new mortar
Where the bricks are fallen
We will build with new stone
Where the beams are rotten
We will build with new timbers
Where the word is unspoken
We will build with new speech
There is work together
A Church for all
And a job for each
Every man to his work.

But ‘The Rock’ is not consistently great art. His collaborator Mr E. Martin Browne wrote some awful Cockney scenes for it,

ETHELBERT: ‘Arf a mo’, ‘afr a mo’. It’s lucky for you two as you’ve got someone what’s done a bit o’ lookin’ into things to keep you in line. What’s wrong with you is, you’re a lot too cocksure. Ain’t you ever ‘eard me speak o’ the principles of Social Credit reform?

I kid you not.

Social Credit promoted a solution to a problem that may or may not have existed. A perceived imbalance in production and consumption which, in today’s consumer society is even less likely to be a problem. Eliot wisely claims in the preface ‘of only one scene am I literally the author’, and that he was ‘submissive’ to Browne’s ‘direction’ and ‘expert criticism’. It wasn’t me guv, it was ‘im wot wrote it. Oh, go on then, I know he was probably being sincere about his friend. Maybe people really spoke like this in the Music Halls he visited, even. But it still lacks the subtle overheard quality of Working Class voices in ‘The Waste Land’, and there’s even an apology for the Crusades in here, the wrong kind of apology; a justification for the unchristian undertaking.

As soon as labourers obtained the vote everyone wanted to own them. They were given bread and uniforms, the raw material for Fascism. They were given dreary lectures by Communists, equipping them to manufacture their destiny. They were sober footsoldiers for the Sally Army, which Orwell vilified because he too wanted them on his side. Their voices lack this overheard quality in The Rock because Social Credit Theory is being shoved into their mouths. Just like a battleship an ideology needs stokers below decks to reach full steam, yet if we keep Eliot’s religion and economics in binocular focus as we read it, ‘The Rock’ has something important to say to the labourers of 1934.

The Rock says emphatically that if the State denies labourers opportunities to labour through foolish financial planning, or the City does so because of greed, it denies them fulfilment as human beings. There is a spiritual dimension to labouring, therefore unemployment causes spiritual poverty and alienation. The unemployed here begin with words taken from Matthew’s Gospel,

Now а group of Workmen is silhouetted against the dim sky. From
farther away, they are answered by voices of the Unemployed.

No man has hired us
With pocketed hands
And lowered faces
We stand about in open places
And shiver in unlit rooms.
Only the wind moves
Over empty fields, untilled
Where the plough rests, at an angle
To the furrow. In this land
There shall be one cigarette to two men,
To two women one half pint of bitter
Ale. In this land
No man has hired us.
Our life is unwelcome, our death
Unmentioned in “The Times.”

Chant of Workmen again.

The river flows, the seasons turn,
The sparrow and starling have no time to waste.
If men do not build
How shall they live?
When the field is tilled
And the wheat is bread
They shall not die in a shortened bed
And a narrow sheet. In this street
There is no beginning, no movement, no peace and no end
But noise without speech, food without taste.
Without delay, without haste
We would build the beginning and the end of this street.
We build the meaning:
A Church for all
And a job for each
Each man to his work.

This alienation is the aspect of Modernity that Eliot bemoans in the play, not that Modern life is somehow inherently rubbish. There is a kind of Modernity, Eliot is saying, that promises a godless utopia over the next hill but leaves much of importance behind, such as the poor, the young and elderly. Surely we can have a Modern world that does not dispense with all the durable institutions and rhythms of life? That does not dispense with unprofitable people? That,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

Eliot was never the kind of Modernist that wanted to flood the museums, whose material could be perpetually reinvented. Eliot is a Modernist poet defending Modernity from a half-finished counterfeit.

Social Credit theory urged redistribution of wealth among labourers specifically to balance production and consumption. In this detail The Rock is out of date. Yet our limited demand for labour and the incoherent benefits system, a crutch that becomes a makeshift prosthetic limb, these create a similar problem of income inequality. This is the root conundrum of British politics today. From it fears over immigration, benefits and housing begin. This problem was partially updated in the Nineties in Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo‘, a book which, like Eliot, called for labourers to be given work to do on a fair basis, but globally. A vague aura of honesty and individuality surrounds labour for Klein, opposed to corporate (low) standardisation. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a Wimpy. Eliot’s evocation of labour as an activity that allows people to internalise enduring values and disciplines goes much further. St Paul loved making Hellenes uncomfortable with the idea that both he and his God got their hands dirty. He claimed slaves could redeem the imposed futility of their lives by silently offering their diligence to God. Socially regenerative graft is seen by the Apostles, like St Paul and St James, as an embodiment of resurrection empowered by The Resurrection. In the English past Eliot points to in the play anyone could access labour quite easily, and one of the injustices of the Industrial Revolution is that it uproots people from their parish and prevents them from entering the soporific, draining, yet ultimately life affirming cycle of labour. It puts them in a queue. It makes them a surplus. Nobody should be made to feel they are a surplus. “We have only our labour to give and our labour is not required.”

Yet is this true? Haven’t we got something better for labourers to give? The energy that can now be harvested directly from the Sun, or by unlocking the fissile energy of dead suns, makes the claim that a muscle class is necessary unjust. We no longer have a Proletariat, this is another facet of The Rock that is out of date. We still have labourers standing and looking about on the highways and dockyards, waiting for robots to arrive, but much has been outsourced overseas. Instead we have this complex mixture of consuming classes who also produce in difficult to define ways. Old Labour fought poverty on behalf of people like me and opened new opportunities, New Labour gave me the chance to discuss last night’s Grand Designs over a cappuccino in a free Museums’s cafe, the terrorist threat level outside ‘heightened’. Miliband’s Ye Olde Labour is currently prioritising the simulation of a working class, trying to make itself needed by compelling bright young people to work long pointless hours for corporations, which also pleases the vindictive sort of older people who feel everyone should have to suffer what they did. They address ‘fears’ created by UKIP rather than shooting them down. Labour’s ‘controls on immigration mug’ should be a Situationist prank, yet it is real, emblematic merchandise.

While The Rock was on at Sadler’s Wells Theatre there were Clergy and Greenshirts calling for workers to receive a share of automated wealth – the fruits of Industry. The latter were the urban expression of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, a pacifist offshoot from the Scouts; woodcraft folk. Today the Green Party have written an economically savvy manifesto, one we might once have expected from Labour, and the Church also criticises chaotic redistribution of wealth and greed in the City, greed facilitated by Government. We need to put as much thought into enabling people to consume as to labour. Take away someone’s spending power in a market economy and you diminish one of their freedoms. They have less say about what should be on offer in their community. They have to take what they are ‘given’. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Greenshirts demand the wages of the machine

Ergo it would be a mistake to extract Eliot’s economics from The Rock and dispense with the churchbuilding. For him Christ is the cornerstone of community, and community is served by the economy. It is tempting to remove Christ for the sake of inclusiveness, but a vaguely spiritual idea of labour is both patronising and analogous to Klein’s mere ‘honesty’. For Eliot there is a precise link between Christian churchbuilding, justice and freedom of expression, the fruits of which can be shared with all without compelling submission to the Church.

One of the few remaining institutions tackling income inequality on a large scale in Britain is the Church of England. The City’s ethics and the Coalition’s ‘war on the poor’ have attracted criticism from Lambeth Palace, and it looks to be a choreographed and long term priority for the Church, and we can expect to see the kind of alliances with other secular organisations and faiths that you find in most parishes these days. Universities are also engaged but, unlike the Clergy, Academics are facing their own enemies within. Marina Warner warns that Higher Education is less ‘accessible’ to the poor and the marketisation of University is eroding its civic value from within. Academics, on short contracts, are defending the Nation’s ability to think critically. Managers on huge salaries impose ‘efficiencies’ on them, a model allegedly taken from Business, but evidently not Stanford success stories where the Market and University have been in mutually advantageous conversation for decades and both make space for specualtive thinking.

Not all bright young people want to work in startups, however. If they are looking for a job with status, fully funded, accommodation provided, freedom to improvise, oversight that isn’t overbearing, working with community groups, thinking through social problems and tackling them on the ground, publishing their findings with mainstream presses, campaigning on social justice, historic buildings with a bit of ceremony – I won’t be at all surprised if many refugees from Academe head for the Church of England, especially now the issue of female Bishops has been settled and they are moving forwards around the issue of income inequality. The Church was traditionally a job for qualified Naturalists, Meteorologists, Historians, Poets and Social Engineers, the difference today is that Vicars tend to collaborate with expert agencies. Many British people would in turn be surprised to find that Eliot’s vision of a Church for all is more realised than they thought if they went into one, often with a community garden providing food for the homeless, homeless shelters, debt counselling, toddler groups, groups for the elderly, homework support for migrant families, seminars on Humanities in the Protestant tradition, genuine links with non-Christian faiths and friendly with other Christian denominations, all supported by a congregation who would build the beginning and the end of this street. The Church of England – now hiring in your area.

 

 

 

Share Button

Letters Home
The First World War Poetry Kit

Letters Home Poetry Kit

Letters Home Poetry Kit

Henningham Family Press and The Saison Poetry Library
14pp, ISBN: 9780956316615

The exhibition of An Unknown Soldier at the Royal Festival Hall that ran from November to January has now come down, but it will have a legacy in the Poetry Library for a few years yet.

We have collaborated on a book of exercises in writing Modernist poetry with Librarians Chris McCabe, Lorraine Mariner and Pascal O’Loughlin. This all ages resource (6+) introduces some of the movements in poetry that the First World War helped introduce to the world, such as Apollinaire’s Calligrammes, Imagism, Vorticism, Surrealism and Dada. It will primarily be used to guide school groups or individuals visiting the Saison Poetry Library off the more familiar paths through war poetry, but hopefully it will have legs far beyond the Royal Festival Hall.

Most of the letter games reference the enormous amount of correspondence between Home and Front; 2 billion letters and 114 million parcels. In keeping with our exhibition, inspired by the recent use of DNA on letters home to identify casualties, the book culminates in a game we devised that takes the rules DNA uses to build our bodies to build a strand of visual poetry that can be split and rewritten by a group. The negotiation and collaboration involved is intended as a contrast to the abuse of language and power that war entails. Just like a human body is built through the writing and reading of base-pairs, solidarity in a body of people is achieve through the honest use of arts and language. The pieces punch out of a die-cut sheet and are assembled as part of the collaborative writing process.

If you are interested in using this resource at the Poetry Library you can just pop in and ask for it, they are free and the Librarians can help. Bigger groups can arrange a visit with Chris McCabe via the form on the Library website. If you are interested in acquiring a batch of these for educational use offsite you can also contact us here directly, or Chris McCabe at the Library.

The Letter Games use simple steps, chance and basic word pairings that enable people of all abilities to do the book solo or as part of a group. So next time it is cold and rainy, remember you have been invited to take your children, spouse or literary best friend up to the Poetry Library and ask them for a Letters Home booklet:

Poetry Library
Level 5
Royal Festival Hall
London SE1 8XX

photographs: Harpreet Kalsi

Letter Game 1: Calligrammes

Letter Game 1: Calligrammes

Letter Game 6: 3D dna poetry

Letter Game 6: 3D DNA poetry

holo

Dazzle Foiling

 

Share Button

You are an Artist. You graduated from art college more than two years ago, but opportunities seem to be drying up, or at least are a bit chaotic. Occasionally local things come up, but you fear involvement with ‘community art’ will effect your credibility with the gallery system. You haven’t achieved gallery representation yet and you suspect you never will. And you’re probably right; research shows that two years on your chances are basically nil. You keep a studio, but it isn’t much more than a status symbol, you barely get there two days a week, what with your part-time job. You still call yourself an artist when you meet new people, but you are beginning to believe you have failed.

Zuidervaart sees things differently. He says that an Artist’s gifts have benefited from training in our Institutions. This creates a calling for all Artists to spend at least some of their time in the paid service of Civil Society, even if they have gallery representation. This is also appropriate because the greatest demand for art is located in Civil Society. Zuidervaart’s version makes sense of this situation by exposing the fact that Art in Public is extremely important and a more natural workplace for most contemporary artists coming out of art school; itself a Civil Society Institution. In fact Civil Society always needs more artists and provides opportunities encompassing local and national institutions. Zuidervaart also dismisses the notion that Civil Society is second-best to the private gallery system, it is more likely to be the other way round, even. This claim is a bit of a wake-up call when you consider how market obsessed Art Colleges have become. It is possible to graduate with a Fine Art MA without the slightest idea of the existence of anything outside the Contemporary Art Gallery System, despite the fact that it will deliver so few opportunities to their alumni. Zuidervaart offers a better standard against which to judge if you are an artist, than selling your art. Consumer choice isn’t especially good at ratifying good art. People often love art, even, that they wouldn’t consider taking home. And collecting art is very difficult. People quite rightly prefer public institutions they trust to collect art on their behalf.

Zuidervaart, instead, refers Artists to the concept of Relational Autonomy and asks them to hold their Autonomy in tension with their Social Responsibility. ‘Art in Public’ asks of us, are you capturing the public imagination to create solidarity, not mere sensation? Are you communicating in a way that simultaneously equips the audience to be able to speak?

Is your art turning conformity into solidarity?

At last! A definition of success that looks at your work, rather than your bank balance. It appears a little vague at first, but I think this partly explained by our dependence on economic qualifications, and also because it is a relational measure rather than an individualistic one. But then measurement is all about relativity.

Yet it won’t be an unqualified relief for artists to be measured against their work (in public), rather than the flow of their personal wellspring of genius or their proximity to the summit of the gallery system. An Artist in Public is thrown into a vortex of political and personal relationships. Artists can’t function like this alone, garret-bound; they need the support and mediation of Arts Organisations. You see Zuidervaarts argument suggests artists be paid for public work, not just for being artists. This satisfies the best of the arguments on the left and right in the States, one demanding public spirit, and the other autonomy. Robust Arts Organisations provide colleagues for an artist. They are essential because they:

  1. connect the artists with Civil Society groups and communities.
  2. make public money accountable, but also free from government interference
  3. give the work credibility as a cultural, non-economic, undertaking

Zuidervaart was president of the very impressive Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids. A group begun by artists that included non-artist members. His experience helps him identify what makes for a good Arts Org:

  1. Involve local residents at every stage of the planning
  2. Democracy is messy and time-consuming, but yields the best long-term results
  3. Think globally; Act locally
  4. Artists shouldn’t be left on the margins, but involved in making a compelling vision

But to conclude, here are some of my own observations of assumptions we can make about Arts Organisations. First, we often assume that artists need to get together for mutual support, which may be helpful. But what Zuidervaart reveals is that this is unlikely to be where an artist achieves most. It is more important for Artists to be spread out and active amongst other citizens, where directly or indirectly their art can create solidarity.

We also tend to see Artists as charity cases, and Arts Organisations as a way of helping them. But the truth is that artists usually have the lowest commercial rents going. Often a fifth or tenth of what a design studio would be paying. There are certain aspects of an Artists work that could actually benefit from a dose of market forces. Exhibiting an Artist’s work in your building isn’t going to help them get a gallery unless you have a great touring reputation and a list of art collectors. What you have isn’t a gallery; it’s a room. What would really benefit an Artist is your purpose. A chance to discharge their responsibility as an artist towards Society with you.

Which leads to our last observation; we assume that Arts Organisations are organisations about art. Organisations to preserve art or make it happen. These do and should exist, but Arts Orgs often tackle a social agenda but are active through art. UICA is a non-profit organisation that ‘fosters’ art in public. They are a public gallery, workshop and film theatre. But their purpose was cultural regeneration of the downtown area. They didn’t want redevelopment at the expense of residents creating a heartless non-community. They wanted a resurrection. They wanted economic improvements accompanied by meaning and purpose, and artists provided that meaning and purpose.

Art in Public, Lambert Zuidervaart
Edited from a lecture I gave in 2013 recommending this book at a symposium on Sphere Sovereignty. The link above will help you buy this book.

Share Button

So far Zuidervaart has argued that the Arts are needed, but who should pay for them? And what is the economic argument for doing so? This is what Zuidervaart calls his Public Justice Premise, the second premise of the three found in his book ‘Art In Public’.

Zuidervaart argues that Civil Society should be given the money and space it needs to do its job properly – the resources it needs to produce Solidarity.

The government is only fundamentally satisfied when it knows it has dispensed public justice. For its own fulfilment, the government must discharge its obligation to protect Civil Society from any encroachments on its natural tasks, and provide the resources to undertake them properly. Another example; a judge may demand that prisons be adequately supplied to send people to for punishment and to ensure they don’t appear in front of his bench again. This principle leads to premise number three, the Arts Organisation Premise. Zuidervaart claims that Arts Organisations are the best channel for discharging this government responsibility, which means they deserve some protection from Market Forces and enough money to produce authentic Solidarity.

I like these premises for two reasons. They allow public money to be used for public service without creating a refuge for elitist art at National Lottery player’s expense. Under the current system the arts are paid for by people who neither experience them directly nor can they really afford to pay for them. Their lottery money is capital that could indeed change their lot, if accumulated, but is instead wasted on a fantasy that they might effortlessly escape their lot. The profits subsidise arts that those involved with could afford, but would rather not pay for because they don’t like them that much. But this system continues because it is also true that a system of consumer choice would not improve quality or ‘participation’, and the ghost of something valuable is detectable in the arts. With a consumer choice, if there is a problem you remove yourself and choose a different supplier. But within Civil Society if there is a problem you have to get more, not less, involved.

But most importantly, Zuidervaart has described art as a public good worth paying for, which is my personal litmus test for this topic. Even if art costs money, it is money well spent. Even without attending the arts, all citizens benefit from a climate of freedom. And this is the only book I’ve ever read to argue this persuasively. He dismisses all the efficiency, equity, merit good or market failure arguments, which just try and find an economic excuse for subsidising arts. Despite the good intentions, these excuses just put the arts at the mercy of market values, and remove them from the protection of their own internal logic, like an endangered species put into an economic logic-zoo deprived of its own natural philosophical environment. Instead, Zuidervaart exposes a philosophical reality that we have to protect from urgent demands on the budget or we risk becoming less civilised in real terms.

If you are in doubt as to Civil Society’s importance, in keeping the democratic air we breathe unpolluted, let me refer you to the alternative. In May, a memo from the new Chinese president Xi Jinping was leaked (Taipei Times Wed, May 22, 2013). It referred to “seven evil subjects” to be driven out of Chinese universities. Included was the phrase “civil society”. Today’s debate, which we take for granted, will not be permitted in China. It will, however, be debated at Harvard where Prof Michael Sandel teaches, and it is rumoured Xi Jinping’s daughter Xi Mingze has been studying since 2010.

Edited from a lecture I gave recommending Lambert Zuidervaart’s book ‘Art In Public’ at a seminar on Sphere Sovereignty (June 8th 2013). One more part will follow.

Share Button