Introduction & Index, silkscreened translucent banners and artists’ bookwork (1994): Printed Matter (New York); Artexte@MACM (Montreal); Bath Public Library (UK); Ridington Room, University of British Columbia (Vancouver), C Magazine (Toronto)
A meditation on censorship and the power of print, and on the editorial apparatus as a constraining device with a complex subtext, this work was originally conceived as part of the project The Spirit and the Letter and the Evil Eye (with Lyne Lapointe, Bath, 1994). As a limited edition set of banners, it was shown in multiple venues in Canada and the UK through 1994. As an artists’ bookwork, it was published that year in C Magazine, with ‘Introduction’ being the first page of the magazine, and ‘Index’ the last page.
The ‘introduction’ at the beginning of a book and the ‘index’ at the end are conventions which help us navigate both the text and the ‘body’ of a book, and which define at one and the same time the spatial and the intellectual ‘lie of the land’ between the covers. They are also redolent of sensory experiences of handling and manipulating the book itself: the ‘introduction’ is a physical way in – a threshold – and the ‘index’ that cuts through the book’s text by subject can also refer to the finger turning the pages.
As all knowledge is powerful, powers over it are carefully managed: Index is also the short-form title for the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of books either censored or banned by the Catholic Church. This list was active from 1559 to 1966, created as a direct result of the advent of the printing press, and the consequences of reading and circulating materials which appeared on it were at no time more draconian than during the Inquisition.
This was one of a series of works, large and small, that I made during this period using translucency in a two-dimensional format as a way of creating depth of field, relational structure and comparison between two discrete line images. Another example of these conceptual print projects is Metaphysical Subject, commissioned by the Laboratory at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art for the British Journal for the History of Science (1998).
What was particular about Introduction & Index was that it drew thoughts about book and print culture and convention together with the media of printing and publishing itself. In a sense, the banners are as much bookworks as was the publication of the work in C Magazine, and both versions are spatial as well as graphic.
It was Julie Ault and Doug Ashford who invited us to display the banners at Printed Matter; Lesley Johnstone who invited us to display them at Artexte when it ran the bookshop for the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Antonia Payne and Angela Kingston in Bath; and Scott Watson in Vancouver. Marie Fraser, then Montréal Editor of C Magazine, curated Introduction & Index into the publication.
[Image References: all images are of Introduction & Index, by Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe (1994)]