A Book About Death
Some projects just take you to places you had never dreamed of. One project I am so proud to be part of is A Book About Death, an unbound book about this universal theme comprised of postcard sized artworks contributed by artists all over the world.
This project was instigated by Paris based American artist Matthew Rose back in 2009 and was first shown in the Emily Harvey Gallery in New York on September 10. Five hundred artists from all over the world each contributed 500 copies of their postcard sized artworks.
The gallery filled with boxes from each artist, the idea being that gallery visitors could bring along a bag and collect one '“page” from each of the artists’ boxes, and so form their own unbound book. The project was conceived as a tribute to the founder of ‘correspondence art’, Neo Dada artist Ray Johnson. That’s his picture with the feet across it above.
My entry for this 10th anniversary exhibition (and possibly the last incarnation of this project) is from one of my works from my recent exhibition, Deluge. It is the one I feel most connected to as it was made with papers which had survived the flooding of my studio. The torn remnant of handmade yellow paper which is the main focal point in the collage, was left over from another project close to my heart. I made a paper [life] jacket for a wearable art exhibition in Burnie, Tasmania. This was a response to the (continuing) inhumanity of the Australian Government to the plight of refugees seeking asylum in Australia a.k.a. the ‘boat people’.
Here’s what is on the back of my postcard entry:
This paper remnant of an original handmade paper life jacket went through a flood, was marked by mud yet survived to carry a message of death and resilience. It was made in response to the life jackets worn by people fleeing war and persecution in unseaworthy boats. Some sunk in the black night sea, and survival meant retrieving a life jacket from the body of a friend or relative floating beside.
But even surviving this ordeal did not guarantee sanctuary in Australia as successive governments flaunted human rights and locked people up in detention camps on remote islands. Some have made it to Australia after years of suffering in these camps. Some are still there.
Some projects just break open your heart and this was one that did it for me. When in 2013 my friend and fellow artist Julie Barratt and I curated the ABAD Australia, we didn’t realise the depth of emotion which was embedded in each of the postcards. One set of 28 ‘compassion collages’ arrived in a cigar box, commemorating all the deaths from the then recent shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in America. It was something we are, thank goodness, unfamiliar with in Australia, and reading this testimony to those children made me cry every time I read their postcard art eulogy.
And so my small picture of the death of a bird which flew into my window one day never to be revived, became an artwork which involved me in a most amazing project and ten years later this exhibition will be collected by the Musee de la Post in Paris, the Islip Museum in New York and be added to the MOMA 2009 collection in New York. Ah…the places art takes you.