AMBruno Artists: John McDowall

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John McDowall

Books

The subject and locus of my practice is the bibliographic, combined with reference to and incorporation of specific works of literature; an associative reflexivity that presents an activation of the space from book to book and from page to page, and of reading and return to the material book.

Short films

Books are experienced in time and are an experience of time; engagement with the medium is materially interactive and elements such as pace, selection, review are open and available. The viewing of film does not usually have this interventional possibility and so entails a degree of anticipation and expectation. For my 101 film Of time: tremolo, a printed copy of the photograph (Immigrant children, Ellis Island, New York by Brown Brothers 1908) has been filmed for the 101 seconds duration of the piece. Any slight variation in the environmental natural light is barely perceptible. The movement that, in the present, is seen in the stillness of this moment from the past is also from that time, the trace as a blur of the young boy's turning head.

John McDowall

I am currently a practice-based PhD candidate at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds. I give talks and lead workshops that introduce, analyse and develop the practical, conceptual and contextual aspects of the medium of artists' books. I have curated several exhibitions of artists' books including Between Shelves, Present Text and More is less is more: artists’ books as collection/accumulation. And am joint coordinator, with Chris Taylor, of PAGES, a programme of artists' book-focused initiatives; the project includes the annual International Contemporary Artists' Book Fair.


Ellipsis is part of AMBruno's [sic] collection. Here the elided majority of the words of Heinrich Böll's story Murke’s Collected Silences do not form a lacuna in the place between end and beginning, but are notionally somewhere in the space of time outside of the book’s cover as the text leads out, around and back.

Rubric is part of AMbruno's Red collection. The placing of the 'a', indefinite article and first letter of alphabet, in parenthesis simultaneously highlights and displaces it. There is a shifting ambiguity of assimilation between the signifier of colour and reflexively that of the act of reading in the present and, a homonym, in the past.

Ellipsis by John McDowall

John McDowall, Ellipsis
Open edition.
Cloth-covered boards and laser printed endpapers.

Rubric by John McDowall

John McDowall, Rubric

Escapade by Sophie Loss and John McDowall

Sophie Loss and John McDowall
Escapade

Eclipse field  by John McDowall

John McDowall, Eclipse field (2014)
Blind-embossed from an acrylic plate

Escapade is part of AMBruno's words collection. François Rabelais enjoyed words, they romp along together with his larger than life characters, and in this little book these words of words veer off the allotted path, to the ends of their world of paper, and back.

Eclipse field is part of AMBruno's Stills collection of limited edition prints. The still image, from Michelangelo Antonioni's film L'Eclisse, is made visible solely by means of the shadows cast by the relief of the intaglio impression revealed, as in cinema projection, by light. The film's sparsely occupied urban spaces reflect an erasure of affect, which is, at the end, reduced to a white field of absence.

A list of something in Herman Melville's 'Pierre: or,
The Ambiguities.' by  John McDowall

John McDowall
A list of something in Herman Melville's 'Pierre: or, The Ambiguities.'
Open edition. Sewn pamphlet, digital printing.

Bruges-la-Morte by John McDowall

John McDowall
Bruges-la-Morte (2013)
Archival inkjet print.

A list of something in Herman Melville's 'Pierre: or, The Ambiguities.' is part of AMBruno's Lists etc. collection. At the time of its first publication Herman Melville's Pierre: or, The Ambiguities was scorned for what was perceived as the novel's dubious morals and its incoherent style and narrative, and its apparent self-contradictory satirical critiques of the genres and themes which it encompassed. Ambivalence was one of the book's many complex, and prescient themes.

Bruges-la-Morte is part of AMBruno's I'm telling you stories. Trust me collection of limited edition prints. A story of deception and self-deception, in the novel Bruges-la-Morte by the Symbolist writer Georges Rodenbach, unacknowledged source of the book D'entre les morts by Boileau-Narcejac which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock as Vertigo, and of water, time and photography.

Trieste Zürich Paris - a liminal score by John McDowall

John McDowall, Trieste Zürich Paris - a liminal score (2013)
Digital print. Sewn pamphlet of 20 pages.

In-octavo by John McDowall

John McDowall, In-octavo (2013)
Open edition. 16 pages. Inkjet print. Sewn signature.

Trieste Zürich Paris - a liminal score is part of AMBruno's Lines collection. Graphic notation presenting the complex of fragments visible as the book of a city street map is bent back slightly. Lines of print and lines of random strolling/reading from map to score to (re)performance; three cities in which James Joyce wrote Ulysses, walking/sounding another city.

In-octavo is part of AMBruno's 16 collection. In France until the late 1960s new books were often sold uncut, with the publishers Les Éditions de Minuit continuing to issue their literature titles untrimmed until the 1980s. It was for the reader to separate the pages joined regularly by the folds at the head and fore-edge. I have one such untrimmed book, Dans le labyrinthe by Alain Robbe-Grillet. In-octavo reproduces parts of the text from the first 16 pages of Robbe-Grillet's novel. Only the words glimpsed, as if the pages of the uncut signature are teased open, are printed - with the rest of the page left blank.

Atramentum by John McDowall

John McDowall, Atramentum (2012)
Open edition. 144 pages. Digital print. Perfect bound.

Reflects by John McDowall

John McDowall, Reflects (2012)
Open edition. 4 pages. Digital print. A one-fold book.

Atramentum is part of AMBruno's Black Circle collection. A materiality of language is made manifest by notionally pooling the ink of the printed text of Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy. The percentage of page covered by the black print of the words is calculated as surface area and multiplied by the 1,382 pages of the book. This total quantity of ink is reproduced in the form of a single solid black circle (diameter of 180 cm), which is laid out as a sequential imposition in a new book of the same page dimensions as the published example consulted.

atramentum - blacking, black juice, black lacquer, ink, varnish, writing ink

Reflects is part of AMBruno's One-Fold Books collection. The mechanisms of viewing and reading text and page are reflexively reiterated as fragments are notionally transferred from recto to preceding verso of a double spread.

Of unknown authors by John McDowall

John McDowall, Of unknown authors (2012)
Open edition. 3 books of 20 pages each.
Inkjet print. Sewn pamphlets.

Of time: tremolo by John McDowall

John McDowall
Of time: tremolo (2011)
Video. 101 seconds.

Of unknown authors were shown in AMBruno's Surfaces: works on paper exhibition in Porto, where they were presented in/on a very narrowly spaced double shelf. They reference nested/unreliable narratives, exemplified in the literary trope of hidden/discovered manuscripts, through the work of Fernando Pessoa and his extensive prose fragments and use of manifold heteronyms. Three small books containing reproductions of readers' hand written marginalia found in library copies of Pessoa's poetry are presented in/on a recessed shelf.

Of time: tremolo was shown in AMBruno's Project 101 video works in New York, 2011. A printed copy of the photograph (Immigrant children, Ellis Island, New York by Brown Brothers 1908) has been filmed for the 101 seconds duration of the piece. Any slight variation in the environmental natural light is barely perceptible. The movement that, in the present, is seen in the stillness of this moment from the past is also from that time, the trace as a blur of the young boy's turning head.

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