Intermittence – Notes From The Aimless Archive

Text written for The Stacks 2. Intermittence periodical, put together by Matt Fratson to document x2 workshops we ran in the run-up to the exhibition.

The volume and density of the material in the reference stacks at Hull Central Library is enough to give me palpitations.

Like a kind of low-level Stendhal Syndrome (or Florence Syndrome – feeling faint in the presence of art of great beauty) – I mention this to Matt on the first visit we take to the basement.  Except it’s not an abundance of great beauty that’s weakening my knees and tightening my stomach – it’s an overwhelming amount of books – pages – and at the centre of those structures – words.

How can we go about reading – digesting – processing – dealing with this amount of material?  How can we utilise these shelves upon shelves upon shelves of words.

Matt has done this before.  ‘The Stacks 1. Bodies Of Work’ was swallowed up by the Covid lockdowns.  I can recommend the journal on his website.  It seemed to be a solitary response to a lonely, neglected part of the library.  It was probably all that could be done at that point in time.  On the afternoon of the opening, I got a message from Matt to ask if I would give a hand to help him and Becky out.  There was a load of government reports on public health to place inside a glass cabinet.  I remember being asked to make it look full.  As I piled the books onto the glass shelf – I felt it flex.  Standing back from it the glass was sagging in the middle with the weight.  I had my first experience of those rooms stuffed full of papers.  And Becky wrote such a beautiful reference list for the books that were glass-cased.

This time out – I was grateful to be embedded from the start.  My practice, The Aimless Archive, was invited to curate the project.  I didn’t mention at the time my reticence to the word curation or the role of curator.  It has been pushed into a different space over time.  Most curators are in fact not curators but stylists – space-dressers – guardians of taste and aesthetic.  I’d much prefer to think of it as like being a caretaker – custodian – steward.  I was to take care of the material – the artist – the material generated and give it maximum value and memorability.  When material gets this forgotten and unloved – it’s the least you can do.

And I suppose in direct response to that solo experience the first time around, ‘The Stacks 2. Intermittence’ is immediately a collaborative experience.  The idea to hold two workshops around the findings has become the core of this open and spherical approach.  A day of word-collecting and sentence building in the James Reckitt Reading Room, leading to mono printing, screen printing, and further manipulations in the Makerspace.  The sprawl of work generated – the artefacts developed – by these very participant-centred and nuanced sessions has knocked me sideways.  It gives me a blueprint for practice for the rest of my working-life.  I’m sorry to gush – but I can’t hyperbole enough.

There was a cloud-shift – an ether-drift – reflected in the glass fronted cabinets of the James Reckitt Reading Room those Saturday mornings – as the approach – these archival principles I had dreamt up started to work – started to kick-in.  The words were being plucked from the place they had resided in dust for years and years.  They were getting cut – chopped-up – re-written in brand new sentences.  The sphere began to be viewed, from all sides, as one connected surface.  It brought joy and enthusiasm to the room.  A feeling that could only continue as the workshop moved up to the top floor of the library, to the Makerspace.  This puts a thought in my mind about the passage of the work – up from the hot storage basement – processed and picked apart in the lavish Reading Room – and then reformed and pieced back together in the functional Makerspace.  The display in the Lending Library represents the most recent act of filtration – flowing back through the building to the ground floor.

This is a periodical that will have no further issues.  Within that, it fails to be a periodical at all.  It’s a paper lovingly assembled and presented by Matt to represent the work of others – workshop participants who have helped us to spin the sphere.  Those who have helped us circumnavigate the table of accumulated material from the stacks.  We’ve been so bowled over by the responses generated – and the incredibly understanding and helpful Makerspace team.  They have helped us get to the bottom layer – the inner sphere.

In the workshops I showed everyone a gardening diary that my Granddad had kept for 2018 – just before it became apparent that he had Alzheimer’s.  He started each day with a weather report.  “Fine day” might be all he jotted.  “Fine again” then “Fine again!” chained the days together in past Julys.  The idea I got from Matt was that the weather is the enfolding background to our lives.  The snapshots in the family album each have a cloak of weather – the conditions of the day hanging over the activities of the day.  But that weather is also a symbol of the things that have changed – altered irrevocably.  The background to the memory of a sun-filled holiday – a marker in the sand of an overcast Bridlington beach.

Matt told me a couple of months ago that he was waiting for the material to ‘snap back’ into place.  Waiting for the atmosphere to revolve a touch further around and loop back on itself.  Not quite to join back up – but just so that it can all be seen in one rotation.

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