Marian Crawford, 2017.
Marian Crawford and Peter Lyssiotis, Stolen Water, 2013.
Marian Crawford, Segmentation and Dark-heartedness, 2011.
Hi, my name is Marian Crawford. I work as a visual artist and I'm a lecturer at Monash University – Art, Design and Architecture. I've worked making works on paper for probably 30 years but I'm particularly interested in books at the moment, and the relationship that books have to the printed page, the printed image, text. I think that's a really interesting relationship and a link between contemporary fine art and books and more public outcomes. So I teach students and I have my own practice as well.Next up: What's your definition of an artist book?
What's your definition of an artist book?
I think, for me, an artist's book is a book that can have an exhibition – it stands in for a whole exhibition and it can just be in that compact form that has resonance, in a library, in an art gallery, or even at home in a private collection. So, I think that's what it is for me.
It doesn't have to be a book form either, I don't think. It can be about the pages of the book, and I think that's quite an interesting way to think about books too.
Thinking about a definition of the artist's book, it's really contentious. There have been lots of people who have argued for a really long time about what it is – in America, all over the place. But for me, I think it's an artwork, the book is an artwork.
There are heaps of theorists and scholars who have talked at great length about it. And then there's the big argument about where the apostrophe should go or if there should be an apostrophe between – is it artists who make the book? Is it an artist's book? Or is it an artist book? I just say it's an artwork.Next up: Why are you drawn to creating artist books rather than printed artworks?
Why are you drawn to creating artist books rather than printed artworks?
As an artist, I'm really interested in making prints, and I think there's something about the sensibility of a printed image, where you have a matrix, which can be a block or an etching plate, from which you take an impression. And that impression is always a little bit different to the original idea that you have when you make the plate or the block. I like that displacement and difference in a printed page. Well, it's actually a printed image, but then I started thinking about it as a page, and I think that it enriches the artwork if you can think about its connections to books, to the printed page, to poetry, to literature.
And then I also work with a lot of people who are interested in design in my work. They're really interested in books as well. So I think that's sort of shifted. And I really think that the book is a powerful signifier for our histories and the things that we should know about the present.
So books and libraries are really important places, I think. And when one culture tries to take over another, they usually ransack the library – it's the first place they go to. So I think a book is a really powerful art object and I guess that's why I find it a really compelling way of making work for me at the moment.
So it's the relationship to the print and that it can be multiple – you can make more than one, it's not a unique object. When people read a book, they have their own private experience with it but they also know that other people have read it at the same time. So, you know like when you read a great novel – I know other people who read Dostoyevsky – it's a powerful thing to belong to a community but be an individual within it as well. And in the same way as the printed image is a singular thing but it belongs to a set, you know an edition of ten. So, it's individual and multiple at the same time. So I find all that really interesting and that's why I do it.Next up: How do artist books act as an alternative source of information to mainstream media?
How do artist books act as an alternative source of information to mainstream media?
I think we're sort of living in a world where we're over-saturated with images, texts, information. And I think an art object can use a different type of language to explain something that might be explained in a more didactic or more obvious way in the news, perhaps. And maybe an artist can take a different, more oblique tack on something that might make that experience come closer to the person who observes it. Or it could be a bit shocking for that person. It could pierce them: Roland Barthes says that about photographs, where he was looking for a photograph of his mother and the only one he found was a little, tiny photograph and she was really blurry, but he felt that he knew her from that one image, and it pierced him.
So I think an artwork should be able to do that, that it can make something that's otherwise lost in the speed of translation and the abundance of images – it can just stop it for a minute and you can experience it. So I think that artists – maybe, if we can get our work shown! – if people can see artists' work, it has that capacity to bring information to people in a different way to mass media.Next speaker: Adam Cruickshank