Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Future of an Illusion



I have just finished working on another collaborative book with Jack Oudyn 
called The Future of an Illusion.

This is a book about death - about the processes the body goes through after death and the belief systems associated with death. 

When we began talking about making the book, by chance I had recently read a book by Jim Crace called Being Dead in which he documented the natural changes that occur in a dead body left in nature and how it begins to decompose and return to nature.

This led to much discussion and Jack was immediately enthusiastic about working with ideas about decomposition and started experimenting in different ways with how he would portray this.   Research revealed that the body goes through many changes of colour, some vivid and garish, as it begins to decompose and regress from Zoology to Botany.

We wanted the book to be a bit sculptural and we both agreed on including a void, which clarified our ideas about what we each believe happens after death and the definite decision that the void should lead nowhere.  We cut spaces of descending size into card folded into a concertina to give it perspective and enable the viewer to look down through the void which was closed off at the end with the black card.  

Around this time we discovered Sigmund Freud’s essay “The Future of an Illusion” in which Freud argued that an afterlife has no basis in science, is wishful thinking and a disavowal of reality. This reinforced the idea of our ‘void’ which had became a series of portals that lead nowhere.

 I was interested in the immediate changes in the early days after death, and Jack had already started his experiments with decomposition, so it fell into place that I would work on a concertina which focused on the early stages and Jack would work on a concertina focusing on later stages of physical decomposition.   
On the outside we used the blue/grey/green/silvery colours of the outside of the dead body.



On the insides of the concertinas, like the inside of the body, we used reds and vivid colours.  



The materials we used for the concertinas were acrylic, soluble carbon, gouache and ink on Arches 185 gsm watercolour paper. We each made four originals.

We wanted the book to look a bit scientific and Jack came up with a great method for image transfer which allowed us to use anatomical drawings. 

                       

                        

 I included a skull as an art historical reference to the Vanitas Still Lifes of the 17th century which reminded the viewer of the transience of earthly existence.  Lines of text were randomly placed across the concertinas and the phrases were sourced from Being Dead by Jim Crace and The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud. 

 Our structure was complete  with a painted concertina sewn onto each side of the void concertina  structure, 


We had great ideas for presentation – things like a zippered body bag made of black plastic, but in the end, due to the shape and fragility of the book, we opted for a more protective four flap folder. 



 Jack had managed to come across some ‘skull’ buttons when he was in Tasmania recently and they were perfect for the closure of the folder.

7 comments:

dinahmow said...

You and Jack are doing some lovely work together.
I have been fiddling with tunnel structures; whether anything will come of it ...who can say!

claude said...

marvellous structural book : it's a wonderful collaboration

ronnie said...

oooo WOW! fantastic in every way helen (and jack) xxxxxxx

Helen M said...

Thank you for your comments dinahmow, claude and ronnie. It's always encouraging to get some positive feedback on a new book. I'm sure Jack will have post on his blog about the book soon too.

Jack Oudyn said...

Well described Helen and the photos difficult though they were turned out great.Thanks, I too will get around to blog about our latest effort. Maybe this week, but it will be much shorter and refer interested viewers to yours.

Amanda said...

This looks to be a fascinating collaboration. You two really are producing some top work together. Well done! xx

Helen M said...

Thanks Amanda, lovely to hear from you.