Earlier in the year an artist's book talk took place at the State Library of Queensland, by two visiting German book artists, Ulrike Stolz and Uta Schneider, who work collaboratively as USUS. I attended the lecture with my friend Jack Oudyn and we were both so impressed and excited that we went home inspired and wanting to work on something a little different to our normal work. We emailed each other and agreed to work on our own collaborative piece.
We had looked at a 'Fluxus' exhibition in GOMA before the lecture and had noted some chance happenings and coincidences on the day. In fact there were so many 'chance' happenings around this event that we felt compelled to make our book according to the laws of chance in the style of early 20th Century German Art. It immediately seemed appropriate that our pages should be of brown Kraft paper rather than expensive art papers. USUS had worked on a book arising from exchanges of text by fax, and Jack and I liked this idea, thus our starting point was an exchange of alternate lines of text by email, each line relating to the previous one and each linked to ideas of chance and 'chance' in art. Our starting line of text was Chances at an exhibition.
We both completed a drawing when we received our new line of text and we didn't see each other's work until a set of ten drawings each was completed a few weeks later.
We were pleased to find that the book was going to come together really well and that we had used the same materials - gouache, pencil, ink and collage. I had also used rubber-stamped German words, which I subsequently added to Jack's pages. We had intentionally left space for additions to the drawings so we swapped booklets and worked on completing each other's drawings.
This was really nerve-wracking and I was very nervous about working on another artist's work. We were also a bit nervous about how the other person would change our drawings but we needn't have worried - we were both so pleased with the results and agreed our original drawings were improved. I think that trust is a big part of a collaboration like this, and now we both have no doubts with our current collaborative and as yet uncompleted project.
Initially we thought that we might mix the pages of our work by interleaving them throughout the book, but in the end we decided to keep each set intact in a dos-a-dos book which worked with both ends as a starting point. We used Kraft card for the cover and Jack made the gorgeous linocut which was printed on both ends and hand-coloured.
We experimented with copying the drawn pages and made up a few more books so we could at least keep one each. I think in future on a similar project we would make a few originals at the same time to cover a copy each and perhaps one or two for exhibition and sale.