This one stumped me for quite some time. I’ll admit, when the Seven Stories call for works was first mentioned I was sceptical. Yes it was a fantastic opportunity but the list of current exhibitions and themes just didn’t strike any inspiration in me.
By happenstance (aforementioned suicidal pheasants) I ended up missing the visit to Seven Stories, although I did visit on my own at a later date.
The idea generation we had with John before the Late Shows submission date was really useful. A lot of unusual, lateral thought processes went into it which took the themes further than the basic concept of bears and aliens underwear. But it still didn’t strike with me. I ended up not submitting for the call for works because I couldn’t come up with anything that would have enough substance to warrant being pitched.
When I saw the assignment brief and that this was on it, I felt really deflated. If I couldn’t come up with something worthy of being submitted as a pitch, what chance was there of thinking up an idea that I could be graded on. I left it until last hoping that something would come to me.
I’d been thinking about how the art piece had to appeal to the whole family, but there are so many books over so many generations, how could you select one to have universal appeal. I decided that I wanted to work with the ethos and aims of Seven Stories rather than the current exhibition themes because they were doing nothing for me. I was drawn to ‘discovering new books’ and ‘bringing books to life’. My first idea was to create artworks based upon the children’s books that best represented each generation and bring them to life through projection and animation.
The following is my thought process/notes from this time:
Respond to the ethos: Bringing books to life
- How can 2d words on a page become lifelike? This will be the starting point for the proposal.
- Initial response to this: make them move. How can this be achieved? Projection – use moving images, animation and recordings to project onto an empty book page. Can this become 3D? Use pop up parts to the book to make it look more like a realistic scene.
Which books should I use?
- Respond to the age range of the target audience: this must appeal to everyone.
- Ethos: discovering new books.
- Create the theme of favourites across the generations. Select books from various different generations so that it is both a familiar and new experience for visitors. They can see familiar books come to life and be introduced to new works. Parents can share their childhood favourites with their own children, even if the children have children of their own. It will spark conversations, nostalgia and memory sharing across the generations.
What are the classics?
Reworking the idea
- Are there copyright requirements involved in using authors work to be adapted and projected? Probably. Let’s look at the 7S archive and use authors and illustrator’s work from there!
- This also promotes the use of their collections and highlights the diverse range that they hold
I looked through a lot of websites to find the classics from each generation. The lists were really interesting and surprisingly diverse. There was no universally agreed defining book. What interested me even more was the Golden Age of childrens literature being in the Victorian and Edwardian times. Before that all of the kids books were really bleak and no entirely kid friendly!
I really liked the idea of parents, grandparents etc etc sharing their favourite children’s books with each generation. They would be discovering new books, sharing nostalgic stories and bonding over it. But I wasn’t sure how the copyright for this would work.
Seven Stories has a fantastic archive. I think archives are under utilised. They’re viewed as being stuffy and inaccessible and it brings up thoughts of someone wearing a little white glove and turning pages of a big dusty old book for you. I’d like to work on changing that impression of archives, making them more accessible and useable for everyone. Since I wasn’t sure about the copyright of external literary materials, I turned towards using the Seven Stories archives instead. I still can’t pin down exactly which book I’d choose as the final one – my shortlist wasn’t much of a shortlist. It was closer to 30 tabs open on my laptop as I scrolled through their impressive collection. I was surprised to see the extent of what was in there, Angelina Ballerina was probably the most surprising though. Although she’s too well known so I wouldn’t have chosen here. I was also very drawn to Little Bear, but again, too well known. I want something that is going to be new to the majority of people so that they can discover new books.
I was quite adamant that I wanted to project onto the books and animate them, but wasn’t really sure of the logistics. So to Google I went. This is what I found. Watch them, they’re fascinating!
The Icebook is the first one that I came across, rightly so as it was the original.
I find it so beautiful and so enticing. It has such a simple look to it, but is so poignant. I like that there is no speech, just music to create an atmosphere. The even better part is that the website had a guide on how the artists created it. This gave me the chance to get my mind around how I could propose this work, and how I could do it.
I then came across this TED talk by Marco Tempest (side note Marco Tempest looks like the love child of Alan Cumming and Martin Freeman):
It led me to start looking at Tanagra Theatre. I’m not usually a fan of TED talks but this was captivating. It had more of a story teller vibe to it than The Icebook, and to be perfectly honest I’m not sure which I prefer. they’re so similar yet so different at the same time.
I finally ended up looking at Macbeth. But rather than the final projection book in the link below, I watched the video of the actors recording for the projections.I have since learned that the artists are the same that made The Icebook, and there is a larger range of them!!
After watching the range of videos I was pretty set that this was the idea that I would pitch as my proposal. I would condense a little-known book from my shortlist in the archive and develop a pop-up book to represent it. I would then retell the story through projection, using actors to illustrate it. I decided that I wanted the scale of the book to remain small, to the scale of a standard children’s book so that it would be an intimate experience. I didn’t want it to become cinematic. I would use the Seven Stories Studio space as this would allow for projection and sound. I think I would use music definitely,but whether or not I, or a reader, would speak a form of narration would depend on the book chosen and how it all came together as an experience.
I pitched the idea to a friend who runs Shabby Cat Theatre (https://en-gb.facebook.com/ShabbyCatTheatre/) and he absolutely loved the idea, and offered the hypothetical support of his actors if the project ever came to fruition. He also offered the services of his boyfriend – a musician and sound artist.
I am now slightly regretting not looking at this sooner, and not pitching it as a real project. I have wanted to work with alternative forms of theatre for a while, and have dabbled in projection in the past but not to the extent that I would like to. This is a project that I really really would like to do,and will probably look into developing it further in the future – especially since I have the backing of potential collaborators.