Here we have the Bookshelf of Paul Burgess who, in his sweeping career, knocks over writer, photographer, illustrator and artist as he goes by (and by). His selections are a dedicated mix of informed works surrounding his own practice, citations for a personal manifesto and an image-heavy celebration of that most significant of tools, found imagery. Drawing on all aforementioned creative accomplishments, it’s a reading list that also reflects his present station as an educator and a voice of the illustrating community.
The End of Living – The Beginning of Survival Dash Snow
First off, we have the Jim Morrison of collage, Dash Snow. Dead aged 27 from a drug overdose, Dash was an American photographer, artist and lager than life collage genius.
I discovered this book, Dash Snow: The End of Living – The Beginning of Survival published by Contemporary Fine Arts (CFA Gallery) Berlin 2007, in a Berlin bookshop. I immediately fell in love with the raw, punk attitude. Each collage and many of his Polaroids in particular, allow you a glimpse of urban American youth culture. Politics, nihilism, and détournement all feature heavily in the work here.
The collages depict scenes of sex, drug taking, violence and art-world pretense with candor. Some of Snow’s later collage-based work was characterised by his practice of using his own semen as a material applied to or splashed across newspaper photographs of police officers and Saddam Hussein’s face. His use of newspaper headlines, found ephemera and bodily fluids all come together to form the ‘hardest’ collage work since John Heartfield.
Found Photos Dick Jewell
One of my all time favourites. In 1978, the young British artist Dick Jewell self-published a small book Found Photos, a collection of photo booth images that had been mutilated, thrown away or torn up by the people featured in the photographs. Most of the images in this small, but perfectly formed book, had been left to rot on the top (or behind) photo booth machines from 1968 to the mid 1970’s. You get to see lovers kissing, dazed expressions caught in the flash, 1970’s hairstyles galore, old age pensioners and cheeky teenagers all preening for the camera, and then all strangely discarded (maybe in rage or contempt?) and ready for Dick Jewell to find and then publish in this slice of real life Britain. These people are not models, they are you or me.
In a world where all we have now are boring ‘digital photo booths’, this is a potent reminder of how an advance in technology does not necessarily bring aesthetic beauty.
700 Centenboek Jos Houweling
I found this book on a secondhand book stall in Amsterdam in the 1980’s. It has the is made up of many small black and white photos of similar objects. Page after page of manhole covers, plastic toys, mailboxes, dog turds, window boxes, park benches vending machines, you name it, it’s here.
The 700 CENTENBOEK was published to commemorate the 700th birthday of the city of Amsterdam. It was sold at cost price, 700 cents, or seven guilders, and can be seen as a birthday present for all the inhabitants of Amsterdam from an institution which had an important part to play in the city’s financial life. Published by Gemeentegiro (Municipal Giro) the city’s postal system.
The subject of this book is mainly those humble street adornments that you would usually pass without noticing, but which have altogether more character than the canal houses, tulips and clogs, that Amsterdam is more famous for. The author, Jos Houweling, was not a professional photographer. His approach is simple and direct, he just wanted to record everyday objects as they really are.
Bamn: Outlaw Manifestos and Ephemera 1965-70’ Edited by Peter Stansill and David Zane Mairowitz
A paperback almost certainly owned by Malcolm McLaren and Bernie Rhodes as they plotted to overthrow tedious rock music in 1975/76. As the first image in this book, from the King Mob Echo, states ‘We are Outlaws, we are the forces of Chaos and Anarchy’.
This anthology contains a wealth of ephemera produced by many of the radical groups of the time, from the Black Panthers, the Yippies, English Situationists and the Women’s Liberation Movement. The major part of the material included here derives from the United States, England and Holland, the major centres of ‘dropped-out’ consciousness. No one political stance is adopted in these pages, but the book is essential for understanding the depth and range of protest and call to action within the counter culture of that decade. Here are many of the essential posters, leaflets and newspapers from the angry 1960’s. We all need a manifesto to live by, now more than ever. By any means necessary . . . .
Playing with Matches Beck Hansen and Al Hansen
Playing With Matches is the first book published that collects together Beck and Al Hansen’s mixed media collages, assemblages, drawings and photographs. Dirty bikers, found thrift store photographs, trash and Hershey bar wrappers are all here. If you though Beck Hansen was just a recording artist, then think again. He is a pretty good visual artist also, working with collage since he was a child.
In the late 1980s and early 90s Beck Hansen made several trips to Europe to visit his grandfather, the Fluxus/Happenings artist Al Hansen, who resided in Cologne. Since the early 1970s Beck and Al shared an informal exchange of ideas that was the catalyst for their respective engagements with images, words and sound/performance.
Working with the ordinary detritus of consumer society, and turning the images back on themselves to better evaluate their contrived beauty. Like ‘two turntables and a microphone’, the audio equivalent of his cut-and-paste collages, Beck celebrates the potential of the imperfect, discarded and reclaimed image. Oh to have a grandfather like this . . .
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