Saturday, 17 February 2007

Woman's World and A Humument, reviews

Two reviews cut from a paper I'm writing, posted here so I don't lose them...

Women’s World, Graham Rawle and A Humament, Tom Phillips
A different approach to typographic experimentation is Graham Rawle’s Woman’s World. Stylistically and technically reminiscent of the typographic collage experiments of 20th Century avant-garde movements such as Dada and Futurism, Rawle’s 437-page novel was created from 40,000 text fragments cut out from 1960s women’s magazines. Removed from their original context, the cut out text fragments become more image than word. It is said to be a “surprisingly absorbing thriller” (Gerber and Triggs, Print) and that “Rawle’s narrative grips as a reading experience from start to finish.” (Poyner, Eye) Here, the graphic device drives the narrative from the outset; the written text is generated by the collaged elements.

At first glance, Woman’s World appears similar to Tom Phillips’ cult classic A Humument – first published in 1980 – but is, in fact, technically the reverse. Where Rawle creates a narrative by repositioning phrases from magazines, Phillips takes an existing book, W.H. Mallock’s 1892 novel A Human Document, and visually ‘treats’ it, painting and drawing over pages to cover and reveal strands of text. Where Rawle adds to a new page, Phillips deletes from an existing page. Phillips writes, “I plundered, mined and undermined the text to make it yield to the ghosts of other possible stories, scenes, poems, erotic incidents and surrealist catastrophes which seemed to lurk within its wall of words.” Regardless of whether images are added or subtracted, in both instances graphic elements are used as a writing to generate the narrative. Rather than mere typographic experiments, these books are Esher-like artworks in themselves – the text becomes image, but the image shapes the text.


> Phillips keeps reworking A Humament and re-releasing it, or sections of it. In the tradition of the altered book or the altered page.

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