VerySmallKitchen writes: I first encountered The Self Publisher as part of Preambles and Perambulations, an exhibition at The Charles Dickens museum in London, curated by Island Projects. Printed as folded and stapled A3 sheets, each issue comprised documents gathered from various copy shops throughout Manchester, later assembled and sequenced by Maurice Carlin.
As Maurice told the Shrieking Violets fanzine:
…I mistakenly took some stuff that had been left behind in a copy shop and I had it around for a while — I do tend to collect stuff. Sometimes you have something and you don’t know why you’re interested in it then later you realise why. Then later I thought ‘maybe all I need to do is present it differently.’.
…I’m interested in the photocopier as a format as it’s democratic — it reduces everything to a black and white image and flattens it all out. Even glossy magazine articles are reduced to a bit of text.
…It is accidental publishing. It would be quite different if I collected all the material I found on the street like scraps of paper — it is found in a place of publication and reproduction. Even if it is being reproduced for one person it is still being reproduced and published.
…I’m interested in how meaning is formed. The material I collect is both mundane and vital. A lot of it is things that are really important to people, for example propaganda — people copying 100 posters saying ‘Say no to the English Defence League’— or forms motivating people to do something.
…It’s a document of a moment just gone. I take all these different narratives and put them back to back.
See the full Shrieking Violets interview on The Self Publisher here.
The notes below are from an email exchange between VerySmallKitchen and Maurice in preparation for an installation of The Self Publisher at The Pigeon Wing in Sep/ Oct 2010 as part of WRITING/ EXHIBITION/ PUBLICATION.
From the beginning I had been fascinated by how the final magazines related to gathered materials. As well as making the publications available, I wondered if there was some way of showing the materials from which they were composed…
MAURICE: I do keep the copies that I find at the machines. I hadn’t thought of it before but yes, I think you’re right, there could be something interesting to explore between the ‘pile’ of documents (and it is a pile!) and the journals.
… It reminds me [the installations of Joseph Grigely] of a publication I attempted to make through collecting paper and other residue left behind from gig nights at Islington Mill. On the first occasion, I left paper and pens, pencils (in what I thought was quite a casual manner) around on the bar and on a few tables before people turned up for the event. In the main, I had zero responses. My guess was that the gig punters felt like they were being ‘set up’ for something.
On the other occasion, I didn’t do anything beforehand but simply collected what I found afterwards. There were some great things in there including a series of interesting/banal conversation notes written on the back of a few flyers amongst what I assumed to be 2 flat mates about an electricity meter reading earlier that day. Although, it was a small gig with only 30 – 40 people sat around at tables, the bands were incredibly loud and I assume the conversation notes were written though one of these loud sets where it would have been impossible to talk! So, I was able to make a publication for that one.
Grigelys piecing together of the notes to create narrative is interesting. I guess I do this also in the sense that I have the opportunity to choose the order in which each 2 months worth of collections will sit in the journal. My editing process stops there but I am interested in what happens when these multiple ‘discourses’ are brought together back to back. (Propaganda, personal appeals, official documents, academic texts, musical scores, letters, memo’s etc etc)
…The collections for July/Aug  so far include a Primark pay advice slip, a Bar Mitzvah seating plan, ‘Sharon, the latest and greatest employee of the month’, pages from a Polish/English reading manual which contains questions like ‘ Q. Can we cut bread with the thick edge of a knife? A. No, we can’t’, ‘ Q. Why do factories put food in tins? A. Factories put food in tins to conserve it’, ‘Q. Can we balance a dinner plate on its edge? A. Yes, perhaps we can balance… but it’d be rather difficult and would depend on the type of plate’
Something I looked at was the concept of “agonistic democracy” as written about by Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, the idea that democracy in the social sphere should ideally be based around dissensus rather than consensus, that we are a community of differences rather than bonds and by opting for one meaning or discourse, we potentially exclude a whole lot of others.
“Any discourse is constituted as an attempt to dominate the field of discursivity, to arrest the flow of differences, to construct a centre.” (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985, p112).
“The practice of articulation (…) consists in the construction of nodal points which partially fix meaning; and the partial character of this fixation proceeds from the openness of the social, a result, in its turn, of the constant overflowing of ever discourse by the infinitude of the field of discursivity.” (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985, p113).
…So, I’ve been having a play around with how the journals and the piles of collected material could be displayed in the Pigeon Wing exhibition. A few photos are attached…
I’ve been using parts from a collection of old 1980’s green Crystal ‘suspension files’ that I found recently in a skip. The green binder parts are a perfect fit for the journals. In the photograph here, I’ve left the tab on which says something like ‘Ass. Furniture’. These remind me of the victorian wooden binders to which newspapers in cafes and libraries would be attached to, I don’t have the name for them? I could attach some string or ribbon through the holes and these could simply be hung around the space. I guess there are links to be made with found materials and I also like the associations with ordering and redundant systems for ‘managing’ documents.
The 2 other pictures here are where I’ve been scattering the piles of collected papers around the floor. In some cases chalking out their outline, collecting them and dispersing them again, repeating this process to build up a series of outlines on the floor.
I’ve attached some images below showing some further ideas that I’ve been experimenting with for showing the work. I’ve put some text under each image to explain further.
Hanging the journals using builders ‘string line’ attached to the holes in the suspension files. The string line is coloured yellow for ease of visibility and I guess there are obvious associations with order, measure, standards, containment etc
Using rejected pieces of buckram bookcloth (found and purchased in a bookbinding suppliers factory), I’ve wrapped the piles of collected material loosely and arranged on tables. I imagine that this is a presentation which would allow visitors to the exhibition to leaf through the material and it not being important if documents were put back in a different order, fell onto the ground etc.
There is a connection here with the photocopies, both being rejected materials not fit for purpose, although it may not be immediately obvious with either. There may also be a common theme in both the bookcloth wrapping and the use of the suspension files (and perhaps in the journals themselves) as being at the same time both an acceptance and a rejection of order.
Acceptance in the sense of going part way towards realising a system of classification which would attribute ‘meaning’. Rejection in the halting of the binding/finishing/editing process part way leaving everything unresolved and open ended.
As above, laid out on 2 tables
The journals linked to each other using wire and hung from a central point. As a display or composition it has a cascading, tumbling effect which I like but perhaps is overly cumbersome to read..
DAVID: Are you still thinking of the chalk markings/ scatterings as a possibility for The Pigeon Wing?… I had been thinking of a central space in the centre of the room for your installation. Think of it as a rectangle in the middle of the space about a metre and a half wide and two metres long (roughly).
I like the images of the long tables a lot, but am slightly worried that there are several table projects already (projects that don’t adapt to another form) and that anymore would make the space difficult to navigate. We also have an archive/ reading space at one end so I’d like to have some different form of engagement in how other projects are presented…
MAURICE: I’ve had a look at the picture of the space again. There is a nice rectangular black patch to the centre of the floor which would probably make good ground for chalk lines. It looks as though there may have been a table or perhaps a piece of machinery sitting there before in a previous life of the building? with the footworn parts around the edges…
If each issue of The Self Publisher is a mapping of Manchester, as a concept it can be applied more widely.
One of the issues displayed at The Pigeon Wing had been made during the occupation in protest at the closure of Middlesex University philosophy department. After The Pigeon Wing, in December 2010, Maurice Carlin made an issue as part of Midnight Coffee Preview in Antwerp. As Maurice told the Shrieking Violets:
…I had no idea if it would translate into a different place. In Antwerp I had to make more of a choice when deciding which material to put in. There was more material in English than I had expected and I chose more in English than was perhaps representative.
…I was really surprised the things I found related so directly to the place. Lots of the material related to Antwerp, for example one person wrote an abstract about Antwerp as a port town.
…Someone suggested I should go ask copy shops for the material. I went in to shops and asked if they had any old paper they were going to dump. There’s less suspicion of that kind of thing there and they handed a pile over. I asked copy shops when I got back to Manchester and they said they couldn’t possibly give it out for confidentiality reasons.
…There is more openness and transparency in Antwerp.
As I compile these notes – in the process of writing an essay on Maurice’s work – he is artist in residence at Banner Repeater, the gallery and artists bookstore/ archive on platform 1 of Hackney Downs railway station.
When I first visit, copy shop findings are arranged on the wall. For the show’s opening the new issue is published. The design puts “PUBLISHER” on the front cover, and “THE SELF” on the back, which is a starting point for thinking how artist/ asssembler/ editor both appears and disappears throughout the various stages of entwining between container and contents…
For more info and to purchase/ subscribe to The Self Publisher email Maurice at email@example.com