More than ever, artists are using BOOKS as a way of expressing themselves and their art; to make people think more; feel better about themselves; to get more people to connect; feel part of a community; to raise awareness of issues; to muse about different ideas; to be an agent – and actually make people act or change behaviour; to explore (as well as to develop) their own ideas; increase empathy; and maybe even start a mini-revolution. Artists understand that BOOKS have the potential to do all this, and here at Cornerhouse Publications we really want to act as a matchmaker – to connect our readers to the books they really want and need to read. With thousands of interesting titles on our list, we have the opportunity to make some perfect fix ups.
For example, the Emotional Learning Cards from Iniva are great creators of conversation, and self-discovery. Created with a particular theme in mind, they can aid discussions and start dialogues, and can be used in many different settings – by therapists, schools, work places and families, to name but a few. Written by counsellor and psychoanalytic psychotherapist Lyn French, they are carefully designed to stimulate talking with others about subjects such as their emotions (A-Z of Emotions), sex and relationships (What do relationships mean to you?), values and diversity (Let’s Talk About Values), and even the meaning of leadership (A-Z of Leadership). Each card provides an image and then text on the reverse that prompts the talking.
Then there’s another angle to self-discovery – a different book approach on the subject from HOME. By taking the self-help book as a starting point, and being heavily influenced by the Todd Haynes film, ‘Safe’, HOME’s Are You Allergic to the 21st Century? has artist and writer contributors use the self-help format to consider such ideas as patriarchical structures, personal responsibility, modes of counselling, lifestyle advice, and dubious cures. Thus their aim is the exploring the interconnecting relationships between the social, technological economic, emotional, physical and political. It is the second book if their popular ‘Transactions of Desire’ series, with the first being a collection of short stories all about heartbreak and desire.
More simple, Fischli and Weiss in their artist’s book Will Happiness Find Me? ask the seemingly unanswerable questions of life: By tracking the mechanisms of the mundane (a subject that recurs in their work) they flummox or amuse and entertain us with queries such as, ‘What is my dog thinking?’ and, ‘Can there be too much of a good thing’. Sending us off on a tangent of related thoughts, or getting us lost in our own musings, this one makes you think. Is it their simplicity that makes the questions so hard to answer?
Meanwhile ‘Climb out of the cellar of your mind’ is the tag line for Scott King’s Anxiety and Depression: A quirky self-help manual reflecting on our lives and self-obsessions in the 21st century. As author David L Hayes puts it, it’s a ‘…dangerous, and revelatory book, this fuck-you manual for the terminally deranged, that describes, in some unflinching detail, to many of us, the way we live now’.
Or, ever wondered what it’s like to be artist-in-residence in Europe’s only entirely therapeutic prison? How could this influence an artist’s work? Edmund Clark, in his new title, In Place of Hate used his time at HMP Grendon to ask questions about control, security and censorship. Not being allowed to take recognisable images of the prisoners and staff, plus not being able to talk about security measures resulted in Clark creating works that explore themes of identity, visibility, self-image and trauma. How are prisoners and the criminal justice system perceived by the public, politicians and the media?
Basia Irland uses her Ecological Art as activism against climate change, connecting people to their local water ways in the hope they gain more responsibility and look after their environment for the greater good. Water is crucial to our survival, and this interdisciplinary eco artist brings water – its scarcity, disease, its role in ecological restoration – to the fore. Over 30 years of her work is surveyed in her amazing book, Reading the River. The art objects she creates show a deep understanding of different world cultures – a nomadic world view, and they also show how rivers are connectors of people, something that can get lost in the modern way of living.
Helping artists and communities connect, and adding to the wider debates about the artist’s role in contemporary society is Art Edition North’s Setting the Fell on Fire . This concentrates on Allenheads Contemporary Arts – a remote, rural art space in Northumberland, set up in 1995 by Helen Ratcliffe and Alan Smith. Looking at how this space and its artist’s residencies and projects have developed, you begin to get a real feel for how it sits in both the environment and community – the responsibility and connection it has with both. It also touches on how such rural artist spaces has an impact that really goes beyond the local.
How have artists resisted? Or rebelled? Or created change? If you want to take today’s Russian culture as an example, then have a look at HOME and The New Social’s co-publication Subkultura: Stories of youth and resistance in Russia, 1815-2017 by Artemy Troitsky. Here over 100 years worth of artistic instigators of social and political change are surveyed, from the 19th Century to today. It’s not just generals and politicians that create a change but the cultural commentators, writers, artists, musicians, punks and anarchists.
What does art have to say about disconnection? Or exclusion in society? Delaine Le Bas’s multimedia project and book, Witch Hunt explores the experience of people in the UK’s Romany community and includes installation, textiles, performance and film. Giving different people their own voice, the project shows that many of this community’s experiences still involve intolerance, misrepresentation, displacement and homelessness.
In another community based artistic project, between 1977 and 1992, children and young people of the Mount Pleasant Photography workshop in Southampton took photographs of the world around them, published here in Our Faces, Our Spaces. It connects their very own interpretation of the world to the social, cultural, political and religious landscape at that time and offers theoretical insights for this community based photography and how they represent themselves.
…And the examples abound. Take the time to browse our website further, using keyword searches and you may find exactly the book you are looking for. You would make our day if we can fix you up to a title that’s just waiting to connect with you.