Show: Be True to Your Oblivion Fanzine. Mark Titchner.
Tell: “I’m very much inspired by both the use of language and DIY graphic design. The amateur graphic designer can reach some very interesting conclusions!
“When I was a kid my friend and I used to draw our own comics, which were basically set in the world of 2000AD’s Judge Dredd. We would write our stories and place them in that universe pretty much for our own gratification. I have no idea what happened to any of them. I actually collect religious tracts, which I actually have quite a lot of now and in the most interesting cases are self-published.
“The use of the ‘fanzine’ tag for the publication was just something that took hold early on. Probably because I gave the Curator at New Art Gallery Walsall, Deborah Robinson, a copy of a French fanzine called Conservative Shithead as a present at the beginning of our discussions about the show. ‘Fanzine’ just became shorthand for a publication with a certain kind of aesthetic, the most significant being that there would be no graphic designers involved. It all came from me, as it were. My graphic design sensibilities are probably unschooled at best, and that seems to be the crux of the fanzine – the enthusiasm of an individual for a certain subject.
“Blogs are definitely the new fanzines. I was super enthusiastic about mine when I started it but gradually have felt less and less like I have anything to say and just tend to focus on archiving work. This is partly from ‘blog fatigue’ when you realise there is just so much out there and I don’t really have enough time as it is, let alone just adding to the whole mess of unprocessed information. I question whether there is any real point of adding to the whole mess of information out there. I admire those who are treating this whole phenomenon as something vital, experimental and unexplored though.
“Dennis Cooper’s blog is a good example. One slight issue is with the look of blogs. I mean, WordPress is great and simple (why would you bother with a website now?), but it definitely pushes you towards a certain aesthetic unless you want to start writing code. The QR codes on the back of the fanzine are a kind of further reading, with links to some sites, video, images etc. My main interest in QR codes is to do with the way that language is legible and also its visual encryption.
“It was really interesting to see Nic Bullen’s early fanzines in the Home of Metal exhibition in Birmingham. I was really familiar with some of the images through second hand sources, such as a book on grindcore called Choosing Death, then you see the originals with the Sellotape and the felt pen and it reconnects the whole thing with the reality of where these things were produced. These are objects imbued with the simple necessity to make something, the creative act, which is something very simple and vital. The blogosphere is something else which can be infected with commercial aspirations or the simple desire to be famous….for writing a blog!
“The intended low-quality production of the fanzine, and the smaller scale compared to some of my other work, didn’t make me feel free to make more mistakes. I spent actually spent a long time on the fanzine. I initially planned to have quite a lot of writing in it, but I found myself so drained from the show (and having a young son!) that I didn’t really feel like writing. Instead the fanzine became a set of complimentary visuals for the show. There is a lot of layering of the reference and working material for the show, so what I ended up needing to make was 16 coherent images that then worked in sequence.
“This involved a lot of back and forth to have some sense of balance between the images. That said I don’t think that I’m that precious about any of the digital works and they have to maintain a certain pace. Generally the rule is: if it takes more than two days it’s not working, so it goes in the bin. There are some exceptions though, like the largest digital work in the show Breezeblock, which took several months to complete. You have to remember when I started making these digital works I had never used a computer before so I was truly an amateur and I’d like to hold on to some of that.
“It’s nice to make something functional, which is of course essential with a publication. When I made the book Why and Why Not? a few years ago the scale of the book was based on the size of a book that you could fit in the back pocket of a pair of jeans. Scale wise, a lot of my work is large and that is because it has a direct relationship to advertising, but actually, during the working process, everything big or small is kind of equivalent as I’m working on a computer screen. That’s quite liberating because everything has a potential to become something else. It is only at the moment of output it is fixed and that could equally be an A4 printer or a 5 metre wide commercial roller printer. There is probably more detail in the in the A4 fanzine than in the large banner that faces out from the gallery. That is because of the close scrutiny that goes with holding something in your hands rather looking at it from a distance.
“I think my text pieces are probably at there weakest when they are read as sloganeering, my idea with these works has always really been to do with the essential emptiness of language. The noisy and baroque works are actually supposed to depict a kind of silence. That is the kind of silence that exists in a situation where you have an absolute array of information let’s say, for arguments sake, horizontally, and in the vertical plane only the surface itself i.e. no depth. Everything has an equivalence but, beyond the point of reception, little longevity. The phrases offer what seems like a lot, but are essentially empty vessels.
“I’m trying to mimic the sensation one gets when you see a new advertisement that is an ecstatic moment of reception and then nothing but unfulfilled desire. I have strayed into the political with some projects because of certain convictions I have, but that has not always served the work well. Generally I have no personal connection with the texts other than they connect with an aesthetic that I need to project. Whether it’s Nietzsche or Britney Spears it’s the same to me as far as source material for the work goes.
“I am interested in the idea of opposition, but often I have to think about what that means in the larger framework i.e. how we can generally be opposed to certain things but then allow them to go on in other forms through structures like economics? How can an artist that engages with the art market be critical of the art market? These are contradictions for us all to face. If you engage you’re in it. That said dissent is good and the fact that a fanzine can be put together with the simplest of means grounds it in the aesthetic of resistance.
“I haven’t really had any feedback about the fanzine, not really. Generally people have said they like it, but it is free! And generally it’s been my friends. If I were a bit smarter I would have put a QR code on the back that led to a site where you could leave feedback.”
Info: Mark Titchner is a British artist and nominee for the 2006 Turner Prize who works across a wide range of media, exploring the ways in which communication engenders belief. His current show Be True To Your Oblivion is at the New Art Gallery Walsall until Saturday 10 September 2011. The fanzine can be collected from the gallery, free of charge, whilst stocks last.
Mark with be In Conversation at the gallery on the final day of the show between 2pm – 3pm. Reserve your free place in advance by calling 01922 654400.
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