Writing about doing nothing in Minneapolis made me realise I didn't blog about one thing I definitely DID do, which was to visit the Open Book space, a beautiful building containing a gallery of artists books, the Loft literary centre which ran writing classes and had little writing rooms on hire for as little as six hours, a library, printing presses, an independent publishing company and one of the best and friendliest cafes I've found in my days mooching round cities.
Even the New York TImes rave about it:
If literature and book arts could revive a city neighborhood anywhere, it would be here. According to a study conducted in 2007 by Central Connecticut State University, Minneapolis is “America’s most literate city,” based on an array of measures, including the number of libraries and bookstores, newspaper readership and education levels.
The Loft Literary Center, the largest of the three nonprofit groups that formed Open Book, offers writing classes, provides work space and grants for writers and is host of book events in a performance space designed for readings.
The Minnesota Center for Book Arts provides equipment and space for professional artists and novices alike to work in letterpress printing, hand bookbinding and papermaking. Some of the resulting creations are unique and functional books, but others are more like art and sculpture.
And finally Milkweed Editions is, by some measures, the largest independent nonprofit literary publisher in the country.
Annoyingly my camera was broken, so I couldn't take pictures but the whole gallery was really a book. An open book. The bannisters of the stairway had text on them so you read a story going up and down; the engraved tabletops were books, and I sat for ages just watching a neon sign split into three columns, each of which was timed to switch at different times to keep reading new messages, some of which made me laugh out loud. This sort of thing:
SYLVIA PLATH .... DESPISES .... FLASH FICTION ....
SYLIVA PLATH .... SECRETLY WRITES ... FLASH FICTION
EMILY BRONTE .... SECRETLY WRITES ... AS RAYMOND CHANDLER
You get the idea.
I was particularly struck by the dictionary left open on a pulpit in library, rather like those books of the dead they have in chapels.
I'm not sure if I was meant to, but I went round the printing rooms too. Lovely old fashioned printing presses, and book presses, and that smell of ink and paint that makes me want to move in. And everywhere people in a state of flow.
Lucky old Minneapolis.
And just a couple of doors away, a really really good graphic book shop, Big Brain Comics.
Lucky lucky old Minneapolis.
Mind, the Open Book centre had a good shop too, full of all the tools for making books. Things you didn't know you wanted, and sharp enough never to be able to take through customs. I think when I get stranded on my desert island, I might take the biggest tool box in the world. Not necessarily to use but just to admire and try to work out what everything is for. It would be full of things like this:
But bigger. Those really are dinky little pics.
Anyway, a nice bit of synchronicity. For my birthday, the lovely Alex sent me the url of Beatrice Coron's wonderful papercuts site, and looking through the very eclectic bag of things I bought from the Open Book shop - an eraser, a postcard of a duck, a book of origami with papers - I found I had a little book by Beatrice Coron, together with Mick Stern. It's called Artist's Statements, and I got it partly because of the artist's statements at the back from both Beatrice Coron and Mick Stern. This is what BC says: 'As a visual artist, I am always asked to explain my art in words. My life is a constant interview, but my goal is to make art, not talk about it.' And MS: 'If I could explain my work, I would write the explanation instead of the work. That would make it easier for everybody.'
Both rang so many bells with me. I had the idea when I first saw this booklet of trying to draw the explanation of what I was writing about. No one would expect me to do that. When did words take over from pictures as the sole way of expression, and, even as a writer, I wonder if they really are always the best primary form. It was something that I was thinking about at the Tiny Circus too, probably because I've spent a large part of this summer working with visual artists.
Anyway, I'm going to try to contact Beatrice Coron and ask if I can put some of these 'artist's statements' up here because they are funny. They include those of Raiput Singh, taxi artist and Gary Burf, traffic direction performance artist. I'm sure you can imagine!
And so, as I head off to a course on how to use Powerpoint in the lecture theatre, may the rest of you all have this sort of day ...
But bigger ...