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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Five Wounds: Collaboration

Synaesthetic Projection

Above: a sample illustration from Five Wounds, created by Dan Hallett

According to most accepted definitions of the word, ‘illustrations’ have no value or meaning in and of themselves. They acquire meaning only in relation to whatever it is that they accompany. Furthermore, illustrations are somehow both more direct and more naïve than language. They cannot be paraphrased, but nor can they dissemble. They do not require interpretation, and they do not or cannot contain a subtext. In working on Five Wounds, Dan and I started from quite different premises: that the combination of words and images itself forms part of the argument, and that the latter can and should invite or require decipherment. They can therefore sustain alternate readings. Moreover, their relationship to the text does not need to be either fixed or obvious.

For each illustration in Five Wounds, I provided a script, which varied from 20 words in length to 500 words, and was more or less prescriptive accordingly. However, I made a point of not enquiring too closely into what precisely Dan did with this script until I saw the finished illustration. That way I would not be hampered by preconceived notions of what was or was not possible; and Dan would be free to work out the best way to respond without excessive interference from me.

This approach was inspired by the relationship between The Beatles and their producer George Martin. John Lennon would say something like, ‘I want a sound like a choir of Tibetan monks singing on a mountaintop’. George Martin would reply, ‘Er, okay’, and – unable to comply – would try to work around the problem. The outcome would be something outlandish and beautiful that no-one had ever tried before – even if it sounded nothing like a choir of Tibetan monks singing on a mountaintop.

After the illustrations had been completed and inserted into the layouts, I rewrote selected portions of the text and adjusted the running heads in light of what Dan had created. This final stage was essential, because collaboration is a two-way process. It’s not just about Dan’s response to my work: it’s also about my response to his.

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