Sunday, July 21, 2013

Amanda Couch, Reflection in Digestion, 2012

Front cover of this fascinating publication that combines durational performance in both its creation and in Couch's subsequent public readings of this 9 metres accordion.

Photo: Emmaunuelle Waeckerle

Amanda Couch doing a public reading of her book at the Small Publishers Fair on November 17th, 2012 in London. The manuscript was created earlier in the year during "Book Live," an international symposium at London's South Bank University. The book came into being as a durational performance during which Couch created the manuscript. Below are some of her texts explaining how the book came about and the issues & processes involved in creating it and performing it:

"...this manuscript [originated] through the performative act of copying and re-writing of texts made on a Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching, reflections on research as practice, and personal and phenomenological narrative.

Reading, in medieval times, argued by [Mary] Carruthers in "The Book and the Body,"  was ‘a bodily performance’, rather than simply the decoding of words on a page. Similarly, Reflection in Digestion reconnects the body (of both writer and viewer) with writing through the action of the scribe, reading, consideration, translation, and the act of copying reconstituting a relationship arguably severed by the invention of the printing press."

In Couch's press release for the Reflection on Digestion performance reading (see above image) she further expands on the themes that are woven into the piece and its performance: 

"Reflection on Digestion is an epic work. As book, it is nine metres, folded back and forth into an eighteen-page concertina form. Its covers are of undyed calfskin, and its eighteen pages are made of 410 gsm white somerset satin paper relief printed from photo polymer plates.

It is book but it is also performance: 37 hours of performance. The bodily act of the scribe originated the manuscript, which was then transferred and translated through digital and mechanical technologies at UCA Farnham, and the hand-made, to produce an edition of three book works.

The scribed text stems from a body of knowledge encountered whilst on a post-graduate course in education. Writing, knowledge and the body are explored, and the metaphors of reflection and digestion consider process, processing, and ways of knowing and becoming. ‘Digestion’ stems from the word ‘digest’, which can both refer to an arrangement of written work; and to the processing or making sense of knowledge and experience, as well as to break down and absorb food.

Reflection on Digestion’s concertina configuration makes reference to the image of the digestive system and connotes the meaning of the words ‘reflection’ and ‘reflexive’ coming from the sense of a physical and metaphorical bending or turning back paralleling the visual image of the gastrointestinal tract with its nine metres of twists and turns crammed into the body’s cavity.

Alimentary undulations are further mirrored in the loops and garlands of the handwriting itself which is a joined up text, each word tied to the previous, the next, and to the subsequent line, so that it is a kind of Boustrophedon, a continuous line running from left to right and right to left from the beginning of the book to the end. This continuous script refers to Latin texts from the early Christian era, when there were no spaces between words in a manuscript. In my scripto continua, the language is not easily legible enabling the lettering to hover between word and image, content and form.

The performative aspect of Reflection in Digestion is also embedded in the experience of the audience. It reconnects the reader to a corporeal relationship with the book and reading, in that they are required to negotiate the monumental, physical nine-metre form of the book, as well as the awkward image-text within, reconstituting a relationship arguably severed by the invention of the printing press. "

For further information about this work and Couch's other projects see her website at: Amanda Couch

Photo: Helena G. Anderson
Photo: Helena G. Anderson
Photo: Helena G. Anderson

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