Victoria Bean ~ England


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Victoria Bean: "My work is about language and reduction. Saying as much as possible by using the minimum to communicate – from text as illustration to the fact that most of my work is self-binding."

Heart Burn
By Victoria Bean
London: Victoria Bean, 2009. Edition of 50.

3.625 x 12.25 x 1.625"; 5 unnumbered accordion folded leaves. Housed in blue cloth box with title in silver.

Victoria Bean: "Another in a series of little white lies printed in Helvetica 9 pt. Five folded poems with the verse split by an empty folded space between two visual planes, the words read across the planes but the eye's focus has to alter to read them.

"The premise with this new book is when good words meet bad. Oh good is ruined by the word grief on the other page and so on. Each poem makes sense as 'good words only' too and 'bad words only.' The one titled with numbers was written on the day of Bush flying off in the helicopter and Obama being sworn in."

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Helvetica Poems
By Victoria Bean
London: Victoria Bean, 2008. Edition of 25.

6.5 x 8.875"; 9 leaves. Lenticular lithographic prints. Housed in black bookcloth covered box. Title in white on box spine.

Victoria Bean: "A series of animated poems that can be read in any language. When held and tipped back each page changes from one typographic state to the other ...

"Helvetica Poems consists of seven pages of large punctuation marks set in Helvetica 500 pt, that transform from one mark to another when you hold each individual page. One page changes from a full point to a comma, another from a less than sign to a more than sign. These lithographs have been printed using lenticular technology.

"Like the other artists’ books I’ve done, this book is about reduction, as well as transformation. I’m always tackling the question of how much information you need to communicate within a book using its materials, binding methods, images, and text."

Lest you think this is just a conceptual game, consider one reading (offered by the artist) of the poem that consists of a full stop [a period] changing to a comma: "definitely maybe." Consider the concision – and the depth – of that.

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Ten Poems for Pandora
By Victoria Bean
London: Victoria Bean / Circle Press, 2005. Edition of 100.

9.45 x 9.84" (24 x 25 x 2 cm); 12 loose pages. Letterpress printed at Circle Press in 10 point Helvetica Cyrillic. Handcut pages. Black card cover. Designed, written and produced by Victoria Bean.

Victoria Bean: "I've written the first five poems to suggest the build up to Pandora opening the box, while the next five are about the miseries getting released into a contemporary world like ours. The last poem is my favorite – 'don't fly' is about the only thing that was left in the box, which was hope."

Richard Price, Head of Modern British Collections at the British Library, London: "Perhaps the most delicate of Bean's books to date is "Ten Poems for Pandora.' The structure of the book is cut and folded in such a way as to produce an interlocking suite of pages with a physical fissure in the centre of each page. The poems are printed close to the edge of the 'faultline', recent escapees, perhaps, beginning their first words of free speech: "the evils rush: they barge without apology" one poem begins. The large-ish square pages are slightly floppy and with the need to be careful in disconnecting the top layer from the one underneath it, perhaps the reader is anxious about holding the book and moving from one page to another. I see this nervousness as about opening the series of almost locked-down pages appropriate to the Pandora myth in the face of now jubilant and exhilarated (and sometimes anxious) lives and ideas that move out from each box once it has been opened: 'maps a night of illicit handbrake turns / & accelerated joy.' It is a dizzy, precarious, risky world now – for all concerned."




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Conversation between Victoria Bean and Bill Stewart :

Stewart: "The poems seem to be laid out like everything's fine, then zap, everything is shitty — but at least we have hope. ... "

Bean: "The layout of the poems, if you blurred or squinted your eyes in order to make the text just an image, are meant to be 'shadows' the main text escaping like the misery did from one fold while the darker title (the illusion of life before) is headed inwards, towards another fold. It is a modern day Pandora, where everything is basically acceptable but there's always a slap of reality to what seems like a jolly life of building snowmen or watching cookery programmes (which "feast" is about). Ironically the bleakest poem is hope. Hope was left in the box and hope is what makes everything actually 'bad' or always harder to bear because it gives you a chance for life/circumstance never to be final."

Stewart: "I can see its delicacy, appreciate the anxiety it inspires and see how it might parallel Pandora's feelings. But is there something else I'm missing?"

Bean: "In the context of other artists' books I've tried to create a book that's been pared down to its absolute minimum. It's monochrome. It's using only the shape of the page to hint at the box. Its type is its only illustration and plays as the shadow/misery. It's self binding. There are no serifs on the type. There's a bit of a free for all feeling over here with artist's books at the moment now that printing and digital printing/publishing is so easily available to everyone. So I purposely gave myself some strict and considered boundaries within this medium."

Stewart: "Also, the choice of subject: I've always been uneasy with the Pandora myth, except as another patriarchal blame-laying ploy – all the bad is a result of an independent woman, who are least one who won't obey."

Bean: "Funnily enough I never saw it like that. What drew me to this myth was the fact that I would have opened the box too."

Stewart: "Did you have any reason for choosing this approach?"

Bean: "I had just left the Royal College of Art where I'd done a printmaking MA. I hadn't been pleased with my visual work there, but had been fortunate enough to have had an art critic/novelist who had an incredible teaching ability in creative writing. She gave us the only structure within the art school and because of that I found I could tell when my work had a ring of truth or not. At this time Ron King invited me to join Circle Press and I sat there for days on end trying to work my photographs into pieces of work and then, after a severe talking to myself, I decided to use my poetry as a way of sketching, drawing and making portraits."

Stewart: "And, have you published poetry anywhere else?"

Bean: "The Spectator has just taken two poems for their magazine in London. The Salzburg Poetry Review published a poem in October about the Rwandan Genocide - four of the people accused had been working in Britain among other things as janitors - and I came across them in court sitting in the dock in cardigans and glasses looking incredibly benign. The revamped Reader’s Digest in the UK is doing a six page feature on some work I’ve just done after spending a year sitting in the public gallery in a Magistrate’s court and writing poems about the cases there. Richard Price at the British Library has also featured ten of my poems in his publication."


Page last update: 10.03.16


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