Lost in Case
Read Angela Gardner's introduction to Lost in Case.
Are you feeling helpless and angry? I am. I’m having a quiet rage against the material and immaterial machine. Thank you for holding me.
I really love using digital media, but I feel that we are close to the end of the beta phase of online freedom. At the start it was all memes and quizzes. Now we know that our inane quiz answers are being used against us in ways that we still haven’t quite grasped. There is an undercurrent of darkness overflowing onscreen because thoughtless public articulation is at our fingertips, and much of it is aimed at women of all shapes, creeds and colours.
This book is a shard of frustration. It’s a place to process emotion. Angry and curious, I recently dived into some dark online spaces that I hope one day will be lost, and documented words and phrases used about and against women. Many of them are ancient, others have a particularly digital twist. I’ve captured only a core sample. I wanted to process them with eye and hand, to visually transmit the grime and stab of these communications. I capture but simultaneously obfuscate, because too much of this culture relies on the thrill of being noticed.
Handset letterpress printing, the process that informs my broader creative practice, is slow and deliberate. You stand in front of a case (a type storage drawer), and each letter has to be picked up, moved and placed. Your whole arm is activated. There is time to think during the movements. It is profoundly different to typing. It’s not better, just a different speed.
I’m working with the concept of printing itself: its terminology and actions are historically drawn from the human body. As an experimental letterpress printer, I often use words to give paper a hard time, and the audience can usually witness the marks left by my processes. In this physical book I have had to think flatter, within the restrictions of contemporary digital print processes. I’ve constructed the pages carefully to do a double play between two man-made print systems – analogue typesetting and digital keyboarding – that have at times actively discouraged the involvement of women in their activities. These are the kinds of things I think about as I work.
Lost in Case is closer to an artist book than a collection. It starts with letterpress word play, then shifts to letterpress movements: gestural, abstracted translations of words and phrases used in contemporary online attacks on women, communications that seem immaterial and fleeting on page and screen but sink deep into the psyche. They are sharp, pointy, energetic pulses. They are able to be decoded, depending on what a fellow artist calls your ‘curiosity threshold’. Transmitting these words without reseeding their message is a cathartic act of feminist disruption. The results seem impenetrable, but they can, with careful attention, be restored if desired. Or not: some things might be better lost.