On Innards | Publication: Launch details and excerpt


On Innards is a multidisciplinary project developed by artists, Amanda Couch, Andrew Hladky, and Mindy Lee, that explores the changing conceptualisations of guts and digestion, their impact on the creative process and the role they play in constructing and destabilising our sense of self.

Working in collaboration with bookwork artist and designer Richard Nash, the record of this two-year project has been dissected, reinterpreted, and reconnected in the form of a limited edition publication.

Lee, Couch and Hladky begin ruminating on their 2013 conference three-way conversation. Their reflections on reflections are interwoven with recalled events, artefacts, images, and stories from On Innards. Curated and intervened, the book becomes an embodiment of digestion, its intestinal form held contained by a mesenteric binding.

To whet your appetite, here is an small excerpt from the book. Richard asked Mindy, Andrew and I the following question, which I have answered below:

We discussed how the publication could become much more than a record. Our intentions were focused on creating a new response as well as an embodiment of On Innards. Now coming to completion, what ‘is’ the publication for you?

From our very first conversation, where we discussed what we wanted the book to become, there was a mutual desire for the accordion pleat to be a prominent feature, which was very exciting, and also for me, inevitable. Since making my first concertina books from the Reflection on Digestion series in 2012, I have been imagining the metaphorical connection of the alimentary canal, its form and function, with the concertina fold, and for me, it is an absolute embodiment of the digestive system. These ideas have been deepened more recently through my engagement with theories of the fold, particularly Laura U. Marks’ aesthetics of Enfolding-Unfolding, in which she posits a new way of articulating the complex relationships between image, information, and experience in the digital age, that go beyond representation[1].

I have been envisioning the gastrointestinal tract as a multitude of folds. Both the digestive system and the On Innards book are folds within folds within a fold. The concertina format which makes up many parts of the book, mirror the form of the small intestine, folded back and forth, crammed within the belly cavity; and then microscopically, there are the folds that extend its surface for absorption, the intestinal mucosa, plicae circulares and villi, which in our book, could be suggested by the extended fold-outs of Andrews paintings and independent and/or smaller accordions within the larger form of the piece, which increase the body of the book; and of course, there is the fold that is the whole alimentary tract from lips to anus, one long enfolding of the outside of the body inwards, which you have brilliantly articulated organ by organ, through the curation of the pages, and the pairing and combination of images, forms, and contributions: For example, starting at the beginning, with the mouth and eating, connecting Mindy’s ‘Venus’ plates, my ox tongue and script from ‘The Mouth’ performance and the physical apertures partly revealing ensuing images; via the stomach, the images of tripe and the double gate fold housing Simon’s harrowing operation on a patient’s failing gut; and the small intestine, where much of our gut flora resides, here you make the visual and conceptual link of the red commas (or lower part of the semi-colon) from Nathaniel’s text, and the red dabs of paint in Andrew’s paintings, to the microscopic phage in our intestine; right through to the end of the book, to the faecal-esque forms of Andrew’s paintings, the annotated rectum/anus page from Gray’s Anatomy, and the ‘End notes’ of Giskin’s ‘Fecal Muse’, all linked by the dialogue between Andrew, Mindy and myself, and now with you in this conversation, the explanation and unfolding of ideas, which also embrace, envelop and enfold the other pages pleated within.

Marks writes, ‘Enfolding-Unfolding ‘privileges performativity over representation, as unfolding is a performative, time-based, social act’… and …‘pays attention to the invisible, the forgotten, or what an artwork deliberately leaves enfolded’[2]. Your approach to the project embodies these ideas; particularly in the way we wanted the book to become more than simply a record of the On Innards project so far. It wasn’t any of our intentions for its form to function purely as a surface with which to transmit textual information, but rather to embody ideas that may unfold slowly, overtime or perhaps may remain enfolded. You have deliberately obscured, hidden, and manipulated excerpts of text, making them sometimes difficult to penetrate, emphasising the focus, the type of engagement, and ‘the act of interpretation’[3], which is required of the reader when encountering the book. In some parts of the book the illegibility of the texts, be it the extract of Carlos’ paper, the yoga instructions, or the re-visited three-way conversation between Mindy, Andrew and myself, first written in 2013 for the ‘Body Horror’ conference[4], with our hand-written ruminations, questions the validity of the knowledge contained within it, and through the (mis)-reading of these texts may offer new meanings and interpretations.

Marks talks specifically about certain images of history that appear to us whilst others remain hidden, and suggests that these aspects of the past are ‘not forgotten but enfolded’[5]. I was thinking about this in relation to our project, and the digestive system, after attending a talk by Ed Thornton, recently at the Wellcome Collection on Descartes and his dualist legacy[6]. Descartes’ emphasis on the brain, and his new way of conceptualising mind and selfhood heralding the Age of Enlightenment, until recently, obscured or ‘enfolded’ earlier understandings of the body. Jan Purnis, scholar of early modern literature unearths the historical importance of organs within the belly cavity on pre-modern conceptualisations of self[7]. She unfolds this history, revealing beliefs about the body, which now through new biomedical research emphasise the digestive system’s far reaching influence on our sense of self, challenging the ‘cerebro-centrism’[8] that is Descartes legacy. So then, the On Innards project, this publication, and through the act of ‘reading’ our book may help to jog the collective memory, and unfold this knowledge. Through the unfolding of the book, unwinding the different elements in the reader’s hands, physical, material, conceptual, unravelling what its contents and form might mean to them, their bodies and sense of self, our readers may enact Deleuze’s idea of ‘thought as explication or unfolding’[9]: thinking as an act of disembowelling.

[1] For a much deeper explanation of the Enfolding and unfolding model, see: Marks, Laura U. and Kelly, Reagan (2006) ‘Enfolding and unfolding: an aesthetics for the information age’ In: Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular 1 (3). At: http://vectors.usc.edu/projects/index.php?project=72 (Accessed 25.7.15); Marks, Laura U. (2008) ‘Experience – information – image: a historiography of unfolding. Arab cinema as example’ In: Cultural Studies, 14 (1). pp. 85-98. At:

http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/article/view/2100 (Accessed 20.7.15); Marks, Laura U. (2009) ‘Information, secrets, and enigmas: an enfolding-unfolding aesthetics for cinema’ In: Screen 50 (1). pp. 86-98; Marks, Laura U. (2010) Enfoldment and Infinity: an Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

[2] Marks and Kelly, 2006.

[3] Marks and Reagan, 2006.

[4] Couch, A, Hladky, A & Lee, M. (2014) ‘On Innards’ in: Folio, J. & Luhring, H. (eds.) Body Horror and Shapeshifting: A Multidisciplinary Exploration. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press: pp. 51-88.

[5] Marks, 2008; 86.

[6] Thornton, Ed (2015) Minds and Bodies. London [Talk at Wellcome Collection, 23 July 2015]

[7] See: Purnis, Jan (2010) Digestive Tracts: Early Modern Discourses of Digestion [PhD Thesis] University of Toronto; Purnis, Jan (2010) ‘The Stomach and Early Modern Emotion’ In: University of Toronto Quarterly 79 (2). pp. 800-818.

[8] Purnis, Digestive Tracts, 2010; 210.

[9] Deleuze paraphrased in Marks, 2009; 96.

On Innards | Publication will be launched The bookRoom Press at the London Artists Book Fair, hosted by the Whitechapel Gallery, London, from Thursday 10 September, (6pm-9pm) through to 6pm on Sunday 13 September. Lee, Couch and Nash will be signing books at 1pm on Saturday 12 September in Gallery 2. http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/london-art-book-fair/

On Innards | Event was generously supported by a Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Arts Award. Attendance at the Body Horror 2 conference, and the On Innards | Exhibition, Event and Publication was generously supported by a research award from University for the Creative Arts.

Textblock digitally printed by Riverprint on Colorplan 135 and 270gsm stock by G. F. Smith. Manilla folder printed on an Epson R2000. Cut, folded, bound and finished by hand. Individually stamped and numbered. Produced at the bookRoom Press by Lee, Couch, Hladky and Nash.

Published by bookRoom Press, Farnham.

ISBN: 978-0-9576828-5-6.

Limited edition of 200.

200 pages of various intersecting formats and custom binding.

260 (h) x 20.5 (w)mm.

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