Science fiction books, wildflowers from different parts of the world
A copy of Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Empire constitutes the dominant material of Heather & Ivan Morison's work of the same name, 2003. Wild flowers collected from Mongolia jut out from the pages that have been used to press and preserve them within the pages of the battered and somewhat dated-looking book. There is something familiar about this object. It is surely a homage to Richard Wentworth's Tract (From Boost to Wham), 1993--a Pocket Oxford Dictionary crammed full of chocolate-bar wrappers. These are inserted into the appropriate pages, alphabetically ordered by the correlation of brand name and lexical definition. As a student I remember attending a talk given by Wentworth in which he anecdotally related the genesis of the work. A cheeky assistant had apparently placed wrappers in a copy of the dictionary kept in Wentworth's studio and waited to see how long it would take for the act to be discovered, thus determining how often the dictionary was actually referred to.
Of course this story need not be true, but such a serendipitous origin still has the ability to animate the play of material semiotics. Perhaps Tract operates as a metonym for Wentworth's practice. There is a sense of humorous wonder in the manner in which quotidian and accidental elements intersect with formal concerns of arrangement and making. The affinities between these two altered books can be extended to say that Foundation and Empire operates similarly. It also signifies the practice of which it is a part. In 2003 Heather & Ivan Morison wrote Divine Vessel, a 72,000-word science fiction novel, on a journey aboard a cargo ship travelling between Shanghai and Auckland. Asimov's book was one that they had read in preparation for the task while photographing wild flowers in Mongolia. This whole period was encompassed by their pan-global voyage Global Survey. Like Russian matryoshka dolls, one work reveals another.
Dan Smith, Unnatural histories: Dan Smith on narrative fictions and the archival impulse in recent art, Art Monthly, March 2007.