Here are some pages from different editions of Goldilocks from my collection of Goldilocks Files –Treated, or altered pages, in the style of Tom Phillips, which was a technique I chanced upon years ago, and which gave me the words and expression I lacked by any other means. I have chosen those which relate to the senses – taste; scent; pleasure.
As a little bit of background on the actual technique: I’m indebted to stumbling across the Tom Phillips technique – blanking out words on a printed page leaving some showing – which was a chance find that completely changed my life. I had about 5 minutes before a film was due to start at an art gallery-studio in the centre of London; I idly picked up a big book from the bookstore shelf & saw 2 examples of Tom Phillips’s work – I didn’t even have time to fully take in his name – or the title of the work – I just saw that it was obviously done ‘piggyback’ style – standing on the shoulders of an already printed text. I couldn’t wait to try it out for myself!
I don’t remember the film I saw that night, but I do remember coming home and finding a massive metal suitcase in the middle of my mum’s sitting room floor – full of books – as ancient as the case. (How had it appeared from nowhere on that particular night?!) I pulled out War-Time Guide to Keeping Chickens, fetched myself a pen and started scanning the pages quickly with my eyes, blacking out words leaving the important ones showing: words I so much needed to express myself, having been painfully socially mute for years. How could that be?! I have since discovered the technique works with any text: A Barclay Guide to a Lively Retirement; Tulip Forcing; dry, academic college accreditation information – anything! The words are all there – provided. No need to drum up one’s own – no need to have ‘writing skills’ – the words are there; somehow as one glances over the page, the words we need call attention to themselves. It takes seconds. Perfect for (non)writers who are pressed for time: new mums; or carers with little time or energy for themselves; in times of transition and change; in the midst of depression – the words are all there – ready and waiting.
Years later an art gallery in Sheffield put out a challenge to artists willing to work in any way they wished using a consignment of remaindered books (mine, a biography: Jeffrey Archer: Stranger than Fiction). I used it to tell my own Life Story and was able to pay Tom Phillips tribute within its pages. I also managed to meet him when I wrote a dissertation on his work. I don’t think he ever really fully understood how much of an impact his work had on my life – it opened up my world & gave me a voice. I’ve since used the technique in workshops, including a similarly life-changing one held at a tax office on an in-house ‘Day of Learning’. The gift of words is a powerful thing. I’m forever grateful for being given this key.
Below is a photo of the Box File I made to house my collection of Goldilocks books – it was originally started to become an exhibit in a Fairy Tale-based exhibition here in Brighton, but I continued the project, and it’s still on-going.
What I like is that one story can provide so much material to play with. I even have two exact copies of the same book (from which the recipe is taken) – both have been treated very differently. The writer-poet in me was very influenced by the OULIPO group – who thrive on limitations of every kind; their founder member, Georges Perec is famous for his full-size novel that excludes the most-used letter in the alphabet: ‘e’, in La Disparition, translated as A Void – creating what he called lipograms – where limitations in letters; grammar; syntax are employed in the process of creative challenge. Novelist Christine Brooke-Rose used grammatical lipogram techniques in her work, but also addressed the limitations placed on Women writers, especially experimental women writers (how many people have heard of her?!)
Nevertheless, I’ve discovered that limitations of all kinds can work as a powerful catalyst for creativity, although it seems illogical & counterintuitive. Limitations of material; of time; space in which to work; limitations of funds and resources can all be made to work in our favour – if we can allow for that to happen and then trust in it.
—About the Artist—
Janina Aza Karpinska is an Artist-Poet from the south coast of England with an M.A. In Creative Writing & Personal Development from Sussex University (the Dept. since replaced by a Business Centre). Her own evolution still highly prizes the need for creative pursuits – literary and visual experimentation: differing forms of narrative to articulate that which would otherwise be inexpressible. Her work has appeared in: The Empty Mirror; Bath House Journal; 3 Elements Review; Poetry in the Waiting Room, and The Third Way, among others.