IMAMPM is a publication by artist Isabella Martin and writer Meg Whiteford. It is the outcome of a joint twitter feed that was first published as a GIF, and later in a printed version. We asked Isabella for an interview, to find out more about the starting point of this publication, how Twitter as a forum affected the artistic process, and what it means to translate a publication to different formats.
Can you tell us a little more about this work; IMAMPM, what is the idea behind it?
The work started with the desire to continue a collaborative writing process that writer Meg Whiteford and I began when we met and worked together on a public signage project in Copenhagen in 2012. We experimented with using different online tools, ways in which we could communicate across the different time zones we lived in. There was no initial plan beyond just writing in response to, and in rhythm with, each other, using Twitter as a platform to host a daily exchange of words. So this online writing process came first, and then we published it as a GIF, as a way of animating our words and creating a sort of conversation without protagonists. Afterwards we published it as a single edition print publication, to test what happened when you held the words in your hand rather than read them on a screen.
Why these formats, Twitter, GIF, and paper print?
The Twitter account was a way of co-writing that felt quite disorientating. With a joint account we could lose a sense of ownership over our own words, testing out ways of writing collaboratively. There’s also a word limit, so it set a clear frame within which to write to each other about what we were thinking and seeing. Publishing it as a GIF was a means of ‘performing’ that online way of communicating. A GIF loops and compresses, but also destabilizes and decontextualizes. The writing process took place sporadically over several years, the GIF squeezes that into a conversation over a few minutes. The GIF of the work performs like a digital flipbook, and so the print publication was a way of imagining that in paper form, giving the words motion, simulating the passing of time.
> How has the specific qualities of Twitter as a live medium affected the process? I’m referring mainly to the instant or live aspect, and the fact that it’s public – hence the possibility of response or reaction, kind of like a live audience.
When we started using it to write together, it was 2012, and Twitter felt less like an open public forum, and more like a collection of lots of different lines of public communication, overlapping and crisscrossing. Meg and I were each other’s live audience, and writing in this way created a strange and lonely feeling of being private and intimate in public, lost amongst the millions of other messages and posts. The language on these platforms moves between absolutely prosaic and passionately heartfelt, and is often both at the same time. Everything is flattened, and becomes curiously bland, in an almost captivating way. This had the effect of making our writing less hesitant, and more like taking quick snapshots. Despite the writing process beginning from a desire to tell each other about where we were, and what we saw, online the words became detached, losing their power to evoke what we were trying to communicate.
What does it mean (for you in this specific case, and more generally as a phenomenon) to translate a publication into different publishing formats?
We translated the work between formats over the course of several years, and this process was motivated by an interest in discovering what each format could do to a reading of the text. It’s exciting, this ability of a work to have different expressions, and in this case, it was a playful way of experimenting with our language. These formats allowed us to test out how we spoke and sounded in different mediums, how words took on different resonances when read fleetingly in pixels, or held in the hand.
In a wider sense, working between different publishing formats is a way of playing with ideas of value and access, how a work is experienced in an endlessly replicated animation format, or a single edition book. What’s interesting is the potential for work in these multiple formats to bleed into one another, and affect their readings – how can an online viewing be slow and fragile, how can reading a book be fleeting and persistent?
The root of the word ‘translate’ is to carry across, and in the carrying, something always gets dropped and lost, and something else is picked up. Ideas are fluid things, and publishing across formats reflects that fluidity, revelling in the possibility of how something could be encountered differently, if you just change the context, or the scale, or the materials, or any one of the hundreds of variables involved in publishing a work.
Thank you, Isabella! We hope that your future publications will also find their way to the Reading edge library.
Isabella Martin is a visual artist who is interested in interdisciplinary collaborations and the relationship between time, place and the body, creating artworks that move across mediums such as sculpture, drawing, performance, film and sound. Read more about her work at www.isabellarosemartin.com