October 2023 - February 2024
Ways of Telling
How did you first come across a story? How did Aladdin or Joan of Arc or Cinderella first enter your consciousness? And how do we pass on these stories?
Stories travel; it is in their nature to travel often across great distances. And they take many paths. Print has helped their diffusion and, since Gutenberg, film, television and mass media have too. But for centuries, indeed millennia, stories of all kinds were told, recited, sung, mimed, danced, relayed, drawn and animated in scores of ways with boundless ingenuity, and thereby transmitted even across borders of language.
bookartbookshop (https://www.bookartbookshop.com) and its presiding genius Tanya Peixoto has generously invited the project to make three window displays exploring these forms of communication, which carry deep-rooted memories and new fantasies, capable of moving us to laughter, to joy, to tears.
The first display (November 3 - 15, 2023) focusses on the history of travelling storytellers, puppeteers, bards, griots, balladeers; there is no culture in the world without its makers and transmitters of stories. The work of telling stories encodes hopes and fears and can help form shared truths and values. We can echo Walter Benjamin when he writes, ‘Every morning brings us the news of the globe and yet we are poor in noteworthy stories..’ He was a great lover of fairy tales and folklore, and a great believer in speculative fiction as a space of hope: ‘Folk art and the worldview of the child demand[ed] to be seen as collectivist ways of thinking.’
The second (January 11 - 25, 2024), explores the work so far of Stories in Transit and the collective Giocherenda (https://giocherenda.it/), based in Palermo, Sicily. With this project, begun in 2016, many recent arrivants (‘asylum seekers’, ‘migrants') who have crossed the Mediterranean to make a new life in Europe have collaborated with writers, artists, musicians, to animate stories from material the group remembers, or generate new ones through games and improvisation.
The third (February 15-29, 2024) will trace the threads connecting traditional transmission with contemporary story-making through various creative processes and games fostered by twentieth century and contemporary pioneers who uniting play, imagination, creativity and emancipatory ideals: Blaue Reiter, the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Oulipo (an offshoot of the Institute of 'Pataphysics, central to the bookartbookshop’s philosophy).
Ways of Telling 1/3
3 - 15 November, 2023
Our first display includes storytelling objects such as Javanese shadow puppets (wayang kulit) used for traditional performances in Indonesia and Bali generously lent by Pollock’s Toy Museum, and a tourist kaavadfrom Rajasthan, India - a portable wooden shrine that has visual narratives that open and close like doors simulating the several thresholds of a temple. These examples are shown alongside books that give more detail as to their history and show how such devices are used.
Other forms of story performing are shown in books and print-outs, which demonstrate traditions including the cantastorie(the name comes from Italian for “story-singer”, a theatrical form where a performer tells or sings a story while gesturing to a series of images or storyboard); the Iranian parda-dar (who performs with a cloth scroll used in the recitation of stories of heroes) and the Japanese Buddhist practice e-toki (where performers teach a Buddhist principle with pictorial scrolls).
Works on view::
Kaavad (Rajasthan, India)
H 17.5 cm, W 9cm (when closed) / 25cm (when doors fully open), D 8cm
Private Collection: Joan Ashworth
Two Indian puppets
Private Collection: Tanya Peixoto
From Pollock’s Toy Museum:
Tall frame with two Javanese rod puppets. These shadow puppets (wayang kulit) are used for traditional performances in Indonesia and Bali
H 80 x W 20 cm
African felt doll with traditional bead necklaces and belt , with patterning which carries a message or tells a story
H 40 x W 26.5 cm
Rag doll from Madagascar
Two carved wooden Indian puppet heads
From the collection of Marina Warner:
Man on horse made of a gourd, Mexico
Bogeyman from Syros, Greece
Devil hand puppet
Two-headed Indian marionette puppet
One of the Magi
Bird whistle, clay
Papier mache animal
Bird from recycled plastics
Four puppet/dolls from St Kitts
Two wicker toys (one with a horse)
Liver & Lights
Two story scrolls in the book series by Liver & Lights, the collective name for John Bently’s lifelong exploration of the book as a unique creative medium. Constructed from both contemporary and cast-off reprographic technology, from skip-rescued photocopiers to delicate hand cut rubber stamps, they shamelessly incorporate, infiltrate, celebrate and castigate.
The Raree Show, c. 1741 pirated reissue over the name of Samuel Lyne
The British Museum description is:
Sung by Jemmy Laroch in the Musical Interlude of the Peace... A broadside satirising the supposed results of a peace treaty, probably those of the Peace of Utrecht; with an engraving after Egbert van Heemskerck II showing a showman supporting a peep show with nine scenes which stands on a stool, on the right a group of onlookers; with engraved title, numbering 1-9, and numbered verses in three columns, and at the bottom three lines of a tune. According to Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians this print was first published by Sutton Nicholls, and later reissued by Lyne; the style accords with that of other prints by Nicholls. Laroche was well-known for his performance of the song 'The Raree-Show' but he seems to have died in 1710 and the use of his name in this satirical print appears to be a fanciful addition; the illustration is based on an earlier mezzotint after Heemskerck. With publication line: "Printed and sold by Samuel Lyne at the Globe in Newgate Street".
Katia Kameli’s The Storyteller (film still) (2012)
The storyteller introduces the figure of a traditional storyteller who works in Marrakech's large public square, Djemaa al-Fna. This square is famous for its al-halqa, the storyteller's circle. The narrative being spun here has nothing to do with anecdotes drawn from popular literature or ancient tales passed down through generations of oral tradition. It’s the plot of Satyen Bose’s 1964 film “Dosti,” recounted by Abderrahim Al Azalia, whose niche is narrating Bollywood. The work is fimed in the concrete shell of the unfinished opera house in Marrakech.
12 minutes in loop; Single-channel, HD video, color, sound
Willem van Mieris (1662–1747), De rarekiek (’t Fraay Curieus), 1718
In an interior, a traveling Savoy shows a viewing cabinet in front of a family with children. The rare scene depicts scenes, perhaps from a knight's or other popular novel. The room is full of household goods: a spinning wheel, baskets of fruit, toy windmills, a basket, slippers and a bucket with a broom. Against the right wall is a row of barrels on which someone has placed a plate of fish. A painting on the right wall, a rack with jars on the back wall. A birdcage hangs from the ceiling.
Kamishibai artist at Kiyomizu-dera, April 2, 2009. He is narrating a Ōgon Bat story, 2 April 2009, Photographer: Moroboshi
Kamishibai (紙芝居, "paper play") is a form of Japanese street theater and storytelling that was popular during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the post-war period in Japan until the advent of television during the mid-20th century. Kamishibai were performed by a kamishibaiya ("kamishibai narrator") who travelled to street corners with sets of illustrated boards that they placed in a miniature stage-like device and narrated the story by changing each image.
Kamishibai has its earliest origins in Japanese Buddhist temples, where Buddhist monks from the 8th century onward used emakimono ("picture scrolls") as pictorial aids for recounting their history of the monasteries, an early combination of picture and text to convey a story.
John Dadley, after Pu-Qúa, May 4, 1799
A Chinese puppeteer standing on a stool, with a miniature stage balanced above him, body screened, except for feet, entertaining a boy in the street. Coloured stipple engraving; Reference: 581036i https://wellcomecollection.org/works/y3fza3mx
An Iranian parda-dar, outside Masjid-I Juma’ in Savara. Photo: © Samuel R. Peterson in Victor H. Mair, Painting and Performance, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988
It may never be possible to trace the origin of the phad, but its scale and format bear an intriguing similarity to the Iranian Parda, a cloth scroll used in the recitation of stories of heroes, such as the martyrdom of Hasan and Hussein. Like the phad, the Iranian parda is also a horizontal cloth scroll about five feet high, bearing many figures relating to the narrative but dominated by the central figure of the hero. The resemblance between the phad and the parda that is being suggested here is entirely on of format; it is not possible at this point to make any assertions about a direct link between these two traditions. Nonetheless, the phad’s similarity to the parda and its dissimilarity to the other Indian picture recitation traditions do invite speculation. On the other hand, some scholars note the resemblance between the phad and certain mural paintings, and suggest that we might think of the phad as a mural transferred to cloth.
Spectacle d'ombres chinoises à Alger (Shadow puppet show in Algers), etching, between circa 1850 and circa 1900, Théodore Frère
via Wikimedia Commons; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spectacle_d_ombres_chinoises_a_alger_1850_1900.JPG
Berber Tent, 2004, Source unknown
Rag doll from Hawara, Egypt c. 350 - 360 BC. Woven dyed wool, flax, and human hair. Ashmolean Museum