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Coptic stitch Counter Monument book

For this book I have built on ideas of who is missing, erased or forgotten in the war archives, monuments and history books. Archive art does this, and one of my favourite artists, Anselm Kiefer explored artist books in reference to national history, official record, literature and print. Here are some of his evocative, sculptural work:

The Australian Wars documentary on SBS has made me think about how the same number of Australians died in the violent frontier wars of Australia, yet most of our national memorials are for those who served overseas. I want my coptic stitch work to be an archive of those unrecorded on the Australian honour roll.

Through my print-informed art I have worked with collage, shadow, silhouette and corrosion to create glitches relating to the Other (in this case, the women, children and people of colour whose experiences and contributions are regularly minimised in the archives. The abstraction and distortion of the 'digger' monument works to subvert its ubiquitous representation of 'all.' You can see here some of my developmental work this year:

To build up the many pages and signatures I needed to produce a coptic stitch book where the stitching would be a significant feature, I reused many of the over runs and extra print media I had used for my work, including transparencies, tracing paper, proofs and trials. I am embracing the grungy, raw nature of the topic and trying to follow through with its concept into the medium.

I made a lithography edition, and used extra etch and sharp tools to erase elements of the image to speak to the erasure of history. Below are some of pictures of the process:

I screenprinted the back of these pages with the image of the ruined Anzac memorial using gouache ink for its rich, matt, newspaper like quality. I liked how in the process of printing more pages, the empty silhouette was left.

The pages have been turned so that the monument is facing different directions - fitting into the concept again. The tabs left from the folded in pages will be glued with a variety of translucent paper to create a more Duncan Bell 'mythscape' vibe (where collective memory is imbued with politically engineered militaristic nationalism).

The hard covers have been made by collaging lithography prints with other print media so that they are mini mock ups of the large floor collage I will be making for my capstone piece for graduation. These have been pressed for days as I wait for the glue to dry.

The coptic stitch is the most complex stitch I have learnt on this course and it has taken a good while to produce a mock up that looks like how I feel it should work. Here is my mock up:

Once I felt I understood the stitching process enough I sorted the pages so there were five signatures of five pages each. I made the statues face all different ways because it suited the concept and meant that the folded edges were all dispersed in the book so I could glue in the extra pages later. Using a ruler and template I drew four lines on the spine of the book and pierced each signature. I wrapped some reinforcing tape around the covers and pierced them too, doing one cover first and then using the second as a template.

I found the stitching a challenge. I didn't have a curved needle so knotting back after linking the signatures was a bit tricky, but I found ways to make it work. I ran out of thread just before I sewed the last signature and cover on. It was good timing because it allowed me to finish off the main body of the book and then start again keeping things perfectly taut.

Once the book was complete I glued in the remaining pages on the folded tabs using materiel that had been trickier to stitch into: plastic transparencies, tissue paper and newsprint. I used a variety of sizes and textures to talk to how actual war monuments don't represent a diversity of people nor experience.

Here are images of the spine and covers of the book:

And a selection of the pages, there are too many to share here:

But you can see each page and how they interplay with the process of page turning in this video:

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