I’m so very happy to say that the little book that Fran B and I made many months ago for ‘Adventures in the Illuminated Sphere’ was today celebrated as one of three shortlisted entries to the Ivan Juritz Prize for Creative Responses to Modernism, 2015. I’ve just got home, and I’m buzzing from meeting the other entrants, getting to speak with and hear from some of amazing authors and academics who made up the judging panel… and also probably from the wine served with the delicious prize-winners’ dinner!
Aaaanyway. The prize was established last year by the Centre for Modern Literature and Culture at King’s College London, with the short brief being:
“Postgraduate students are invited to submit their own creative responses to Modernism in whatever art form seems most appropriate. This might be a homage, pastiche or parody or could be a much freer (and less historical) engagement with modernism. You might see yourself as continuing, challenging or simply evoking the modernist project. The judges are looking for originality and hope to be made both to think and feel. Entries should be accompanied by a paragraph explaining the work of art and its relation to modernism.”
I felt that the book fitted the brief well, and so sent off a link, along with the following blurb:
The ‘Gift for the Illuminated Sphere’, is more interested in asking questions than providing answers: the process of making it was a research method rather than an end-product, with the first question that it explores being ‘what can medievalists do in an art gallery?’. It perpetuates as well as challenges the modernist project: asking how subjective engagement with the visual and textual across time functions, and relishing in the destabilising of signs – political, aesthetic, and formal – across time.
We think the book shows that techniques of the study of medieval culture can help us look anew at contemporary art. Medievalists, and any scholar working with the distant past, are used to examining abstraction in its realest sense: what has been taken away is often of just as much interest as what remains. The book is also reflective of how images from the medieval to the modern have been liberated from their physical location: being shared, manipulated, and made to speak (problematically, thrillingly) across social media platforms and websites.
And, it turns out, the judges seemed to agree with our pitch!
Fran and I were particular excited to have Deborah Levy read out some lovely words about our book during the prize giving. She called it a ‘visual conversation between an ancient language and a modern language… in the curating there is a haunting in the medievalist images and modernist images – they linger in each other and become quite uncanny.’ I love that non medievalists enjoyed the experience of being confronted with our old stories and images being pushed up against the ruthlessly modern abstract pieces. Whilst it’s perhaps a dangerous trap (one that I often fall into – sometimes willingly) to imagine subjects of the past as being active participants in a conversation, it is perhaps over-serious to deny that ‘conversation’ – a to-ing and fro-ing, a sense of dialogue – is the nearest description for the feeling that is evoked when we make connections across time.
For one final boast, I loved this remark the most: ‘the triumph of the curating here is to in a sense whip the rug under modernity’s feet and destabilise it all over again’. I quite fancy the idea of more medievalists getting all up under modernity’s feet and messing things up… I’ll definitely be using that as a matra for future projects! Thank you to all the judges for their incredibly generous words 🙂
Finally, please do take a listen to the other shortlisted entry, Notes on Clingfilm, by poets Eleanor Chandler and Zoe Kingsley, and the winning entry ‘In that Solitude’ by Martin Scheuregger.