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Commission, Oxford University Press, Winner of the Pirye Prize

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History, Commission by Amy Jackson for Oxford University Press

Drawings, both 714.15 x 189.66cm, mirror and books


The development of the printing press by Gutenberg around 1440 marks the entry of the book into the industrial age. The Western book was no longer a single object, written by request. Publication became an enterprise, requiring capital for its realisation and a market for its distribution. The cost of each individual book lowered enormously, which in turn, vastly increased its distribution. The book is somewhat tautological in nature. At once it collects, categorises and edits the world rendering it digestible, whilst simultaneously enveloping us within a mass of information. 


SInce the development of print in the 15th Century words and images have gradually invaded our lives, filing our minds with both wanted and unwanted information, advertisements, slogans, names directions, facts and figures. In an age where we constantly fel robbed of time and space this persistent pouring can become unbearable. The battle to absorb, understand and remember everything is an impossible victory. 


We all hoard heaps of accumulated piles of paper, newspapers bills, receipts, letters, our home literally stands below a paper rain. These torrents of paper represent our history. They provide evidence of our existence, which must be preserved to form a basis for the future. These cascades seem so disposable, yet we habitually arrange and sort them into groups. 


Humans have always sought for pattern, for order. In the busy modern world this organistion and categorisation of information becomes even more necessary before the flow of history engulfs us. Yet without the storage of these paper symbols is to perhaps derive ourselves of our memories. To deprive ourselves of all this departs us from the past. Does this mean that we cease to exist? Information contains our history, the sounds we hear, the words we read, the objects we see comprise the fabric of our lives. The absence of these vital traces would call into question our very existence and our individual identities. 


It is no wonder that we have always sought order and pattern throughout our existence. Organisation and systemisation is harmonious. There is no better example of these efforts that the book. Although the written word, images, numbers, slogans pervade our daily lives, books categorise and store the fabric of human life. They are an edited record of all that is important. In a library or a bookshop you can stand within a contained space surrounded in an acute surface area of information. 


Language however, can act as a barrier, not only does it take time to absorb, but furthermore it is exclusive to every individual. Through a specific system I have developed I have produced a drawing, which compiles information about the printing press and the Oxford University Press bookshop itself. 


Every statistic, any moment in time from the history of the press is documented and realised through this technical drawing. We can visually read a drawing in an instant regardless of our age, intelligence culture or language and although the information cannot be gleamed from this work without studying and becoming fluent in the system, this does not matter. In a bookshop everything you could every want is already catalogued and explained for you. I endeavoured to condense a past presence into an instant, bringing the invisible into the light of day. I collected information to achieve visual clarity and a coherent history by translating the information, which may ordinarily engulf us, into a series of numbers, a series of angles and an arrangement of lines. 

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