From Construction to Publication

Simon Cutts, poet, artist, curator and editor, on a project to mark the life and work of Martin Rogers (1951-2012), founder of  the Small Publishers Fair.

Document17The ideas for an unrealised project surrounding From Construction to Publication arose from the proposal of A Storeroom for Martin Rogers for a large public institution, after his death in December 2012. Because of the organic nature of the proposal, its accumulative Merzbau collage, it was perhaps too problematic and tentative to be housed in public space, and may have to be contained in a book surrounding the work of its main protagonist. For the more physical manifestation of the project, all the component parts of multiple production would have been placed on shelves, from plywood templates to produced objects, to boxes of works, to pamphlets and stacks of cards, file indexes, books and printed ephemera to be taken and reassembled as needs be.

Martin Rogers, printer, sculptor and publisher, was the exemplar of a condition that had become prevalent in the post nineteen-sixties. He had moved the physical materials of his work to the production of multiple objects in printed form, to books and publication, eventually embracing the idea of publishing as the platform for the work. At the same time, in the way he avoided the side-track, even the cul-de-sac, of the so-called artists book, he becomes emblematic of that repositioning.

There may well be more literary, and in turn, less obvious aspects to the proposition of Construction to Publication, and indeed there may be a more generalised principal than we have acknowledged before, so overwhelmed have we been by the need to substantiate the field of artists book, which is perhaps really in the margins. Now we could even look at the relationship of the notebook workings to the finished production of certain writers : William Burroughs’ cut-ups, Nabokov’s methodology of file index to the finished text. Construction moves towards its resolution in Publication.

Martin Rogers was one of the quiet workers in the field. The course of his work from film to print, from constructed object to be photographed or as a stand-alone piece, to the finished book, is an exemplary development. At the same time there is a real attachment to the detail of a personal life. That he moved from the individual work to the whole platform of publishing is its achievement.

Simon Cutts, November 2014