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Damp-in-Ditchwater: A satirical staged narrative revealed through an Artist’s Book
In this paper I will discuss the research, development and underlying methodologies that led to the making of the artist’s book Damp In Ditchwater (Damp Flat Books, Brighton, UK).
It takes the form of a small souvenir postcard book, containing 10 printed cards. The book contains a satirical narrative that in image and text begins in normalcy and concludes in absurdity while seeking nevertheless to achieve an apparent authenticity throughout. I describe the invention of a fictional British seaside location in the spirit of Osbert Lancaster’s Pelvis Bay and Bruce McCall’s Border Town. The town’s unappealing museum is described in terms that seek to conceal its actualities with recourse to the dark and unconvincing humour that Dickens, Eco and Spencer evoke. I then explore the dynamics of the visual and textual account given by the Unreliable Narrator with reference to such writers as Vladimir Nabokov and Raymond Roussel. The narrative structure of the cards is described along with the integration of a sub-narrative of the Crimson Cod. The Postcard format is further discussed together with an exploration of the role of the vintage souvenir postcard in creating aesthetic assumptions discussed by George Orwell’s in his essay on Donald McGill. The paper explores the balance of text and image in a multi-layered exploration of the absurdity of everyday life, and posits an alternative to the crude polemic in making criticisms of the role that industry plays in the life of the community. Damp in Ditchwater seeks to create an editorial strategy that takes its position on the cusp between an overt polemic, and the often ephemeral nature of much visual humour.