Ian Bourn's Subjective Interfaces 

Published by Piece of Paper Press

Launch event: Monday 19 September 6.30 to 8.30pm

Ian Bourn, Subjective Interfaces. Photo: Robert Ellis.

Piece of Paper Press is delighted to present Subjective Interfaces, the first publication of a new text work by Ian Bourn, a British artist best known for his pioneering work in video art from the late 1970s onwards. Subjective Interfaces is produced in a numbered limited edition of 200 copies, of which 75 will be distributed at the launch.

Bourn uses fictional characters and the monologue form to speculate ‘how things might go’ in terms of an imagined or exaggerated autobiography, also exploring ideas of the author as the hero of his or her own story. With works such as Lenny’s Documentary (1978), Bourn established what Felicity Sparrow describes as ‘his own pantheon of imaginary tragi-comic characters, pitched somewhere between Tony Hancock and Harold Pinter’ (Luxonline, 2005). In Subjective Interfaces this process of creating fictional personas seems to be both exhausted and reversed as B finds that when he is forced by circumstances to be himself and in order to maintain his dignity and humour in face of the stigma of unemployment and workfare, the persona of the artist may be all that he has left. 

Subjective Interfaces is the first of a series of artworks developed over the last seven years by Bourn in different media that form part of a larger ongoing project entitled Placement, which documents and depicts the experience of being an artist without funds, without supplementary income or savings, trying to survive on state benefits and living in a country which itself is supposedly living beyond its means. The project will raise questions about the artist as a role in society—whether as a perceived individual status or merely a state of being—and is conceived as ‘embedded’ activity, implying integration within the situation and alongside others, rather than working at a distance or as a detached observer. The term itself refers historically to the notion of artist placements in social or industrial contexts but also, more poignantly, to the experience of being ‘placed’ on the current government’s Community Work Placement Scheme, which Ian Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions designed as a solution to the problem of long-term unemployment.

Ian Bourn was born in London 1953, and studied at Ealing School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London. A pioneer of video art, his screenings include Hayward Gallery, Tate Modern and Raven Row, London; The Kitchen, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; National Film Theatre, London; Image Forum, Tokyo. His 1982 short film The End of the World, featuring the late Helen Chadwick, was screened as part of Channel 4’s Ghosts in the Machine series and his TV commissions include Sick As A Dog (1989) and Black, White & Green (2003) both for Channel 4. Bourn was co-founder in 1985 of HOUSEWATCH, a group of mixed-media artists who have collaborated, individually or collectively, to produce environmental site-specific performance events. Recent solo and group shows include 2014’s Interior Domestic: Early Works (1979-88) at Five Years, London and Video Room (with Mark Dean), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Bourn premiered his video installation Cornered as part of Contact: A Festival of New Experimental Film and Video, at Apiary Studios in May 2016 and another version will be shown at the Cambridge Film Festival in October 2016. 

Piece of Paper Press was created by author Tony White in 1994 as a lo-tech, sustainable artists’ book project to commission and publish new writings, visual and graphic works by artists and writers. Each book is manufactured from a single A4 sheet that is printed on both sides using a photocopier or a domestic printer, and then folded, stapled and trimmed by hand to create the book. Piece of Paper Press titles are always distributed free. pieceofpaperpress.com

Tony White is the author of novels including Foxy-T (Faber and Faber). His most recent book Shackleton’s Man Goes South was the first novel ever to be published by the Science Museum. Forthcoming projects include A Place Free Of Judgement by Blast Theory and Tony White, and readings at the TULCA Festival of Visual Arts, Galway, Ireland in November. Tony is currently chair of London’s award-winning arts radio station Resonance 104.4fm. 

Image: Ian Bourn, Subjective Interfaces. Photo: Robert Ellis.