http://www.uwe.ac.uk Book Arts

Quiet Room at Bower Ashton Library, UWE, Bristol
Regards Croisés: France-UK
1st February – 1st March 2013

This exhibition “Regards Croisés: France-UK” – whose title could be translated as “Crossing Paths” or “Converging Views” – is the result of a collaboration between the Centre for Fine Print Research and the Faculté Arts, Lettres, Langues at the Université Jean Monnet in Saint-Etienne.

Students and recent graduates in France and the UK were asked to look at different aspects of the other country and worked over a period of six months on their ideas of the other country. Each made a book that reflected their memories, inspirations and views across the Channel.

The exhibition was first presented in October 2012 in Saint-Etienne as part of a symposium organised to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the MPhil in Art publishing of Université Jean Monnet, which is the only Master’s degree focusing on artists’ books in France.

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The books made by students from Bristol have looked fondly across the Channel, remembering their first experiences of the culture, food, language and environs, and the elegant inhabitants of France. The French books are more historical in outlook, making numerous references to the common history of both countries, and especially to periods of conflict. A common feature of the English and French books is the use of maps, with a special focus on the Channel or tourist areas.

Their cultural references included classic pop songs, forbidden novels, or fine dining experiences – the first tastes of exquisite food on family trips. Others called upon their memories of the experiences of travel, as tourists walking the streets, or stepping upon the pavements of Paris, to looking down on the beautiful landscapes when micro-lighting over the Pyrenees, or pinpointing the co-ordinates of Paris on a map. There are frequent allusions to the usual clichés about the two cultures: Froggies and Rosbif by Nastasiea Hadoux hints at the nicknames and food preferences of the French and the British while Je ne sais quoi by Cath Fairgrieve represents the indescribable attraction of French life as perceived through cinema.

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The books have been hand produced as one offs or small editions, from altered sculptural books, to letterpress printed editions, hand cut from old maps, collaged, digital print, rubber-stamped. Screenprinting, laser cutting, sewing and welding have also been used. Because the exhibition was first shown in France, the French books use bigger formats, one of them being even a livre monstre or giant book.

This exhibition project has built upon the experiences of students from both countries and encouraged an appreciation of and connection with each.