When you walk into a sculptural installation of found objects, one of the first things you notice is the smell. Part oil, part ancient metal, the gloopy acrid tang catches the back of your throat. Like Marmite, I suppose, you either like it or you don’t. I do.
Dilomprizulike is a Fine Artist who goes under the moniker ‘The Junkman from Afrika’ His work has been shown internationally, including as part of the Africa Remix exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. There is a wonderful transcription of a lecture provided by the Henry Moore foundation, which outlines the conceptual approach to his work here.
The installation when I first experienced it was a work in progress. In the construction of ‘The Junkyard Museum of Awkward Things’ the Junkman developed a dialogue with members of the public as the work physically grew. Day by day the material was collected and worked into what looked something like an aeroplane, something like a beast, hulking against the gallery wall.
The armature was made of wooden struts, with a ‘roof’ created by flattened and folded metal, woven or threaded together to form sheets. These were systematically numbered and arranged – there seemed to be a combination of both meticulous organization and intuition at work. An eclectic collection of found objects, trawled from the tip, were merged together to form the structure.
Everything was there. All those things you have forgotten about, didn’t want to see, have chucked away. If I listed them, you would think of some sad ‘Generation Game’ reject show. Instead of the ubiquitous cut glass crystal and the holiday of a lifetime we have:
Babies shoes…trainers…broken umbrellas…corrugated cardboard…aluminium…plastic.
Lots and lots of plastic. This transforms to become a colour assemblage of hot orange, pink and milky white, adorning the interior of the ‘Museum’. The cuddly toys are in there, but they are damaged goods.
My brief was to make a book about this work. I sat on the floor within the space and made some notes. I went to a lecture where the curator talked about colonisation, post-modernism and oil. The work threw up all sorts of questions. My initial drawings and writing were black, spidery and intense.
After three months in residence, The Junkman went home. The work came down, and I began the task of sifting through hundreds of photographs, wondering how to put it into some sort of order. There was the overall finished piece, the strange composite figures, a multitude of characters and objects: broken mirrors, saucepans. I made some test page montages using fragmented text and images. Although I loved them they were ugly, grey, ragged, sorry things.
The Junkman referred to the creative process involved in his work, as ‘soup’, and this was the concept I decided to follow in planning the structure of the book – gathering ingredients, preparing, chopping, mixing, stirring, simmering, seasoning, serving. ‘Making Soup’ is a metaphor that can be applied to making a book, making an installation and making dinner. Formally, the colours and textures of spices and metal slices sometimes correspond.
From the accompanying essay, I pulled some key elements. The book now comprised of five courses:
· Presenting the Unpresentable,
· Valuing the Worthless
· Appreciating the Depreciated
· Taking the Outcasts Inside
· Embracing the Untouchable
Each of these ‘courses’ acted as a key, enabling me to organize the content – images and text – into some sort of chronological sequence, but with room for one course to ‘bleed’ into another. The layout is very simple, an essay at the outset, then simply full-bleed photographs, juxtaposed, one against the other, until the final course: the Junkyard Museum of Awkward Things as a completed entity.
It’s important to note, I think, that the materials the Junkman was working with were not being ‘recycled’, but rather ‘transformed’. Inevitably perhaps, what I was conscious of when designing the book was the dichotomy involved in dealing with a society’s waste, being aware of this and then deliberately generating yet more ‘stuff’, which was potentially wasteful – in terms of paper, ink.
The original work – The Junkyard – consisted of such physical, material things, I wanted to bring something of that into the project. For a long time I toyed with the idea of making the books entirely by hand, I envisaged a little production line, with each book being a ‘one-off’, unique in its particular combination of papers and materials. I liked this idea very much. I’m not sure quite who I thought would carry out this production line: Santa’s elves, maybe, or many clones of me. The idea was time-rich, to say the least. I settled on a compromise between the handmade and the efficiency of digital print-on-demand.
Using the first hardback proof of the book, I worked with soft aluminium to create a jacket. The aluminium was recycled – I stripped it from a large piece of insulation board in the workshop. The jacket then already had a ‘history’ in terms of patina, marks and indentations, and that seemed fitting to the project as a whole.
The book is available to buy here
The cover design as it stands is straightforward typography on a white background. Formally, it seemed appropriate to create a plain cover to contrast with the rich colours and textures of the contents. More importantly, in leaving the cover ‘bare’, I invite the reader to make their own jacket – to create their own cover – from whatever is available to them at the time. This could be board, cloth – any number of things: whatever is to hand. This approach I feel is in keeping with the spirit of the project.