Writing about work: 2. ‘Mass migrations, strange lodger’

Emma Davidson_Mass migrations, strange lodger

‘Mass migrations, strange lodger’ is a modular work, the basis of which is fifteen pieces of blank cardboard. I laid these out in a grid and glued on found images and found text. I then added graphic marks, using a variety of materials. These elements were all added to the composition quickly and randomly, in the manner of a visual ‘chance poem’. I then randomly reconfigured all of the pieces of cardboard so the edges no longer matched one other and the original composition was lost.

The images and texts were appropriated from children’s books about the ‘animal kingdom’, of the type which used to be ubiquitous in libraries but are now obsolete, or, you might say, extinct.

As an artist, my first motivation is simply to make. I am continually drawn back to my work by the sheer joy of being able to use my hands and my intelligence to manipulate objects and materials so that they say something new. This desire to make is not a trait artists have a monopoly on – MacKenzie Wark says it is a key part of our species being; just as it is, for example, a part of the species being of an Eastern Curlew to migrate from the Arctic circle to the east coast of Australia every year.

Every year the necessary migrations of animals, such as curlews and humans, are interrupted: interrupted by borders, by the arrangement of the surface of the earth into a composition that often doesn’t make much sense to anyone or anything.

The beauty of an abstract work or art is that it may ‘mean’ this; or something else; or nothing at all.

Four sections of this work, digitally altered, were published in issue 45 of The Lifted Brow. Here’s one of them:Illo draft page 4

Writing about work: 1. ‘Underground fairylands’

Emma Davidson_Underground Fairylands_2

‘Underground Fairylands’ is my homage to zines. To begin with it was a small, photocopied zine of found text and found images, which I made in 2013.

I discovered zines as a teenager growing up in suburban Sydney in the 1990s; I spent a lot of time daydreaming of other worlds, and was always on the lookout for some portal-like experience that would transport me out of everyday life. I escaped into the world of books, for example, as boldly (and as bodily) as the cartoon character Gumby did when he stepped into a page. When I discovered zines I realised I was not alone in this desire to escape: there was a secret world of people like me, connected by handmade, photocopied, ephemeral objects – zines.

I don’t think childish dreams – the desire to be grown up, to move out, to discover and explore – are lost in adulthood: they can fuel the desire for political projects that open up new possibilities for living. ‘Underground Fairylands’ juxtaposes images and texts which chart, like a rogue story-board*, the ad-hoc, sometimes tentative, processes by which people acquire knowledge – or consciousness – about the world, and their place in it.

This large-scale, wall-piece version of ‘Underground Fairylands’ was made in 2018. I wanted to capture the graphic quality of photocopying, but on a much larger scale than can be achieved with a photocopier, and, in keeping with the analogue nature of zines, without using any digital processes. Solvent transfer is a printing technique which transfers toner from a photocopy onto another surface (cartridge paper, in this case). This piece is composed of approximately fifty individual solvent transfers. It took me about two weeks, working five hours a day, to complete.


*Stole the line ‘rogue story-board’ from Bianca Martin, of Rut zine x


Newish zines

I’ve managed to make a few new zines over the past months, despite those months being among the strangest I’ve yet lived through – too strange and too close to even write about in a zine.



Typing Pool/Para no sentirme solo zine


Typing Pool/Para no sentirme solo contains all of the typing – including the typewriter loops and automatic writing featured below in older posts – from lasts years’ show at Chrissie Cotter Gallery, All Or Nothing. The Typing Pool section of the zine is A3 folded lengthways, then in half again to A5. The Para no… section is an eight page, A5 wrap-around. There are copies available for sale on the Take Care Zine Distro website, and I will have some at the upcoming Other Worlds Zine Fair at Marrickville Town Hall on Sunday 26 May.



Bridges zine, issue #1


I’ve also started a new zine series called Bridges. This one I aim to stick with and make on a semi-regular basis. There have been three issues so far. There are no copies of Bridges #1 or #2 left, though I might recopy some in time for Other Worlds. Issue #3 was made for the Sticky Institute’s annual Feed the Animals fundraiser – there may still be some copies available at Sticky if you’re in Melbourne.



Bridges zine, issue #2


Bridges zine, issue #3 – a fundraiser for Sticky’s Feed the Animals.