In a range of their work, Heather and Ivan Morison had explored the currency of shelters and escape vehicles – things that can either transport you physically or mentally away from the here and now and help avoid, or offer refuge, from future disaster. The film Dark Star (2006), and the timber structures Pleasure Island and Fantasy Island (2007), took their starting points from the American house-truck movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and the hand-built-shelters associated with the ‘back-to-the-land’ movements of the same period. These interests are continued in a series of commissioned sculptures and shelters.
Continuing their explorations and investigations into cultures of self-sufficiency, Falling into Place brings many elements of the artist’s research together with sketches and drawings, through a narrative which is part-science fiction, part-history, part-auto-biography and part-fairytale.
Working with Heather and Ivan was interesting. Although they are partners in life and their practice, they do have different ‘roles’ and take responsibility for different aspects. They also communicate differently about their work. Early on in the process of working with them, I stayed at their then house in Wales, and we walked to the plot of land they owned with a wood on it, that they maintain and the material of which they use for their work. Nestled among the trees was one of the shelters, related to the one they presented in Venice, when they represented Wales. Seeing how they lived, talked and made work, I think helped in the process of editing the dystopian story as it was being written. I recognised the references to works or situations that also existed in reality, and from the conversations we’d had, I could make a connection with aspects of the narrative.
For many writing is a slow process. And while written elements are part of Heather and Ivan’s practice – through plays, and minimal texts they send out on invitation cards – it certainly isn’t at the core of it. Writing a kind of dystopian novel, in which their own work and concerns featured I think needed to take its time. Because they were so very much ‘in’ the narrative themselves, it also required careful consideration as to what was functional and what wasn’t, and now and again what worked for them, as authors, did not necessarily worked for me as an editor. The end result is I think an interesting take on the notion of what an artist’s book can be, and how artists can sometimes take writing their own narrative – about their work and themselves – in their own hand.
Co-published by Book Works and Situations, University of the West of England, Bristol. It was the eighth in the series of co-publishing partnerships initiated by Book Works, entitled Fabrications, edited by me. The book was designed by APFEL.