We had a splendid time at Northwest Zinefest last week – especially considering some of us had slightly lost the run of ourselves at a friend’s landmark birthday party the previous night…
Anyway, moving swiftly on… Admittedly we’ve only done four zine fairs so far, but this was by far the busiest and the salesiest. It probably helped that it was in a destination venue anyway (the very stirring People’s History Museum), and the biblical rainfall may have driven more people inside. However, it was really nicely organised and <grimace> curated, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
One of the nicest things that happened was a visit from Elena and Nicola of the Wellcome Collection, who bought copies of Emergency and 3:52 AMfor their burgeoning zine collection. Here’s an article about some of the zines in their collection. If you’ve got anything you’d like to suggest or donate to them, I’m sure they’d be very pleased to hear from you: email address on the flyer.
We also had a lovely conversation about Emergency with a man with autism and dyspraxia, who clearly related to it a great deal and said he was going to send a copy to his mum and dad, to show how much he appreciates the degree to which they supported him and fought for him during his childhood.
Huge thanks again to Iestyn and VJ Sellar for letting us publish such powerful and personal work, and thanks to Wellcome for picking it up.
However, in this brief essay (which will come with Perdu as a supplement), Colossive’s “Tom Murphy” looks back at the unlikely-sounding genesis of the project.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A couple of weeks after moving from Chorley to London in 1986, I saw Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville at the Barbican. Which was exciting enough for a wide-eyed nipper with a Billy the Fish football perm who’d just hopped off the National Express 570 Rapide.
However, the main feature was preceded by a cryptic yet compelling 16mm short called Mitte, by a compatriot of Godard’s by the name of Jean-Paul Marsaud. Later, with a more functional critical vocabulary at my fingertips, I’d be able to wax lyrical about Mitte. However, at the time its mesmerising sequences depicting a glide through an unidentified city became a formative experience that I struggled to put into words and which had a profound effect on how I experienced my new metropolitan environment.
A bit of (pre-internet) research revealed that while Marsaud had taken pains to remain generally under the radar, he had made two more similar films – Proxima and Espacio – that also seemed to beguile as much as they baffled. A huddle of cognoscenti would gather at festival screenings and private cinema clubs to pore over these films, in which the strata of urban reality unfolded like a thousand-petalled lotus bloom.
Then, in 1992, le cataclysme. At a time of great personal distress, Marsaud destroyed the negatives and prints of his three films and withdrew from public life. Despite persistent rumours, it seemed that the films didn’t even live on as an n‑th generation VHS.
And that might have been the end of the story, had it not been for a chance encounter at London’s Institut français at which I became an unlikely instrument of destiny.
Attending a bande desinée (comics) event and making awkward, sweaty smalltalk with a couple of acquaintances, I became aware of a similarly uncomfortable looking man on the periphery of the group. Later, in the pub, one of my rosbif companions revealed that the man, known only as Jean-Paul, was nicknamed le fantôme (the ghost) around London’s French community, and that he had apparently been a great artist who had suffered a breakdown and destroyed his life’s work.
With my mind making connections and my curiosity piqued, I returned to the Institut français and pestered the librarian, who reluctantly confirmed Jean-Paul’s identity and agreed to pass my details to ‘the ghost’. Weeks passed, and, as I’d expected, no contact was forthcoming. Unable to let go, I made increasingly regular visits to the French enclave of South Kensington, wondering if I’d ever track down my elusive quarry – or even if, true to his nickname, he was a phantom who had once more dissolved into incorporeality.
I had all but given up hope when fate again intervened. Having dived into an unpromising chain pub for an early-afternoon loosener, I heard a familiar voice order a crème de cassis from the other side of the frosted-glass snob screen.
Using my stool as a prop to lever myself upwards, I peered over the screen to see none other than the auteur manqué Marsaud, peering intently into the maroon depths of his drink as if seeking the likeness of a long-dead lover.
As I introduced myself, my bumbling – and uncharacteristic – enthusiasm seemed to drive him further into his retreat. However, a crack appeared in the curtain when he waspishly corrected me over my apparent misinterpretation of one of his films. With the regular replenishment of his glass, he began to defrost (albeit never showing the slightest bit of interest in my own life or work).
I probed him gently on the destruction of his films, and in a startling moment he revealed that he’d kept an archive of sketches and photographs from the production of his films. With a certitude that I generally lack in my quotidian routine, I resolved not to let le fantôme dematerialise until he had agreed to the Colossive Gallery staging an exhibition of these priceless artefacts. As the sun crept lower and the bar bill did very much the opposite, a deal of sorts was reached.
Many terse episodes of psychodrama were still to be played out over that summer and autumn, but on October 15th the Colossive Gallery opened ‘All That Remains – The Lost Films of JP Marsaud’. But you know that already, don’t you? You were probably there.
Anyway, the show went – as they say – like gangbusters (despite JP failing to grace us with his presence even once). When the fortnight was up I met JP as arranged – at the Institut français – to return his material. I’d anticipated that he’d be late, but when he slouched in, in his usual laboured gait, I was intrigued to see another package under his arm. Without a greeting he dropped a foxed envelope, emblazoned with coffee rings, on the table in front of me. With the most minimal of gestures, he indicated that I should look within.
What I found was a disordered series of black-and-white photographs of various claustrophobic, even sepulchural locations. He wouldn’t be drawn on their origin or purpose, but wanted my opinion as to whether any money could be made from them. Over a coffee (and a seemingly obligatory Cognac) we reached what could loosely be termed an agreement to publish them as a zine. He didn’t bother to hide his disappointment – his disdain, even – when I revealed the scale of production and promotion that Colossive would be able to provide. However, pouring another Cognac on the troubled waters seemed to do the job.
However, my request for a title for the work seemed to test his forbearance to destruction. Downing his drink (after a reflexive swill round the glass), he rose with a previously unsuggested nimbleness and rolled back out into the London rain.
A couple of mornings later, a seemingly hand-delivered postcard was waiting in the gallery letter box, bearing nothing but the words Perdu sur le vaisseau spatial. Lost on the spaceship. So that’s what it is.
Thanks to anyone who popped by the Colossive table at the DIY Space for London Zine Fair yesterday.
The venue’s location – doughnutted by evangelical churches on a backstreet industrial estate – pretty much precluded any ‘passing trade’.
However, there was a good atmosphere inside the venue and a couple of flurries of activity during the course of the day. We chatted with some very nice people (on both sides of the table) and sold a few bits and pieces. You can check out the list of exhibitors, with links, here.
Thanks to Peter (Books Peckham) and Gabriel (1831 Shop) for arranging the fair, and to all the volunteers at DSFL – an valuable hub for creative activity.
I’ll be writing a much lengthier blog on the highly unusual story of how this zine came to be, but in the meantime…
We’re delighted to announce that, just in time for the DIY Space for London Zine Fest on Sunday July 7th, we’ve received our copies of Perdu sur le vaisseau spatial(Lost on thespaceship) – a photozine by an old friend of Colossive, JP Marsaud.
It’ll be up in our shop once we’ve got the weekend out of the way. In the meantime, here’s a sneaky-peek!
After Mum died in March 1995, Dad never went back to his job in a sports shop. He was heartbroken, exhausted and not *that* far off retirement age anyway. Instead, he began to spend more and more time out with his camera in London – taking countless photographs of the city he knew and loved. But he didn’t always think to mention where he’d been and what he’d seen. And I didn’t always think to ask…
In compiling this book, I was once again faced with a huge challenge: which pictures to use from the many, many albums and memory cards Dad left behind?
Picture quality was a major consideration. Not all the negatives from the pre-digital shots survived and many of the A5 scans just weren’t good enough to make the final cut – which is why this one of the Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace ended up in the ‘overs’ pile…
There were also lots of pictures of celebrities: Gordon Ramsay running the London Marathon; Dawn French strolling through Trafalgar Square; and a delightful close-up of Rolf Harris at an art fair, taken back when he was a much-loved family entertainer and adopted national treasure, rather than… well… you know…
Quick! Let’s change the subject – here’s that nice Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet…
Oh, and here’s another picture that didn’t make the book: writer and broadcaster Robert Elms interviewing a giant hamster…
So I took the opportunity to add a four-page postscript with a couple of new images: Roo‘s lovely wall from the Anything’s Better Than A Blank Wall paint jam, which was dedicated to Dad, earlier in the year; and Airborne Mark‘s beautiful Raven, a tribute wall to Dad, just round the corner from our house. Both of these were organised by the tireless Steve at London Calling Blog.
When I was first compiling the book, I tried to include as many works as possible from Dad’s favourite artists. But I had 33,000 images to choose from – and that’s just the ones he’d put on Flickr! (I’ve since found hundreds more that were just in albums.) Inevitably, there were a few glaring omissions in that first edition. I would list some of the more obvious names here – but I know I’d end up forgetting someone important again.
I will say, however, that Roo was among those omissions. Dad was always pleased to see her, and she’d happily stop work to talk to him. We took him to see her brilliant work in Tower Hamlets Cemetery a couple of months before he died. So I’m very pleased she’s in this new edition.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to squeeze a few more artists into the next print run – and eventually I can rest easy, knowing everyone’s in there. I wonder if the world is ready for a 33,000-page book, though…
We nipped home and grabbed a few copies, and after a few sales and some very kind donations, we had enough for our next contribution to St Christopher’s. Amazingly, that’s taken our total so far past £1,500. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped.
Hot on the heels of that, the good folks at St Christopher’s wrote a lovely feature about Gordon, Jane and our two books that are raising funds for the hospice. You can read it here: http://bit.ly/stcgraffitibook
We’ve said it before, but we’re amazed and proud that Gordon’s story and photos have touched as many people as they have. We couldn’t be more pleased that his legacy is living on and having such a positive impact.
Tomorrow’s a big day – our second-ever zine fest, and the first that’s not a single bus ride from our house. If you’re anywhere near the Workstation in Sheffield tomorrow (Saturday 18th May), please come and see us!
We’re really pleased to be launching two new bits of work: 3:52AM, a perzine of words and photography by VJ Sellar about the experience of insomnia; and Things My Dad Saw (But Never Bothered Mentioning), a collection of Gordon Gibbens’ photos of the stranger side of London life. Plus, we weren’t sure we were going to be able to pull this off, but there’ll be a special treat for fans of Tracey Pitcher…
* Obviously this egregious display of mutual back-scratching will do little to allay the suspicions of those who think we’re part of the Secret World Small Press Government.