Elisabeth Tonnard: A Dialogue in Useful Phrases

13/11/2012 – 01/12/2012

“They had no conversation properly speaking. They made use of the spoken word in much the same way as the guard of a train makes use of his flags, or of his lantern.” Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

Elisabeth Tonnard presents A Dialogue in Useful Phrases, a sound installation based on her artist’s book of the same title. The book, published in 2010, was awarded the Special Jury Prize in the Sheffield International Artist’s Book Prize 2011. Jurors were Maria White (Tate Library), Sarah Bodman (The Centre for Fine Print Research at UWE) and John Clark (Bank Street Arts).

The book is based on ‘conversational phrases’ appropriated from Grenville Kleiser’s handbook Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases. In a simple gesture, Kleiser’s conversational phrases starting with ‘I’ were taken and placed opposite those starting with ‘you’. The ‘I’ phrases are on the left pages of the book, the ‘you’ phrases on the right. A dialogue is formed from the random meetings of these phrases.

The sound installation uses audio files found on Project Gutenberg of volunteers reading the Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases. By taking the found recordings of both the ‘you’ and the ‘I’ phrases and placing them opposite each other, an unexpected dialogue is revealed.

In an adjacent room an earlier work based on Kleiser’s classic will be on view: Interior Monologue. This unbound artist book pairs images of Parisian apartment interiors from a real-estate catalogue with ‘literary phrases’ from Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases. The project presents abandoned remnants of speech, paired to images that are likewise abandoned: orphaned photos from a real-estate catalogue, snapped by ever so many unidentified photographers.

Further artist books by Elisabeth Tonnard will be also available to view.

Elisabeth Tonnard is a poet and visual artist from The Netherlands. She works in the fields of artists’ books, photography and conceptual writing. Since 2003 she has published twenty-one books, which are included in numerous public collections, amongst which the Tate Library, the University of the Arts and The Poetry Library. She was awarded the Jury Prize in the Sheffield International Artist’s Book Prize 2011, and her book ‘In this Dark Wood’ was listed as one of the best photobooks of 2009 on Photo-eye and also received an award in the 2010 Photography Book Now Competition. Tonnard holds an MA in Literature from the Radboud University in The Netherlands and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York. She exhibits internationally and is a member of ABC Artists’ Books Cooperative. For more information: www.elisabethtonnard.com.