This is a feature on BBC Radio Lancashire about the book on the bench by the canal. A note was left in the book to say it had been mentioned on the radio.
The Last Book
I returned all the books to the bench so they could be looked through and added the last book with a bit of decoration as a gift to thank those who collaborated in the creation of each book.
This was an intervention in various locations around Lancaster. I placed excercise books on benches stating that the book belonged to "The Bench and to all the people who sit here" and invited passers by to leave a drawing, message or respond to a question on the first page.
The concept for this project was explroing the need to share and what we are prepared to share when there is a possibilty of anyone finding it. Howver everyoene who does find it is united by being in the same place and slightly differnt times. It offers to chance to read and see drawings from people who were there before you and to leave a message for people who will arrive after you have gone. Thus we build a new relationship with place and changes the context of our understanding.
I put the books in four different locations around the city and awaited for the response.
The first one I put by the canal and initially I took it in each night and put it back out in the morning until I passed it and noticed someone had provided it with a sandwich bag for protection.
The same happened with the book on the bench on a street corner, a stranger put it in a bag.
This was particualrly touching in this area as there was some slightly more resentful messages in this book towards the action of leaving a book asking for peoples thoughts whilst they sat in this place where as by the canal the general response was very positve towards the book.
When these books became full I repleaced them with a new book this time asking "If you could be sat on this bench with anyone who would it be?". I decided to only replace the book if the previous one was still there.
I also put out another book further away by the river Lune asking again for drawings and stories of how people came to be in this place on the bench and one on bench on a platform at the train station. Both of these books were not there when I returned to check them a couple of days later. (However this may partly have been due to the fact I did not put them in waterproof protection and there was unexpected rain).
On returning the street corner for the second book this had also disappeared.
I chose to focus on the book beside the canal as this began to recieve recognition through word of mouth, on social media and local radio. This slightly changed the project as people began to set out with intention to find the book and add their contribution rather than just stumbling across it.
A message on the front of the second book stated that this one was full and they needed a new one so the third book asked what your ambition was at this moment. I think this was a less successful question as it was too far removed from the sharing of the place.
The final book had a very sparkly gift bow on top and expressed that this would be that last book I would put in the bench. This one returned to the question of hwo you came to be sat on this bench at this time and to share your stories. The bow was imprtant to me to express that the gesture of leaving these books was a gift to the people who find them to share and think in a new way possibly.
I questioned whether this was justifed as I left them as a result of my art project but I find no reason why it can't be both or why the fact I did it as art makes it any less an act of giving and sharing to be owned equally. This was affirmed to me when the radio feature contained more details that I ever would have mentioned.
Trust and anonymity are important in this project as the contributors could be anyone and therefore one must consider that the book could be seen by everyone. Through a collaboration and collection of stoires a truer voice is given to the place than I ever could alone. Suzi Gablik described
"an art that is more empathetic and interactive and comes from a gentle diffused mode of listening.. a kind of art that cannot be fully realised through monologue. It can only come into its own in dialogue, in open coversation in which one is obliged to listen and include other voices".
The artwork exsists in the physical book but also in peoples experience, memories and discussions.