In June-July 2016, I was the third participant in the Institute of Cultural Inquiry's ongoing residency series entitled With Everything But the Monkey's Head. The project goal is to build a theory of visual research by examining actual practice-based research projects in progress. I began my residency with the initial task of reflecting on how a prior residency in 2011 had affected my subsequent practice as an artist who has long been heavily invested in research. One major way it changed things was that it led me to dive deeply into creating pages for 'missing' women and people of color on Wikipedia— over 200 in just the past couple of years. And that led in turn to the several projects I undertook in my intensive three-week Monkey's Head residency, culminating with a finissage on July 9.
Lab book and blog posts
The first thing I did was make a lab book for the residency. It started out as a mix of old images of my work (for inspiration) and blank pages, spiral-bound for ease of use. By the time the residency finished, there were only a few blank pages left at the end. Halfway through the residency, the ICI put the lab-book-in-progress up on Issuu, as a research publication.
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During the residency, I wrote a few blog posts for the ICI's VIR blog, on the letter 'w', on one of those telling dreams that turn up from time to time, and on the idea of the 'human subject'.
Monkey Encyclopedia 'W'
My main project for the residency was to compile an idiosyncratic mini-encyclopedia based on the Wikipedia biographies I have written. I organized it through the letter 'w' because I realized that three words beginning with that letter have dominated the past several years of my life: women, Wikipedia, and writing. I called it the Monkey Encyclopedia because it addressed the perversities of the encyclopedia form in general and of Wikipedia in particular. It incorporated the images that can't be put on Wikipedia because of draconian copyright regimes; it included a running commentary on systemic gender bias in Wikipedia; and it put forward a lot of unvarnished opinions. Moreover, every entry was placed under a word or phrase beginning with 'w'; figuring those out was a great deal of fun. This 100-page handmade book was also spiral-bound.
The Stackhouse Project
One of the women I wrote up for Wikipedia was a British botanical artist named Emily Stackhouse, who contributed hundreds of images to several best-selling field guides in the mid 19th century. I began a print project based on her work which has since expanded so that it now has its own page.
Out of the Archive
The last element of my residency occurred to me as a result of thinking about how so many of the women I had written about made work that was some combination of uncredited, unavailable, or unpublished. So I decided to launch a low-key crowd-sourced project to create a public list of manuscripts in archives that remain unpublished, as a way to encourage and facilitate their release as digital files or simple epubs. I created a set of posters for the finissage on the theme of uncredited-unavailable-unpublished and wrote a blog post announcing the Out of the Archive project. That post contains a seed list of unpublished manuscripts I've come across in the course of my Wikipedia research and writing. Please contact me if you're interested in participating in the project in any way.