The nine books are arranged in a three by three grid. Each book is operated by an electronic page turner. The project is sited in a darkened space where four red vinyl chairs are arranged facing the books, across an expanse of white furry carpet. A single touch screen allows you to control the page turners while the other visitors spectate.
The books display a collection of pornographic images, some chosen and some made by the members of Blast Theory. All the images – including those made by Blast Theory – are available on the internet. Each image is spread across all nine books so that individual books only show one ninth of each image.
When you enter the installation, you are presented with a selection of fragments from this collection of images. Using the touch screen you select which fragments to keep and which to change. The page turners then begin to move – some to the left, some to the right. As they do so, arresting juxtapositions of body parts are created. Over time it is possible to assemble fragments into a kind of coherence but to create a complete image across all nine books is always out of reach.
An Explicit Volume uses internet imagery in tension with handmade books as a way of investigating the effect that different media have on our viewing. From A Clockwork Orange (by Anthony Burgess and Stanley Kubrick) to Crash (by JG Ballard and David Cronenberg) and on to the internet, we have seen censorship issues vary according to the medium in which material is available. The term “volume” in the title refers both to a book and to the space used to store files on a computer.
Central to these anxieties is the issue of control. The unregulated internet poses particular problems for those wishing to supervise the public. An Explicit Volume enacts this problem by giving the user the responsibility of choosing what to reveal. Other witnesses feel the pleasures and frustrations of passivity, bringing to bear their own criteria about what is acceptable or desirable. That viewers must watch the books from a distance, that the touch screen tightly scripts the range of options available and that the machines do the turning accentuates this tension between control and passivity.
An Explicit Volume was shown as part of OctoberFest in association with Battersea Arts Centre in London in 2001 and has been presented at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull as part of ROOTX 2002 and at The Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre as part of Fierce! festival in 2002. It was supported by London Arts Board and the National Touring Programme through the Arts Council of England.