Watch Words: John Furnival and Text (as) Art

deadline for submissions: 
March 25, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Greg Thomas, Natalie Ferris, Jeremy Millar / Royal College of Art

Watch Words: John Furnival and Text (as) Art

Royal College of Art, London, 25 March 2022.

Submission deadline 31 January 2022 (expressions of interest asap): johnfurnivalsymposium@gmail.com @watchwords22

Supported by the Paul Mellon Foundation

The English text-artist John Furnival (1933-2020), who died last year, made extraordinary contributions to a number of national and international movements at the juncture of text and image. These include Kinetic Art, Mail Art, British Pop Art, Book Art, and the global Concrete Poetry movement. Furnival also worked with, and influenced, a number of important graphic designers and typographers such as Edward Wright. Today, Furnival’s practice continues to excite and inspire, and bears relevance to a number of contemporary critical discourses and paradigms within art theory and history, including new materialisms and conceptions of the post-digital.

Watchwords: John Furnival and Text (as) Art is an interdisciplinary one-day symposium, co-organised by Dr. Natalie Ferris, Lecturer in Post-1945 Literature at the university of Durham and Dr. Greg Thomas, author of Border Blurs: Concrete Poetry in England and Scotland (Liverpool UP, 2019) in collaboration with the Writing MA at the Royal College of Art. The art press Bricks From The Kiln will produce an accompanying special edition of their journal series celebrating Furnival’s life and work and exploring his relevance to British and international art history, featuring creative and critical contributions from symposium participants and contemporary artists and poets.

Our confirmed keynotes are the writer Eley Williams, author of Attrib. and Other Stories ,winner of the 2018 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and Professor Stephen Bann, Emeritus Professor of History of Art at the University of Bristol and editor of Concrete Poetry: An International Anthology (1967). We are also delighted to be welcoming textile artist Astrid Furnival, John’s frequent collaborator, and his curator and publisher Bernard Moxham.

Possible topics for papers – which should be rooted in an engagement with John and/or Astrid Furnival’s practice – include but are not limited to:

·         Concrete poetry

·         Mail art

·         Small press practice

·         Kinetic art and constructivism

·         British pop art

·         Typography

·         Collaboration and pedagogy

·         Cut-up and machine poetry

·         Neo-dada and intermedia art

·         Book art

·         Textile and fibre arts

·         Craft as critical practice

·         Subversive stitching

·         Feminist craft

·         Craft and ecology

·         West-country and regional avant-gardes

·         Post-war avant-gardes

·         Text art and new materialisms

·         Post-digital making

·         Communication and media, Marshall McLuhan and after

·         Cybernetics and information theory

·         Social and cultural history of the post-war

·         Sociologies of small press culture

·         Artistic and literary practices – contemporary or historical – informed by the Furnivals’ work

200-word abstracts for 15-20 minute papers should be sent to JohnFurnivalSymposium@gmail.com before 31 January 2022. However, participants are asked to respond with expressions of interest as soon as possible.