Everyday Blake

Everyday Blake is part of the Blake 2.0 | Digital Reading Project at readers.blake2.org and is a series of resources that focus on the use of William Blake’s art and poetry in a variety of situations. Comprising databases of citations as well as research findings on how Blake is employed online, Everyday Blake is an exciting new project that intends to explore how his work continues to find a wider audience in the twenty-first century.

The aims of the Everyday Blake initiative are to explore all possible aspects of the appearance of Blake’s work in order to examine how those works are employed in often surprising contexts, and to promote and develop the understanding of Blake’s reception beyond the creative industries and academic communities. As Blake is often a mass-media phenomenon, so Everyday Blake will explore his appearance in the mass media as well as undertake reader-research projects to provide information on the use of Blake in the twenty-first century.

The first published elements of Everyday Blake include responses on a short online survey to collect data on how and where Blake is cited online. You can see the results of that survey at readers.blake2.org/survey-results/quotation-survey-results while the survey itself is still ongoing at readers.blake2.org/current-survey. This survey has already provided valuable information on how and why people have a particular interest in using Blake as part of their everyday lives, and is to be included into a forthcoming digital ethnographic investigation into the extreme popularity of Blake on Twitter and social networking media. Some of the data collected as part of that research will be made available in the first quarter of 2011 on the Digital Reading Project.

The second component of Everyday Blake to be made available is the CitationsBase, a collection of nearly 2,000 Blake citations that appeared online over 2010 and which will be added to on a regular basis and is published as the Blake Citations Index at readers.blake2.org/quotations/citations-index. The value of this information is that it provides an insight into how Blake is commonly used by newspapers, broadcasters, magazines, media and on forums, with information also being analysed according to the category of article in which it appears and its location. The information is searchable and is intended to offer a resource to researchers in particular who wish to have some understanding of how Blake is deployed on a daily basis from New York to Delhi, on topics as diverse as politics and sport. CitationsBase is powered by BlakeBASE, a Blake 2.0 database that will build into as comprehensive as possible a resource of information about William Blake.

Forthcoming projects for 2011 include what should be the largest ever investigation into reading and viewing habits to be launched by Easter 2011, as well as additions to BlakeBASE to provide searchable resources for those seeking out Blake’s works.

Image from “William Blake Month” on The Thought Experiment.

New editions of Visions of the Daughters of Albion

The William Blake Archive has published two new versions of Visions of the Daughters of Albion. The two new editions, copies E and I, join the nine editions previously published out of a possible seventeen surviving copies of Blake’s text.

Visions of the Daughters of Albion was first printed by Blake in 1793 and was the prophetic book most influenced by the work and ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft (click here to read more about the relationship between Blake and Wollstonecraft), providing an account of the rape and humiliation of Oothoon that drew comparisons between the domestic and sexual lives of women in eighteenth-century England and slavery. The book consists of eleven relief-etched plates and the new copies were produced during the first printing of 1793, although Blake returned to the book in the mid-1790s and even as late as 1818.

Blake used different coloured inks in these two versions – raw sienna in copy E and green in copy I. As the editors of the Blake Archive observe, this was probably to provide variety to his stock of copies and creates delicate effects across the different versions.

You can read about the new editions and view these and the other digitised versions online at the Blake Archive.

Blake 2.0 on Facebook

Blake 2.0 has now moved onto Facebook. Now you can keep up to date with news and information about William Blake, as well as related Blake 2.0 sites, from the ease of your Facebook account.

As well as regular posts and updates, there is information on Blake’s arts and this page will also become a hub for various educational resources and guides to studying Blake generally.

The Blake 2.0 Facebook page provides an opportunity for fans of William Blake to get involved in discussions about Blake, and if you are a member of Facebook why not become a fan at http://www.facebook.com/blake2.network.

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The William Blake Jukebox

The William Blake Jukebox is a Zoamorphosis/YouTube channel dedicated to bringing together clips and tracks dealing with Blake into one place.

The Zoamorphosis Jukebox offers some of the pleasures of accidental discovery of Blake. Simply load the Jukebox into your browser and follow the link to the first clip, which will change each time you refresh the page.

For those who wish to see all the relevant Blake clips, the YouTube channel is available at http://www.youtube.com/user/WilliamBlakeJukebox and features clips from groups and artists as diverse as Allen Ginsberg, Pete Doherty and the Belarussian death metal group, Ulver.

The William Blake Channel

zoasquareThe William Blake Channel has been launched on iTunes. This provides free podcasts from the Zoamorphosis | Blake 2.0 Blog direct to subscribers from the iTunes store.

If you are an iTunes user, you can download and listen to podcasts on different aspects of Blake’s reception by artists, musicians, writers and other figures, and these will be updated every week or so.

The William Blake Channel aims to be a definitive guide for anyone interested in how Blake’s work has been adopted and used since the artist’s death. In addition, it will provide readings of individual poems and artworks by Blake.

Click here to access the William Blake Channel (link requires iTunes to subscribe).

Events, exhibitions, releases February 2010

A number of new exhibitions and releases for 2010 demonstrate the continuing influence of William Blake in a variety of arts and formats.

One of the biggest events for the new year is the Chris Ofili exhibition at Tate Britain, but Blake is also present in the work of a number of other artists whose work has recently gone on display.

The Spanish conceptualist sculptor, Jaume Plensa, who in 1996 created Blake in Gateshead, a laser installation for the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art, recently unveiled a new collection at the Nasher Sculpture Center. One piece, Twenty-nine Palms, is a curtain of stainless steel letters that spell out passages from some of Plensa’s favourite poets, including Blake as well as Charles Baudelaire and Emily Dickinson. The exhibition, Jaume Plensa: Genus and Species, runs until May 2.

At the Dulwich Picture Gallery, a retrospective of the work of Paul Nash shows how the landscapes created by the artist betweeen 1911 and 1946 were influenced by Blake as well as Samuel Palmer, Nash seeking to forge his own idiosyncratic symbolic language in the style of the Romantic artist. Paul Nash: The Elements is open between February 10 and May 9. It is also possible to see some of Blake’s own work at the Picture of Us? Identity in British Art exhibition that is currently on at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield.

Beyond the visual arts, Blake has had a role to play in a number of new musical releases. The country singer John Goodspeed’s new album, A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C), compares Blake to Muddy Waters, while the third album by Midlake, The Courage of Others, cites Blake as a poetic influence. That influence is more than passing for the Danish group The William Blakes, who have released two albums and are becoming increasingly popular in Scandinavia where they are currently on tour.

One extremely significant event is Jez Butterworth’s new play, Jerusalem, currently showing at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London after its transfer from the Royal Court. Jerusalem deals with often-neglected, alternative forms of Englishness, and stars Mark Rylance as a drug-addled gipsy, Rooster Byron. Throughout the play, Blake is an important lodestone for the forgotten aspects of this often cynical green and pleasant land, and runs until April 24.

Perhaps the strangest influence of all, however, is the appearance of some of Blake’s visual ideas in the new game from Electronic Arts, Dante’s Inferno. Aiming to take gamers to Dante’s view of hell, a book of the game indicates clearly that Blake, along with Auguste Rodin and Gustave Doré, was one of the inspirations for the game design.

Milton published on Blake Archive

Another version of Blake’s Milton a Poem has been published on the Blake Archive. Copy D, from the Rosenwald Collection, Library of Congress, has now been added to join the three previous versions (A, B, and C).

The first of Blake’s two final great illuminated epics, along with Jerusalem, Milton a Poem represents the epitome of Blake’s art of book making. Work began on Milton in 1804 and by about 1811 Blake had engraved forty-five plates by about 1811, adding a further six plates by 1818. Of the four copies that survive, none contains all fift-one plates. One of the most famous of Blake’s lyrics, “And did those feet in ancient time” (later to become the words to the hymn “Jerusalem”), included in the Preface to Milton, only appears in the first two copies.

Inclusion of Copy D of the poem now means that the Blake Archive includes seventy-three copies of Blake’s nineteen illuminated books, as well as other manuscripts, drawings, paintings and illustrations.

External links:

http://www.blakearchive.org/exist/blake/archive/work.xq?workid=milton&java=no
http://blakearchive.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/publication-announcement-milton-a-poem-copy-d/

Marcondes’ Tyger

One particularly marvellous adaptation of Blake’s “The Tyger” is “Tyger” by Guilherme Marcondes, a Brazilian illustrator and animator who does commercial work for clients such as MTV, BBC and Nickleodeon, but also finds time to produce marvels such as this video short from 2006.

As Marcondes explains on his web site (http://www.guilherme.tv/tyger/about.htm), the project was commissioned by Cultura Inglesa (a branch of the British Council in Brazil) and won some twenty awards after it was released. The combination of puppetry, with two black-clad figures controlling the rampant tiger in a fashion reminiscent of Bunraku theatre, and animation with music by the group Zeroum creates a vivid piece where the people of Sao Paulo transform into fauna as the tiger passes by. In Marcondes’s own words:

Our intention isn’t to illustrate or pay homage to the original text. This is one of our favorite poems and Blake’s dystopian vision of the modern world is still strong. Although different from the other pieces in “Songs of Experience”, where “The Tyger” was originally published, this one gives us a hint of wonder along with a fear of progress. The tiger is as much dangerous as it is marvelous and this ambiguity makes us avoid the pure romantic negative vision of society.

A copy of “Tyger” can be downloaded from http://www.guilherme.tv/tyger/.

On Blakes we want and Blakes we forgot…

When first working on materials towards Blake 2.0, I encountered a site that has become something of a warning about immersing oneself in the delights of technology as a panacea for the difficulties of serious and substantial research. The Blake Multimedia Project is available online as a relic of new media technologies from 1994-5. Casting my mind back to that period (when, on a personal note, I had only just begun to encounter the Internet in any serious way via a very slow 14.4K modem), this would have been quite a revolutionary project, and it draws attention to the ways in which technology has changed dramatically in the past decade or more.

Multimedia Blake imageProduced by Steve Marx  and Doug Smith at the Interactive Learning Institute, CalPoly, the project involved students using hypertext editions of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Songs of Innocence and of Experience and of The Book of Thel among others. As they were produced using Hypercard on a Mac, I cannot actually view more than the sample pages uploaded as image files to the site. This immediately tells me volumes about the dangers of relying on new media technologies.

(A brief aside: in 1998/9, I was involved in a project to transfer Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Des to CD-ROM. For this project, we used Director – version 6 if I remember correctly – which at that time was the leading technology for producing interactive discs. During development, the release of a new version of Quicktime meant that I had to redesign certain animated pages to work correctly with the program. A year after release, Microsoft released a new version of Windows with different core directories and files which meant earlier version of Director no longer worked. Since then, I have developed a phobia to working with proprietary technologies that can become obsolete in a matter of months).

Returning to the Multimedia Blake project, there are some extremely interesting features about this project. At that time, Hypercard (along with similar applications such as Storyspace) was much more advanced than hypertext: theorists such as George Landow were completely enthusiastic about its potential, and compared to vanilla web sites available at the time, this would certainly have offered been much more fascinating to use. I particularly like the fact that students had some ability (however limited) for interaction, and this certainly would have been an extremely innovative project at the time – as far as I can see from the screenshots.

And yet, although only some 15 years old, this site is as esoteric as the Camden-Hotten forgeries. Stated plainly, it does not work (a common problem of digital technologies – cf. the BBC project to transfer the Domesday Book to optical disc in the 1980s – now a technology so redundant that there are few, if any, players that can read it). The original hypercard system, as far as I can see, allowed users to compare text and gloss with plates within the same virtual space – not so revolutionary now but a fairly important development at the time. It was supplanted within a couple of years by the Blake Archive, so there would have been very little incentive to update it, meaning that this very quickly became a Blake that we forgot.