Tac Talks with Nick Bantock, the famed creator of Griffin & Sabine and author of THE CORSET & THE JELLYFISH

We welcome the famed creator of Griffin & Sabine and author of THE CORSET & THE JELLYFISH, Nick Bantock for the latest Tac Talk, an occasional series of essays by Tachyon creatives. In this piece, Nick explores what he has been trying to achieve in his work.

Author photo of Nick Bantock by David Borowman
Photo by David Borowman

The Fundamental Question

Nick Bantock

Funny how in all the years I’ve been creating books, in all the interviews and with all the audience questions, no one has ever asked me the fundamental question, “What is it you’ve been trying to achieve with your work?”

Maybe it’s just as well, because, in the early days I wouldn’t have known how to reply.

In hindsight, here’s my response:

With Griffin and Sabine, I was trying to bring together words and images in a way that united opposing aspects of our perception…I badly needed to form a dialogue between my logical and intuitive sides.

Purely in terms of the fiction, I wanted to use the intimacy of correspondence to express the longing that most of us experience. The longing to be seen and accepted. *Ironically the envelopes which became the books trademark, were simply devices to magnify the reader/viewer’s sense of participation.

In The Venetian’s Wife, as in G and S, I tried to continue the theme of linked text and art. Back then (1993) email was in its infancy, and I wanted to create a modern story, that showed the potential for electronic correspondence. To do this I borrowed Arthur Koestler’s term, ‘A Ghost in the Machine’, as a way of honouring wisdom from the past, and showing that new technology without meaningful content was pretty hollow.

The Egyptian Jukebox. Was a puzzle played with stories and shadow boxes. In some ways it was a continuation of the theme that each of us needs to balance our visual and cerebral capabilities if we are to solve our problems.

In The Forgetting Room I was hoping to show the bridge between our ancestors and our current lives. I was also making a plea for the importance of art, trying to show that it is often the glue that binds our civilization. As it happens, I wrote the book at a really difficult time of my life, and the act of creating it probably kept me glued together.

Urgent 2nd Class and The Trickster’s Hat, were both give-backs. I wanted to share what I’d learned in my career as an artist and writer. I don’t believed in the notion that artists need to protect their methods, in fact I believe the opposite. I’ve been highly privileged to have lived an artist’s life and, as I see it, part of my job is to pass-on what I’ve learned.

The Pop-up books were different, they were more specific. Jabberwocky, Wings and Kubla Khan all had different agendas. Jabberwocky was a homage to nonsense made 3D. Wings was an active tool to show kids and adults the mechanics of flight. (I made the book because I couldn’t find anything out there that explained basics aerodynamics). And Kubla Khan, that was an indulgence. Having been told that pop-ups and literature didn’t mix, I wanted to prove that they could, if a publisher willed it.

The Corset & the Jellyfish

And so to my latest offerings, and why I’ve made them. THE CORSET & THE JELLYFISH is a response to our short attention spans, the lack of succinct storytelling in our culture, and the inevitable demise of precise articulation that texting has brought to us. The Corset is a series of one hundred, 100 word stories, that try to use language as short, fine-tuned entertainments. In other words, writing a tale with a beginning, a middle and an end, inside a single soundbite.

As for The River, it’s a Jungian card deck that follows on from The Archeo. The Archeo was a tool to tease-out our archetypes, so that they were available to help us navigate our daily lives. The River is also a practical tool, but this time, a device to help us develop our visual intuition, rather than rely on language and (patriarchal) logic. The deck is meant to help us grow our internal landscape, which in turn helps us maintain a healthy psyche.

And there you have it, the circle, the thing that ties all my books together, is my desire to show that we gain nothing from shrinking our horizons, and gain everything from expanding our peripheral vision and widening our self-expectation.