The Epsom Archive is home to a variety of artists books and I have chosen one to investigate, literally at random, with eyes closed dipping into a box.
I pulled out 87 Octane.
‘87 Octane’ created by Norwegian illustrator Maria Midttun is a risograph printed book comprising of text and drawings.
The book starts with ‘An attempt to make no-sense of the disappearance of Aage Moystad 11th of April 1940. Dedicated to the one he left behind; Anne Marie’
The artists book is in response to conversations with her Grandmother surrounding the disappearance of her father on a fateful day in 1940 following a bombing raid. The artist seeks to create a fantastical story to explain the disappearance.
The story starts with a character, driving in the night through a range of mountains. The character (presumably the father) is curious as he wears a large witch type hat and what appears to be sunglasses, despite the darkness. It’s evident from the gauge that he has nearly run out of petrol but he continues along zig zagging roads through a range of mountains. Then disaster strikes, he’s out of petrol. He takes a can from the boot of the car and starts to walk along the dark road. His sunglasses give a reflection of the road ahead but this could be interpreted as on egg timer, as if his time was running out. As he’s walking, the illustrations take on a more sinister feeling with the mountains having eyes and the darkness seeming to envelope him. After walking some distance, he peers over his sunglasses and sees the welcoming lights of a service station. Upon arrival, he begins to fill his petrol can with ’87 Octane’. Suddenly, the character looks shocked. The following four illustrations (which change to burgundy and pink colours) show the character vaporise and disappear; leaving just the hat. Another car driving along the same road approaches the service station. The driver starts to fill his car with petrol from the same pump where the hat and petrol still mysteriously lie. The final illustrations are of the second driver continuing his journey; the car billowing out fumes which contain the face and sunglasses of the father. Is this what happened that fateful night?
The book is currently on display in the archive room and is just part of an extensive range of artists books.
Tiffany Gregory, Library Adviser.