Fifty-Three husbands, guest publication - Karoline Lange and JOAN Publishing
Perhaps now is the time to mention my habit of leaning my pelvis against the railings of bridges, feeling the pressure of the water thump through timbers, my standing-up-self overcome by vibration of currents and tides. I free the horse to feast alone on the brackish grasses of Hodogaya. With small but expectant joy, I walk slowly over the bridge to choose the spot to lean over, hair flopping forward to cover face. Here is my chance to mingle and move fluid and flesh with wood over water, the fierce footsteps of soldiers entering my womb, in line with the engineer’s design.
A journey is undertaken by a woman fleeing from an unspecified danger, in the company of a weak-bladdered shiryō or spirit. The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō, a series of woodcut prints by Hiroshige depicting views of the coastal highway to Kyoto, frames their travels. Riding through these rearranged landscapes, the two companions rest up overnight at traditional post-stations to reflect on brief but intimate attachments to pine trees, bridges and grasshoppers. Films scenes spotlight unseen obstacles such as infidelity, disease and radioactivity encountered along the road.
Karoline Lange’s early preoccupation with traditional printmaking led to a cross-disciplinary art practice straddling social history, literature and DIY publishing. Current writing is wrangling local counterculture along an ancient Roman route from Blackheath to Parliament. She is a community film programmer for Deptford Cinema.
Fifty Three husbands invites you to float, fly & plunge into the rabbit hole of Kurasawa and Ozu, to roll about in blended hues of those hot woodcuts. The physicality of Karoline Lange’s words enter one’s bones like damp blotting paper - no room for leaky, incontinent language - words as sharp as a beak. A narrator is accompanied by one of Cab Calloway’s elastic formless ghosts with a weak bladder. Max Fleischer details wobbling and bubbling, jumping and popping like squirrels super-glued to the bird feeder, delivered by a deadpan Buster Keaton. Dietary instructions from Mazdaznan, Galen & Apicius bounced into the multi-morphic language of cartoon landscapes. Sooooooo good!
– Oona Grimes
Why limit that special sex, the one-to-one, the lifelong love, to mankind? Karoline Lange’s tenderness and partiality for the particular – from the sound of folded cloth to a nocturnal viewing platform for a giant Redwood – comprise the multifarious matrimonies of this exquisite book. Looking with Lange’s eyes at the scenes Hiroshige saw with his, Mount Fuji becomes a bit player and the stage is occupied by a new cast of characters: vigorous tradesmen with green panicles, processions of pompoms. Carried bodily by Lange’s prose, like the companionable Shiryo spirit in her saddlebag, in Fifty Three Husbands we learn for better for worse, richer or poorer, the things that stay with us.
– Isabel Seligman
I sat and read it cover to cover in one go and will now likely start again. Just wonderful.
- Emma Bolland