If you’ve never heard of the venerable old British fine artist named Tom Phillips, I’m not surprised. I had no idea who he was until Lucy Drury, artist Ben Drury’s wife, sent along an email with an image of his work. After all, his name’s not as recognizable as a KAWS or a Barry McGee… but once you download his app, maybe that’ll change.
The artist, the Royal Academician, writer and composer… a Member of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers and Engravers… is a multi-faceted character and A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel is a testament to this work. Phillips set upon a task in 1966, to find a second-hand book for threepence and alter every page by painting, collage and cut-up techniques to create an entirely new version, he stumbled upon an obscure 1892 Victorian book at a junk shop titled A Human Document by W.H. Mallock. The first version of his altered version was published in 1973 and since then, there have been three more. A Hum(an) (Doc)ument: Humument, is now one of the best known and loved of all 20th century artist’s books and regarded as a seminal classic of postmodern art. Take that threepence!!
This Victorian/Postmodern classic is now getting a push into the future. The Humument App developed for the iPad by Tom Phillips with technical assistance from John Bowring now brings the 367 full-colour pages to your digital finger tips. Using The Oracle program, two pages are pulled from random and generated side by side, with predictions that act as “guides,” but we’ll leave the interpretation of it all up to you.
“He’s (Tom Phillips) been around for years and has generated a pretty amazing body of work as well as amassing an incredible collection of African art. Seeing the commitment he has made to his artistic life is inspirational, daunting, and makes me question whether I’d be cut out for that life myself.” -Ben Drury