by George Kaplan

october 02, 2020

With new Covid restrictions just around the corner (here in France) or already in place (the UK), your Isolation User’s Manual is just what we need. How did you come up with the idea?

The idea for the manual was borne out of frustration with mixed messaging from a government claiming that everything was perfectly clear and straightforward as to how people should conduct themselves during the pandemic. I also knew people who were shielding, including some whose mental health was really suffering. I had also recently come across the work of Czech poet and artist Jiří Kolář who worked under the communist regime until he was forced to emigrate by his government.  A contemporary of Vaclav Havel, he produced literary and collage work which mimicked aspects of communist dicta. I wanted to play with some of these ideas and visually referencing Kolář ’s “A User Manual” seemed promising.

Why is it signed George Kaplan and not Geoff Litchfield?

George Kaplan is the name of a fictitious artist created by myself and a small number of my peers during our Fine Art degree course in the late 70’s. In recent years I resurrected him in order to post some work more anonymously but in addition, free myself from over analysis and restrictions I inadvertently and subconsciously was placing on myself. It seemed fitting to use him for the manual.

week 3

Get up
according to your normal routine
Wash all your clothes
and put out to dry
Make a list of all your essential contacts
Retrieve playing cards
and other solo games
from the back of the cupboard
Devise an online
general knowledge quiz
week 6
New Orders

Get up
according to your normal routine
Stand in a corner
of each room
in your house or flat
March slowly
to each corner
starting to your left,
counting your paces
Count the total number of steps
and divide by the number of rooms
Resolve to order
this number of items
Multiply this number by your age
Reread government health advice

week 9

Get up
according to your normal routine
Design a new colour scheme
for each room in your house or flat
Using coloured pens and paper
relabel all spare tins of paint
with the wrong colour
Make a line of shoes
and paint stripes
of different colours on each shoe
week 12
New Normal

Get up
and put dirty clothes
in the sink
Find a corner of a room
and stay there thinking
of green cattle
Make a hot drink
and let it go cold
Place the mug in the sink
emptying the contents
onto the clothes
Go back to bed

Is there any way for people who really need a manual like this to get their hands on it? Are you open to maybe a little collage in exchange for a copy?

I am happy for anyone to have a copy of the manual. It’s for public information after all! An exchange of a small collage would be lovely but absolutely not essential.

Do you already have plans or projects for a possibly very confined winter?

I have two differing projects lined up in case of further lockdown. I have recently obtained a copy of the “Illustrator-like” program Inkscape and am determined to find time to learn to use it effectively. I need to extend myself beyond the safety blanket of PhotoShop! The second is to complete a long term collage project which involves a reworking of a vintage booklet of sepia prints of the Tivoli Gardens. The aim is to have a purely analogue version alongside a digital companion. It also involves textual work and whilst it has a kind of non-linear narrative, much is evolving through allowing the intervention of chance and the haphazard.

Isolation - A User’s Manual
by George Kaplan a.k.a. Geoff Litchfield
[you can read a past interview with Geoff here]