FEAST PROJECT - Artist's Book

Notes on an Indulgence (part 1)

At the heart of this triadically manifested project are two distinct archives; one of words, the other, images. The latter is comprised of more than three hundred First Communion commemorative photographs collected by the artist, Christy Johnson. Presumably, most of these chemically encapsulated flesh eaters resided at one time in a family album or on a mantelpiece, then were passed down to heirs, discarded upon death, thrown away or sold, eventually finding their way to bins and boxes in markets, junk shops, antique and book stores across Europe and the Americas. The collection of words was the abridged outcome of taped interviews with thirty-three former first communicants. The facts recounted by these living witnesses seem no more genuine than those silent experiences trapped within the representations of shadowy whiteness frozen in credulity. Johnson compounded these two distinct archives into the artist’s book Feast: Christy Johnson and 33 Confessors and, together they tell a multifarious tale of seduction, revulsion and redemption. Strangers to one another, interviewee and pictured communicant unwittingly conspired to create an authentic fictional state through the fusion of a factual document with a true story.”

Catherine Clinger, “Notes on an Indulgence”
(in Studio Space: Christy Johnson)
Vertigo Magazine, 3 (Summer 2007): 28-9.

Feast: Christy Johnson and 33 Confessors is a performative proposition, where levels of enactment and re-enactment are in dialogue. Johnson is particularly interested in the document as a ritual space, and how the book form can become a site for discursive interplay.

She has created and drawn upon two distinct but related archives: found photographic imagery (the appropriated record) and contemporary spoken narratives whereby the past and present are brought into contact with each other. She has sought and collected hundreds of First Communion photographic images from various countries in the Americas and Europe. The anonymous portraits span the years 1877-1970. The bookwork features the photographs of prepubescent girls and explores their performative staging as 'virginal brides' for the public communal event, as well as the private photographic record. Alongside the visual archive, Johnson has conducted interviews with thirty-three women of differing social backgrounds and nationalities, ages and current involvement and position to religion. The edited text excerpts have been taken from the audio archive and juxtaposed with the found images in order to oppose, support, challenge, complement, contradict, subvert, or go beyond the meanings offered by the photographs themselves.

At the end of the work, three essays provide an interdisciplinary perspective on the project:

  • Archival Memories: Between History and Experience (pp.182-89) Margherita Sprio, Lecturer and Scheme Director MA Art and Film, Department of Art History and Theory, University of Essex, UK
  • Retrieval and Transmittal in a Fictive Photographic Experience (pp.190-97) Catherine Clinger, Visiting Professor of Art History, Department of Art and Art History, University of New Mexico, USA
  • All in White for the Feast: Whiteness in the Christian Imaginary (pp.198-205) Jenny Daggers, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies, Liverpool Hope University, UK

Christy Johnson
and 33 Confessors

© 2007 Christy Johnson


  • University College for the Creative Arts, UK
  • ISBN 978-1-870522-49-6
  • Hardback Edition of 1,000
  • 208 pages, b/w, 27.5 x 22 x 2 cm
  • Download sample spreads (PDF 779KB)


Download Acknowledgements
(PDF 30KB)


Distribution by Art Data, London, UK

Book available from Amazon and from bookartbookshop.

It has been distributed by Art Data to national art bookshops, museums and galleries.


Brittain, David (2007).
Recollections Mixed.
Eye Magazine, vol. 17, no. 65 p.41.

Clinger, Catherine (2007).
Notes on an Indulgence.
Vertigo, 3 no. 6, p. 28-9.

Clinger, Catherine (2007).
Emanation and Return: Archive as Liberator.
Afterimage, v. 35 no. 3, p. 36-7.

Langford, Martha. (2007).
Photographing Purity.
Source, issue 52, p. 74-6.

Langford, Martha. (2008).
Strange Bedfellows: Appropriations of the Vernacular by Photographic Artists.
Photography & Culture, v. 1, issue 1, p. 73-93.