Raiders Of The Lost Crap

Raiders Of The Lost Crap

The second that Gary Reuter yanks up the green sliding metal door of a self-storage unit, the pack of hunters turns on its dozen flashlights.

There are 11 men and one woman, all around retirement age. Most wear canvas jackets or windbreakers, their heads topped with wool caps or wide-brimmed felt Western hats. They hold their industrial Black & Decker LED-beam flashlights over their heads and lean into the dark locker, like spelunkers peering into a cave. They bend to the left and right, moving around each other for a better view, taking care not to step over the concrete threshold of the doorway…

Why Do You Collect because i got to have all toys



Installation Photos – Oleksiuk

Here are a few of the photos I took during the installation of the class show at Mess Hall. If anyone needs any of these photos removed, please let me know. Enjoy.

Shout Out for CHICAGOPEX 2008 – Nov 21-23, 2008

1856 Chicago ILL. to Kankakee City paid the 3 cent domestic letter rate

1856 Chicago ILL. to Kankakee City paid the 3 cent domestic letter rate

November 21-23, 2008
Hours: F 10-6, Sa 10-6, Su 10-4

Sheraton Chicago Northwest
3400 West Euclid Av
Arlington Heights, IL  60005

CHICAGOPEX 2008 is the 122nd annual exhibition of the Chicago Philatelic Society, and is annually the largest stamp show in the Midwest. Over 4800 pages of philatelic material will be on display, and 75 dealers including the United Nations Postal Administration and the United States Postal Service will be in attendance. Both the show and parking are free. This year the theme of CHICAGOPEX is “Enjoy Scandinavian Culture”, as we will be hosting the Scandinavian Collectors’ Club as well as the Mobile Post Office Society and the Auxiliary Markings Club.

The 300 frame exhibition is an American Philatelic Society “World Series of Philately” show, so the grand award winner will be eligible for the APS’ Champion of Champions in 2009. Among the exhibits are Eliot Landau’s “Lincoln, Slavery and the Civil War” which is on its way to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum to help commemorate Lincoln’s birth bicentennial in 2009. Also this year in addition to the many fine dealers (the bourse is sold out again this year), Regency-Superior will be holding an auction at the event.

If you attend one stamp show event in your lifetime, CHICAGOPEX 2008 is the place to be! I will be hanging out in the Youth Booth (Lake Ontario room) most of the time where kids can get free stamps. If you stop by, please come say “Hello”; if I am not around ask someone.

If you want to whet your appetite on postal history and philately, and those collecting disciplines’ specific relationship to mail art and artistamps, check out:

More info at:

Here is the list of the traditional exhibits; many local stamp clubs will also be participating with one-frame exhibits:

First Day Covers in the Mailstream
Auxiliary Markings of the German Colonies and Offices Abroad (CPS Member Showcase)
20th Century U. S. Auxiliary Markings Documenting Delay of, or Inability to Deliver, the Mail: The First 50 Years (Court of Honor)
Got Postage?
Twisted Caps – Twisted Mail
Post Office Forms: U. S. Registered Mail 1867-1910
Forgeries of Japanese Postage Stamps
Lithuania 1918-1944 and from 1990
Colonial Central America
Unofficial Registration of Mail in the U. S. 1845-1855
Air Letter Sheets (Aerogrammes) of Trinidad & Tobago 1943-1988
Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Series of 1945-46 and Its First Day Covers
In Celebration of the Centenary of the United States – Great Britain Transatlantic Penny Post, 1 Oct. 2008
Count Zeppelin’s Airships – The Pioneer Period
The First Three U. S. Postal Issues Designed at the B.E.P. 1898-1902
‘Groszy’ Provisional Issues of Poland 1950-1952 and Their Use
German New Guinea 1888-1914
The Murder of Lidice
The Small Heads of the First Definitive Set of the USSR 1923-1927
The Sportsman – Hunter, Angler, and Trapper
Postal Artifacts of the Holocaust
German North Atlantic Catapult Airmail 1929-1935
Evolution of the American Public Library
Washington and Franklin Coils 1914 Issue Perf. 10
Washington and Franklin Coils Rotary Press Issues 1914-1922
United States Prexies – A Rate Study
Forerunners of the Holyland
Revenue Imprinted Railroad Tickets of the Spanish American War Era
Mahatma Gandhi – His Place in India and the World
Prohibition: The Road To, Through, and Out of the Noble Experiment
Christmas Dinner at the Portland Hotel, Portland, OR 1914
Straightline Cancels on Confederate General Issue Stamps
The Development of Electronic Postage
American & British Military Use of Railway Post Offices in 1898 to 1920 (CPS Member Showcase)
Imperial Postmarks of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, Chelyabiask to Manchzhyriya
Railway Postmarks of Illinois to 1882
Postmarks of the Traveling Post Offices of Luxembourg
Scandinavian Volunteers in Finland during the Winter War (CPS Member Showcase)
Scandinavian Participation in Wars of the Early Twentieth Century (CPS Member Showcase)
Danish West Indies Mail: 1748-1879 (Court of Honor)
Mail between Norway and Denmark
Denmark: Conscience, Conflict, and Camps 1932-1949
Slesvig: from Danish Duchy to Prussian Province 1587-1867
Denmark: The Christian X Issues of the 1940s and Their First Day Covers
Canceled Lund
Finnish Railway to St. Petersburg 1870-1918
Sweden – The Medallion Definitives, 1910-1919
Usage of the Ring Stationery of Finland 1891-1911
The Local Stamps of Sweden 1856-1872
The First Postage Stamps of Scandinavia – Denmark, Norway, Sweden
The Three Skilling Posthorn
Iceland: King Christian IX Issue

– Andrew Oleksiuk – Board Member – Chicago Philatelic Society

Tim and Beth Kerr’s Halloween Home

Greetings from my last night in Austin, Texas. I’m here with Temporary Services for an exhibit at a space called testsite. One part of our project was to do interview booklets on the band The Dicks and with Tim Kerr (of Big Boys, Poison 13, Lord High Fixers and many other bands). We never got a chance to see any Dicks members who are still alive and/or in Austin but we had lots of time to spend with Tim Kerr, and as an added ultra punk bonus, we got to have lunch and hang out with Ian McKaye for a few hours while he was in town for a talk.

This morning, before going to one of many Mexican brunches, we briefly stopped at Tim and Beth’s house. They’ve lived there since the early 1980’s and their home is an incredible overwhelming trove of toys, music stuff, records, books, art by Tim and many other people, old Halloween costumes and punk rock and other music memorabilia. In a “Voodoo Shrine” – which I probably should have photographed – there were items that past house guests added like old fingerless skeleton gloves that Glenn Danzig contributed many years ago.

Here is the Halloween section of the house. Pretty much all of the house is filled with mini collections within collections but this area was a little extra focused:


The fridge:


Extra punk rock bonus: Alternate drawing for the cover of Minor Threat’s “Out of Step”:


Posted by Marc Fischer

Scrappers – Mary Robnett












Set inside Chicago’s labyrinth of alleyways, Scrappers tells the stories of three men who support their families scavenging discarded metal with brains, brawn and battered pickup trucks. The film will be a feature length documentary that situates scrapping within the global marketplace through a verite style and a deep sense of emotional immediacy.

The filmmakers met while studying at the University of Chicago, and were key crew members on two other feature length films now in distribution: Thax, which premiered at the 2007 Chicago Underground Film Festival and is available through Golden Age Gallery, and Crime Fiction, which premiered at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival and is available through Anthem DVD.

I attended a benefit for Scrappers earlier this year, and got a chance to watch some clips from the film (which I believe is still in post-production). You can read more about the film and find resources for scrap metal enthusiasts here.

Assignment #5 Archive of Contemporary History

            Whatever the intention of the artist was in starting the collection, one of the major differences between an artist’s collection and that of a non-artist’s is whether or not the collection results in exhibition.  Once the collection is exhibited, it becomes a piece of artwork—the viewers need to pay admission fee to the museum, they are not allowed to touch the display, and are prohibited from singling out an item and purchasing it. 

While participants may be required to pay admission to swap meets and the vendors could be particular about the fashion they display their collection, the main audience of the exhibition, be it a small vending stall, is still collectors.  The vendors assume knowledge from the visitors to some extent, and they interact with each other face to face.  In another words, the exhibitor and the audience are both on the same platform.  The nature of the collection is more versatile than that of an artist’s: it is not sacrosanct and the number of the items could change, and so could the value of the items.

Similarly, a collector displaying his collection will not make him an artist.  He could be an authority in the field, and the items on display may not be on sale.  The collector may not always be present at the exhibition site, and the relationship between the collector and the viewer may be more distant.  Yet, the nature of the collection still remains to be a hobby: it is usually not regarded with any values outside the field.  A few pieces from a collection of rocks may gain attention from geologists, but the collector himself will not be called a geologist.  A collection of antique furniture could be praised for its beauty even from those ignorant of the field, but the collector will not be called an aesthetician.

What makes a collection an artwork, then, is perhaps the uniqueness in the categorization of the collected items.  “Archive of Contemporary History” by Karsten Bott is a collection of everyday artifacts.  The amount of the collection is in itself overwhelming.  And since the collection is so vast and cannot be labeled easily, it does require some interpretation from the audience.  However, what makes Bott an installation artist is the uniqueness of the display and the categorization of the items. 

Bott claims to spend a lot of time inputting data of his collected objects to the database, creating links and cross-references.  Though the categorization is not shown with the display, the continuation from one object to the other next to it is somewhat obvious, whether it is neat lines of objects related to plumbing, or a group of plates that comprise a part of a huge display that viewers see from a bridge.  Most items are not unusual when taken out from the collection, and therefore the value of the collection is not the rarity of the items.  Rather, it is the context that the collected objects create in the display that matters, and Bott himself is very aware of this effect: “I put a structure on the collection of my archive that defines things other than alphabetically.  I am humanizing these things. It’s like a giant polka.”(The Cincinnati Enquirer, Sunday, May 5, 2002) 

The effect of unique categorization is more explicit in Bott’s book, “One of Each.”  The title already illustrates his ideas about categorization, with some mockery.  Selecting 2000 items from over 500,000 items he owns, he attempts to create a sense of compiling an exhaustive encyclopedia by choosing objects that best represents the category.  His idea of classifying the objects is more apparent since the items are labeled in the book, and displays how he defies and mocks the conventional categorization.  He brings his personal perspective into the exhibition of his collection, and he makes viewers to accept that perspective.





700 Obama covers

Here’s a link that’s going around that is a pretty wild collection — 700-some covers from publications announcing Obama’s victory:


Kris Kuksi – Jeremiah Spofford

After we talked about Chris Burden in class and his grey lamp posts I remembered Kris Kuksi and his found object assemblage.  He collects all sorts of toys, models and dolls, paints them and arranges them into landscapes/reliefs reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch.   


Hans Peter feldmann, Mike Kelley, Christian Boltanski-Maria Jönsson

I’m interested in the differences and similarities between three artists who mock the art world and esthetics their mischievous relationship to high culture and I’m interested in the simplicity of form in their work and their straightforward modes of presentation.

Hans Peter Feldmann- dumbfounding and profound wit, paper light, loaded with meaning, or no meaning.

“A single image can be completely mistaken. For this very reason he never makes individual pictures but always series. His series aim at the mean value. And some pictures within a series that are, in a sense, too good, are then being sorted out, since he regards aesthetics to be a thing for other professions and other times.”

The bone-dry wit of the subjects he categorically chooses to document and hang on the wall is mixed with the lingering feeling that it’s not that easy, what feels so light is about something much heavier. Some of his documentation becomes evidence, it’s hard to make polaroids of a selection of clothing without it feeling heavy, as in all the clothes of a woman, an obviously edited collection of female clothing.

Mike Kelley-
In one project Mike Kelley looks at old paintings he did in art-school and repaints them in the same painterly way, as a way to force himself to go back there. The saved paintings works as an archive of his history that he uses to make work about development, memory and the institutionalization of education and art.

ART:21:      Explain the concept behind your project “Day is Done.”
KELLEY:      “Day is Done” is built around the mythos that relates to “Educational Complex” and the history of a kind of symbolist attempt at uniting all the arts. “Educational Complex” is a model of every school I ever went to, plus the home I grew up in, with all the parts I can’t remember left blank. They’re all combined into a new kind of structure that looks like a kind of modernist building. I started to think about this structure through the Gesamtenswerk, the ‘total artwork’, of Rudolf Steiner, where he tries to combine all the arts and develop a kind of rule system according to which every art form is related. So the architectural relates to the dance relates to the music relates to the writing. But it’s also a kind of religion. And so my religion for this structure is repressed memory syndrome. The idea is that anything you can’t remember, that you forget or block out, is the byproduct of abuse and that all of these scenarios are supposed to be filling in the missing action in these blank sections in this building. It’s a perverse reading of [Hans Hoffman’s] push-pull theory. (cont.)
ART:21:      It’s almost like working as an anthropologist.

KELLEY:     Yes, I think of it very much that way.

“I’m an avant-gardist. We’re living in the postmodern age, the death of the avant-garde. So all I can really do now is work with this dominant culture and flay it, rip it apart, reconfigure it, expose it.”

Christian Boltanski
In his preliminary years, Boltanski painted in an autodidactic way, concerned primarily with themes of historical significance. However, by the 1970’s, (26 years old 1970) Boltanski removed himself from the painting arena and began his quest for remnants of his own past through selected artworks. These artworks led Boltanski to question the substance he had used when creating his own artworks. However, this introspectivism supplied him with the motive for other artworks in which non-truths and the realisation of fundamental truths converged. Boltanski reconstructed his own youth in this method.
Having been born in France post-Holocaust, Boltanski had a challenging childhood since he had a Jewish father. In his early work, he would often invent his own childhood and history using other people’s photographs. He would purposely choose photos that could be anybody and would often use many of them together to further implicate anonymity of the figures. This furthered the universality of his work.

‘Something like 60 per cent of my work is destroyed after every show. And if it’s not destroyed, it’s removed, or I’ll mix one piece with another. When I make a show it’s like when you arrive at home and you open your fridge at night and there’s two potatoes and one sausage and two eggs, and with all that you make something to eat. I try to make something with what is in my “fridge”.’
‘One of the beauties of my life is that I never work. I’m lazy and I have no other way to work. I teach this to my students: you must wait and hope – there’s nothing else you can do. And when you have an idea, you can do it in ten minutes.’
His artistic work is haunted by the problems of death, memory and loss; he often seeks to memorialize the anonymous and those who have disappeared.

After Qualls – faheem majeed

Michael Qualls was a Chicago based artist known for his abstract found wood and earthwork sculptures. Michael studied art and psychology at Loyola University before transferring to Columbia College where he received his B.A. in 1986. Being a therapist, social activist as well as an artist, he divided his time between doing work in the community and pursuing a career in art.

With influences as diverse as Louise Nevleson, Sam Gilliam and Martin Puryear, Qualls created sculptures with varying shapes and dimensions that presented unique juxtapositions to elicit dialogue about composition, form, balance, and structure.

About his work he stated:

“By allowing a flowing together of Post-Modern American, African and Asian aesthetics, I hope to infuse my work with a confluence of aesthetic values that transcends cultural and personal boundaries.”

Quall’s aesthetic was classed as mixed media.  Being predominately a wood assemblage artist, he collected found wood, but with an aesthetic purpose. His materials were mostly comprised of discarded furniture.  His process within his studio was to arrange the wood based on size and shape. He was very specific in the types of wood fragments that he used in that normally they were very minimal, simplified shapes. Inspired by Louise Nevelson, Quall’s assembled the simple wood fragments into layer upon layer that made the work very complicated. Qualls and I had a very similar way of collecting materials. We both were known to frequently “dumpster dive” to find what we considered discarded treasures. However, this dumpster diving was always purposeful. Qualls wasn’t looking for just any wood fragments, but rather specific pieces that would fit within his aesthetic.

In his studio space Qualls had boxes, milk crates, and buckets arranged on the floor and shelves that where themselves made of found lumber.  The arrangement categories often seemed arbitrary. But upon further inspection, you saw that Qualls was meticulous in his categorization:  3 foot spindles, small cubes and rectangles, large cubes and rectangles, splintered wood, round half circles, large circles, small circles, found colors, natural tones, metal, dirt, and fabric. Each part of his collection was sorted and stored in order for optimal viewing so that he could easily survey his collection and decide the best placement for each collected piece.

The following is an except from is an excerpt from Michael Qualls Ear and Tar series statement:

Every fragment of earth is sacred, holding unfathomable mysteries.  In my on going earth and tar series the memory of everyone who has lived is evoked.  We think of mass graves as horrifying and indeed the circumstances, which create them, is that.  But, essentially we all go to a mass grave.  The horror of September 11 brings this reality into sharp relief.  We are always breathing the ashes to ashes and dust to dust of all human beings, everywhere, through out time.

These sculptures are meant to stir us to this truth.  In the face of this reality is the hope, the vitality, and life force each individual brings, and that we can create as groups.  At the heart of each sculpture is the soil element, surround by diverse distinctive patterns and color.  While we are all the same, paradoxically, we all make a difference.  Each lost life, everywhere, is a loss indeed.

Describing Qualls work in “African Art The Diaspora and Beyond” collector and author Dan Parker writes:

Qualls is a stellar Chicago sculptor, who uses the environment as his palette.  Qualls has the uncanny ability to take found wood and soil from the earth and transform them into prized works of sculpture…..”

In each piece he collected, Qualls was considering the larger role they would play once assembled in his work. The decisions made were not arbitrary but rather allowed him to communicate his thoughts on life and death.

Bernd and Hilla Becher collected Industrial Age Calvinist Holy Sites – Nick Wylie

“I’ve always said that we are documenting the sacred buildings of Calvinism. Calvinism rejects all forms of art and therefore never developed its own architecture. The buildings we photograph originate directly from this purely economical thinking.” – Bernd Becher

“They were constructed with no consideration of so-called beauty and serve their functionality alone, which means that when they lose their function they are no longer entitled to exist, so they are torn down.” – Hilla Becher

Bernd Becher died last year, only about a year after I saw the retrospective held at the Hamburgher Bahnhof for his wife Hilla and him. The exhibition filled room after room with prints of similar and identical looking industrial buildings from Europe and the United States. The artists took the photos for over fifty years, and in doing so amassed an enormous collection of images. The overwhelming thing is, though, that often they manage to find shots of buildings that look almost identical, and shoot them in the exact same way, framing the shots in a mindblowingly memetic way. The exhibition instilled in me a bit of the panic that I feel at malls and Swap meets, and it effected my family even more severely.

I had been relieved to find that my visiting family was able to muster some interests in the work elsewhere in the museum. The drama of Beuys, Barney, Hirst and others had held their attention with some ease, but when we arrived at the sprawling Becher retrospective, the tension began to mount. I found myself being called upon to defend the relics of an obsessive 50 year practice of two artists. “Why did there have to be so many rooms of the same thing?” “What was the point of taking all of these?”

My obnoxious sophomoric critiques of the work:

I was at the time not a fan of photography, and these images, on their face, represented the worst of the images of dry formalism that photo practice and history brought to mind. I was also suspicious of the technique of super saturation. While undergrads, my friends and I made a “fortune teller,” the kind made out of folded paper that’s operated by four digits. It was a crit response generator, and among the stock, boring, hackneyed advice was “make more of them.” I was also angry at the prospect of artists making the same sort work for their entire career. The prospect that this was one of the few time-tested viable routes to building a sustainable practice was a nauseating prospect.

That being said, I felt that while in that museum with my family, it was my duty to defend all art. With the help of a vague and difficult-to-translate wall text, I cobbled something together about documentary photography and how they were seminal originators thereof or something.

I now am much more down with all sorts of photography, and am especially interested in the practices of certain Chicago photographers. Greg Stimac is my roommate and has a photo practice which bears family resemblances to that of the Bechers’. He travels across the US and collects images of people mowing their lawn, or bottles of piss that truckers have discarded that can be seen glowing at sunset, or people at shooting ranges, etc. He has multiple collections, they often involve subjects, and they are much smaller than the Bechers’ collection, but they perform similar tasks.

The Hasselblad Foundation, which awarded the Bechers the crazy prestigious Hasselblad Award (they also got golden lions and erasmus awards late in their careers) said that as the founders of what became known as the Becher school, Bernd and Hilla influenced “generations of documentary photographers and artists.” You’d think of this as a formal influence, and there was, as is visible in the work of Thomas Struth, among others. However, in an interview with Die Welt ( around the time of their retrospective, they describe their practice as a risky, lonely, adventurous rambling through places that no one would want to go. They describe being constantly accused of spying, taking photographs for the enemy. They talk of waiting weeks for the perfect light only to see buildings destroyed before it comes. They witnessed hope that they knew was unwarranted in town after town. These experiences, which for them are individually associated with nearly all of the identical-looking photographs, are where I locate the real kinship between Greg’s work and theirs. The role of the documentary photographer/artist/collector is noble in its scrambling dedication to maintaining memories, but it is often a bizarre transient existence that brings a sometimes unwanted understanding of the way are, and the way things are so homogeneous. What fascinates me now about both bodies of work is the performative endurance challenge that is required to orchestrate the archival rescue these images from the dustbin of history.

Hilla maintains that:

“When someone discovers something in their lives that really interests them, then they should be content with doing that – without having to go and lie on a beach once a year.”

I’m not sure how that relates to the above, but it struck me and I wanted to relay it. I had kindof stopped thinking about collection as a replacement for leisure activity, and I’m mulling that over now, on the eve of our class (sorry).


wiki entry

nyt obit

welt: retrospective interview w/ Cornelius Tittel

Fred Wilson Re-Presents History and Objects by Maria Gaspar

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Fred Wilson speak about his work at the Milwaukee Art Museum’s “New American Collections Galleries” opening exhibition a few weeks ago. I was not very familiar with his work prior to this lecture, but have become extremely interested in the ways in which he recontextualizes, deconstructs and re-presents the way in which historical institutions or art institutions present historical objects, in particular those of Non-Western origin or indigenous origins. Wilson works with collections that already exist within museums- African Art, Native American Art, Post-Modern Art, etc, etc. He described the way in which he gains access to a museum (historical or art based) and has the ability to redisplay the cultural objects available to him. Obviously, museums know exactly what they are getting themselves into when they ask Fred Wilson to create an installation using their objects. However, Wilson states that it is not about disrespecting the institution, it is about looking and critically thinking about the meaning and representation of these objects that are interpreted by the museum to the public. It is then about having the viewer reconsider notions of representation, race and colonialism. Fred Wilson works within the museum system. He looks through the basements of museums, storage spaces, has conversations with the security guards, docents, curators and visitors and gains inspiration from it all to create his installations. His interest in existing museum collections is fascinating. He challenges the viewer, invokes conversation and questions museumification by creating new connections between objects and between objects and their locations. He described the way museums include all African objects in one plexi-glass vitrine. He asked the audience if the same would be done with say, Modernist paintings. Would they be exhibited on top of one another? Wilson then showed us an image of an  installation of a collection he recontextualized using Westernized Paintings and Sculptures. And, yes, did it look pretty wild! A Giacommeti right next to a Picasso in front of a DeKooning and all on one platform! He said that all he did was exhibit them the same way African objects have been traditionally “showcased”. Through his practice, he has been able to challenge museums to critically think about the way they present the world to others and to become more creative about the way they do this.I think Wilson redefines notions of culture and power in ways that we need to reconsider.  Fred Wilson throws it back at us- as the viewers, the cultural producers, the museums and the artists. He promises nothing, but challenges everything. 

Fred Wilson received the MacArthur Genius Grant in 1999 and represented the USA at the Biennial Cairo in 199 2 and the Venice Biennale in 2003. In 2001, he was the subject of a retrospective, Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979-2000 at the Center for Art and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. For the 2003 Venice Biennale, Wilson created a multi-media installation which borrowed its title from a line in “Othello.” His elaborate Venice work, “Speak of Me as I Am,” focused on representations of Africans in Venetian culture.

Objects for Lonely Men – Mary Robnett

Noam Toran’s short film Objects for Lonely Men (2001), tells the story of a man obsessed with Jean-Luc Godard’s 1959 film A Bout de Souffle (where the main character is obsessed with Hollywood gangster films). The protagonist in Objects for Lonely Men designs a tray to house a collection of  physical representations of the film. The tray is made from a single sheet of vacuum formed plastic with slight recesses to fit the objects, including: small steering wheel, female mannequin head, cut-out gun, hat, telephone, Herald Tribune Newspaper, sunglasses, ash tray, rear-view mirror, pack of Gitanes non-filtered cigarettes. Toran looks to explore our relationship with electronic objects and the fantasies they create. As a collection, this could serve as a product one could borrow when you rent the video. 



Toran continues to explore this relationship in, Accessories for Lonely Men (2001), a collection of eight fictional products designed to help alleviate the loss of a woman. The objects include: (1) a steel finger designed to curl chest hair, (2) a device to “share a smoke” by placing a cigarette in one hole while exhaling smoke from the other, (3) a rapid plate thrower, (4) a plastic tube that is attached to the side of the bed and winds of sheets in the middle of the night, (5) a hair alarm clock that wakes you up by flicking strands of hair in your face, (6) the silhouette of a woman that can be placed in front of a light to cast a shadow, (7) a machine that blows warm, breath-like bursts of air on you while you sleep, (8) cold, feet-like objects to be placed at the end of the bed. Toran attempts to understand loneliness, asking whether we miss the physical individual or the idea of someone.

Toran is collecting the physical manifestations of a particular fantasy. These products are not meant for production, but for reflection. In an interview, Toran explains he had just ended a five-year relationship and began thinking more about loneliness as a theme. At the end of a relationship, a person often collects romanticized versions of moments and objects. Here, Toran presents a collection of physical objects to create an imaginary relationship. Similarly in his film, Objects for Lonely Men, Toran has created objects to help become a fictional character who (in the film) was mimicking fictional gangster characters. 

Please visit:

Maria Jonsson: Constructing Narrative by Jose Velazco

My photography has been concerned with identity and how one navigates through cultures (and subcultures) within each series of images. The growing body of work attempts create a narrative through the use of constructed and “near – documentary” moments and arrive at an understanding of the underpinnings of what motivates one to exist within a particular subset of culture.

Enter Maria Jonsson. She is an artist that exhibits a desire to construct narrative from found objects.  I recently visited her studio, interviewed her and documented her collection as it exists today.  

The artist’s collection of items varies greatly in its scope, but the logic behind their acquisition remains relatively consistent.  On this day, I found maps, a tree stump, My Little Pony toys, cigarettes, a pencil sharpener, pieces of yarn, cups of various shapes and sizes, People magazines amongst the hundreds (if not thousands) of items in the space.  Most of these items had been collected off the street (in fact, on our way to visit the collection, a piece of lavender yarn with tassles on either end was collected.)  Some have been given by friends or are discarded remnants of artworks, machines, etc.  The collection’s current size exhibits about a year’s worth of items.  Ms. Jonsson is originally from Sweden and an “edited” version of an earlier collection begun in her homeland exists in her apartment. (Another collection not present in her studio is her collection of Agatha Christie novels which begs for another discussion altogether.)

The items however are not placed randomly about the floor.  They exist on white boxes that line the largest wall in the space.  This not only elevates them physically, but imbues the items with a certain formal weight.  Jonsson’s studio operates as a repository for the items and as a museum of sorts allowing each visitor to contemplate the space as more than just a cluttered mess.

Jonsson’s aim is to devise a way of reconnecting to a void that exists within her past.  The creation of a childhood narrative through art pieces (her work includes video pieces, photographs, drawings and installations), the sorting of detritis in order to make sense of one’s past interactions and the psychological impact these compositions have on the viewer opens a dialogue between the process of acquisition of objects and their representation.  The process comforts the artist, surrounding them in a sea of found objects.  They act not only as reminders of the past but as consumers of empty space located in the present.  The artist studio becomes a conflicted space of interaction, comfort and catagorization.

On another front, the shear magnitude of the collection presents a logistical problem.  First, will the items exist permanently within the grouping or will they be replace by other ones and what will be the system for determining inclusion versus exclusion?  What are the limits of aquistion?  At what point does the collection stop being useful and begin operating as a pile of trash?  

Jonsson’s work allows this author to discuss artmaking in a different context.  My work is fraught with the ideal image, the image that simultaneously speaks to a monumental occurence, object, space, etc.  Jonsson’s collection haphazard, sustained and poetic within its chaos, allows the visitor to suspend easy classifications of the stuff within the world.  It offers the viewer a way to contemplate objects regardless of their make and model and opens the conversation about systems of acquisition, narration and their relation to art making.

Ed Ruscha’s Books

In 1963 American pop artist Ed Ruscha began integrating collections into his practice with his first publication, Twentysix Gasoline Stations.  A deadpan look at the roadside of Route 66, this artist’s book simply contains its namesake, photographs of twenty-six gasoline stations, each captioned with its location and brand.  Inspired by road trips home from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City, Ruscha states that he began photographing his gas refills along the way in an effort to “bring in the news to the city” of the mostly unknown patch of southwest America.  Although there is a consistent style and strategy in the photographs of Stations, Ruscha’s main interest in creating this work had less to do with the content and the photography than with the book itself as a physical, sculptural object of information.

Over the next decade, Ruscha would produce fifteen more photo-based books, continually returning to a strategy of collecting sets of similarly photographed images for content.  From Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965) to Nine Swimming Pools (1968), a fascination with the vernacular landscape is evident throughout Ruscha’s work.  But Ruscha’s motivations did not lie in creating a formal analysis or comparison between the contents of the collections.  Rather, he used the sets of images to explore the viewer’s experience of accumulated information in book form.   Ruscha did not necessarily view his books as fine art pieces, preferring to refer to them as “time capsules.”

In Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966) Ruscha expanded on his interest in the book as sculptural object.  Photographing every building on the two-mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard, Ruscha then glued and folded the collection of images together in order, creating an accordion-fold, twenty-seven foot strip of paper.  The book presents a recreation of both sides of the street, the south side along the top and the north side on the bottom.  By making the form of the book relate so directly to the content, Ruscha tapped into new potentials for information to passed from book and viewer.

Throughout his books, Ruscha’s titles dictate the content and quantity of the images collected.  Ruscha often first chose the title word combinations that appealed to him most; both in their graphic and auditory states, then went about collecting the images to fulfill the book’s namesake.  The actual photography of the content was not of particular interest to Ruscha, who often employed others to take the photographs for him, as in Thirtyfour Parking Lots (1967), and Records (1971) where Ruscha gives us a look into his own music collection.

Though Ruscha has continued to use motifs of the ordinary American landscape, with a specific focus on Los Angeles, throughout all of his work, he maintains that, “you don’t necessarily learn anything from my books…  I want absolutely neutral material.  My pictures are not that interesting, nor the subject matter.  They are simply a collection of ‘facts’; my book is more like a collection of ready-mades.”

Michael Sirianni

Cindy Loehr’s Love Letter Collection – Rebecca Grady

Cindy Loehr is a former Chicagoan, UIC alum, who now resides in Brooklyn. She began an online project in 2001 called the Love Letter Collection. You can read through the collection on her website: or   click here for a direct link to the project.

The Love Letter Collection is an online collection of several smaller collections of anonymous love letters. Submissions are ongoing. A few times a year the submissions are read through and a collection is formed from them. Loehr runs the project, but some of the collections are edited by guests, other artists, writers, and/or educators. The most recent collection, TO THE CHARNEL GROUND – Fall 08 was edited by Stacy Szymaszek, a NY based poet. Other guest editors include: James Peel, Stephanie Barber, Stephen Kotler, Jim White, Rennie Sparks, C. Barliant, and Michelle Grabner. The editors pick out their favorite letters, extract a title for each letter from the text. A title for the collection is also created from the letters. Szymaszek wrote a letter to introduce her collection. Here is an excerpt:

“I had to look up the word “Charnel” (spelled “charnal” by the author of the letter). My quick aural interpretation was carnal, carnage, charred – and in fact “charnel” is a repository for or field of bones of the dead. Unlike dramatic metaphors evoked in the love letter genre, the author of this particular letter actually seems to literally be thanking the object of affection for accompanying her/him to “the charnel ground” but follows with a series of disjunctive images that make this 2-line missive unsettling, poetic. It reminded me of Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”! It’s not stylistically typical of the letters that follow but I think the connection between love and death (our two big fear factors) serves as a good psychological bass line which often rises up to contort the house and derange the senses. ”

The rest of the letter can be found at

There are rules to this collection. As there are guidelines for many other collections. Submissions are accepted online. All letters are anonymous. Names are taken out. Here is the list you must read through before sending your love letter to the collection:

“Maximum 500 words. Check your word count before submitting. Longer letters are automatically deleted.
A non-english word or phrase here and there is fine, but if your letter is not in english, please submit an english translation instead. Otherwise we probably cannot understand it and we won’t accept it.
Please paste pre-typed letters into a simple-text editing program before pasting them here. This gets rid of formatting characters that mistranslate on the internet.
Replace names and dates with 5 underlined spaces, or this will be done for you.
Thank you for your submission.”

Loehr spoke about the collection during an interview with Ratsalad. “Romantic love often causes feelings of alienation and frustration. Sharing feelings with a public outside the relationship, and reading about other’s situations, can be cathartic. On the other hand, people who are feeling the sunny side of love often want to give public voice to their feelings. People submit their personal letters from a desire to move personal experience out into public realm,”  – Cindy Loehr. The rest of the interview
can be found here
A love letter from the collection can be found here

These love letters are written by many different people. It is impossible to tell if the letters were ever sent to the person they were written for. Or what the response was. Was the letter successful? There are no clues from names or places or handwriting or the type of paper or postmark. We are meant to look at these love letters for just the text. We are supposed to focus on the language of romance. Not on the stories behind them. We will never know what happened afterwards. I love being able to read these letters, it satisfies a voyeuristic urge of mine. But I still find myself wishing for a pile of letters, with messy handwriting, not quite so neat.

Upon doing more in depth research into Cindy Loehr’s practice, I’ve noticed a few coincidences beyond our attraction to collecting text. I seem to be following her education path, ten years after her. She received a BFA from SAIC in 1994, I received mine in 2004. She received her MFA from UIC in 2000, I will hopefully be getting mine in 2010. Maybe there is something in the water.

Cindy Loehr also has an artist file on the Public Collector’s site. Check it out here:

**the heart logo at the top is from Loehr’s Love Letter Collection website.

Joseph Cornell, boxes, films – Ryan Murray

“Joseph Cornell was not a sculptor, a draftsman, or a painter. This internationally renowned modern artist never had professional training. He was first and foremost a collector. He loved to scour old book shops and secondhand stores of new York looking for souvenirs, theatrical memorabilia, old prints and photographs, music scores, and French literature.” From the website

Joseph Cornell engaged in a collector’s practice in order to produce his sculptures. Cornell is most well known for his assemblages of objects in glass-fronted boxes, though he also created a number of experimental films made by splicing found film sequences. Throughout his life, Cornell maintained extensive collections of old photographs, recordings, movies, opera librettos, souvenirs, and other ephemera, as well as small objects. In his studio, he maintained something of a categorization system, in which boxes of his own correspondence, writings, and memories might be filed with collected objects under categories which describe the objects (“Spiders”, “Moons”, etc).

Cornell has be associated with Surrealism, and while his associations and influences due tie him to particular Surrealist artists (Max Ernst, for example), Cornell developed a clear prohibition Surrealism’s “dark” side (namely eroticism and violence) in his work, stating that he was interested only in the “white magic” of Surrealism.

“Sometimes he would crack the glass pane that protected the contents of the box, but that is all he allowed in the way of violence – it suggests that the sanctuary of imagination has been attacked. That glass, the ‘fourth wall’ of his miniature theater, is also the diaphragm between two contrasting worlds. Outside, chaos, accident, and libido, the stuff of unprotected life; inside, sublimation, memory, and peace, one of whose chief emblems was the caged bird, the innocent resident of The Hotel Eden, 1945.” from “American Visions”, by Robert Hughes

In another break from Surrealism, Cornell expressed (in his diary) his admiration for the “ineffable beauty and pathos of the commonplace”. The Surrealists were typically interested in quite the opposite, that is, the bizarre and shocking, but Cornell’s interest is perhaps more in line with that of an archetypal collector. His faith that in commonplace objects we can see and feel things as vast as “ineffable beauty and pathos” might well be shared by many who hold that collected, saved found objects can carry intense weights of meaning and association.

Cornell’s collections function as visual vocabulary from which he can draw instances and create associations, adjacencies, and phrases. His display format is established and consistent, yet varied from piece to piece. The glass-front box form creates a museological or curio-cabinet-type experience of these works. The lack of clear, pointed communication of educational information in these cabinets, however, turns the experience from one of looking into a sealed, objective view of history to a significantly more dreamlike, nostalgic personal psychology, an experience of subjective memory and association. Many of Cornell’s boxes were dedicated to stars, ballerinas, and singers whom he admired but had not met, or trips to places he had never taken.

Cornell would also organize screenings of films from his collection, which may have led directly to his practice of cutting, resplicing, and collaging found film to generate his own experimental film works. Salvador Dali famously attended the premier of a Cornell film, overturned the projector, and admonished Cornell for stealing “his idea” (which he had not told anyone let alone enacted yet) of collaging in film. In his film, Rose Hobart, Cornell may have used the persistent blue filtering of the image as quite the same strategy as the glass in his boxes; a separation between the viewer and the objects of Cornell’s collection creates a distance which both raises their importance to the level of the museum, and yet makes them untouchable and ineffable like the components of dream or memory.

Rose Hobart viewable here:

Untitled (The Hotel Eden)

Untitled (The Hotel Eden)

Untitled (Cockatoo and Corks)

Untitled (Cockatoo and Corks)

A Parrot for Juan Gris

A Parrot for Juan Gris

A Swan Lake for Tamara Toumanova (Homage to the Romantic Ballet)

A Swan Lake for Tamara Toumanova (Homage to the Romantic Ballet)

Kathy Acker’s Clothes

Kathy Acker was an experimental, postmodern feminist writer, often associated with the 1970s & 80s punk culture in New York.  Her influences included William S. Burroughs, and she occasionally employed his “cut-up” technique in her writing.  Acker also utilized elements of philosophy, autobiography, pornography, and outright plagiarism in her work, creating controversial novels that included large doses of sexuality and violence, both praised and condemned by feminist critics.


Acker left New York for London in the 1980s, returning to New York towards the end of the decade.  During this period, she began collecting and wearing high fashion, including examples from designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood, considered among the most avant-garde designers of the time.  Acker’s selections included simple, pretty dresses as well as more extreme experimental garments rarely seen on the street.  

Acker died in 1997, after being diagnosed with breast cancer and having a double mastectomy.  In her last years, she rejected the attitude of Western medicine and more intensively investigated Eastern philosophy and writings, an influence seen in her final work.  


"Kathy Forest" installation

In 2006, the executor of Kathy Acker’s estate, Matias Viegener made her clothing collction available to Dodie Bellamy, who installed twenty-five pieces at the New Langton Arts Center in San Francisco under the title Kathy Forest.  Hung midway from the ceiling, the clothes hovered in the room like ghosts, size medium, simultaneously evoking the owner’s presence and signaling her absence. 

Dodie Bellamy, curator of "Kathy Forest" installation

Dodie Bellamy, curator of "Kathy Forest" installation

One observer described the installation as Acker’s dream shopping spree…a window display hanging in San Francisco that she might happen upon, with everything in her style and size.  Indeed, for some visitors, the conversation was centered around shopping and fashion labels like Vivienne Westwood and Comme des Garcons, and less about Acker’s own life and work.  This perhaps indicates why such avant-garde fashion has such a small audience, even among those with money to burn, for the clothes can be overpowering for anyone without a larger-than-life personality and they require a certain amount of temerity to wear on the street.  Certainly, Acker fitted those requirements, and the clothes suited her taste.  One colleague saw  the wardrobe as a device for Acker to garner more attention, who sometimes complained she ‘wasn’t famous enough’ for her work.  Undeniably, these are the types of outfits that can guarantee being photographed, but the collection is an appropriate extension of Acker’s own provocative writing style.

Though Acker viewed fashion as a kind of “art for the poor people” who couldn’t afford a painting, she did not maintain her clothes in pristine condition, but wore them and lived in them vigorously.  Viegener noted that food stains and other signs of wear and tear were found on many of the garments, making her aura among the collection even stronger. 

Kaucyila Brooke, photographer of "Kathy Acker's Clothes" series

Kaucyila Brooke, photographer of "Kathy Acker's Clothes" series

Photographer Kaucyila Brooke was invited to utilize the collection as well, and she documented over a hundred of Acker’s pieces, animating the garments with invisible wire for her series of photographs.   While working with the collection, Brooke imagined how these clothes would move and what they would look like if Acker was actually in them.


Camera Austria cover by Kaucyila Brooke

I should also mention Hans-Peter Feldmann’s photographic series, All the Clothes of a Woman, 1973-2002, though in Feldmann’s case he was not documenting the wardrobe of a specific person.

"All the Clothes of a Woman" series by Hans-Peter Feldmann

Donald Lipski – Pieces of String too Small to Save

The installation “Pieces of String too Small to Save” was installed in the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum from May 20, 1993 through September 5, 1993.  The mountainous pile on the floor was the leftovers from collecting cultural flotsam and jetsam in New York City for over twenty years.  The mass was loosely arranged with like objects near like objects.  On the wall behind the pile certain objects were pulled out of the detritus and hung as icons (or special specimens).  All these objects, packed up on sixty pallets, were all moved out of his studio in Brooklyn by three tracker trailers.  The move of his collection was prompted by the birth of his first son and the need for a new home.  When moving some ‘cleaning’ and subsequent discarding of un-needed objects happens, which leads to the title of this piece, “Pieces of String too Small to Save.”  These were objects that he had no use for anymore; only most families on the move do not have an art museum to store their junk.

Lipski’s objects in this installation were much different than his previous objects that were characteristically combined and altered in a type of surrealist juxtaposition.  In the combined sculpture a trumpet may be displayed with its bell down and a lit candle stuck in the mouthpiece.  This type of sculpture and installation is maybe best typified in his piece called “Gathering Dust” where Lipski would combine whatever object he could find readily at hand whenever he was eating, commuting or any other time of relative rest.  “Gathering Dust” exceeds over three hundred unique small sculptures.

On collecting his objects Lipski says, “I’m interested in things that are beautiful, but I couldn’t tell you what makes them beautiful.”  His process of collecting is more personal and subjective than structured and regimented to a certain ‘type’ of object.  Although some of the categorization of his objects shown in “Pieces of String too Small to Save” hints to what some of his favorite and most collected objects are.

Adam Farcus

Joseph Cornell: artist/collector/archivist :erica moore

I’m not sure if Joseph Cornell is an appropriate choice for this assignment as I become increasingly confused about the discursive demarcations of terms (and their related concepts) that we are attempting to parse in this course. Cornell doesn’t simply gather things (collector). Nor does he simply gather things and then represent them as discrete groupings (artist collector). Nor does he simply create discrete objects (sculptor). Nor does he simply catalog items (archivist). He gathers things AND represents them as discrete groupings AND makes discrete objects AND archives ephemera. If there is a hierarchy involved in how these different roles are made manifest in his work, I propose that all of the other capacities in which he functions are contingent on him being, primarily, a collector. If Joseph Cornell had not engaged in the practice of collecting, his work would have been something entirely different, if it would have been, at all. 

In an essay that was written in conjunction with the exhibition Andromeda Hotel: The Art of Joseph Cornell, that was on display at the Katonah Museum of Art in 2006, Therese Lichtenstein wrote:

“Throughout his life, Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) cultivated an encyclopedic knowledge of art, science, cinema, ballet, literature, theatre, music, and history.  He was also a devoted collector and archivist.  All of these interests came together in the fantastic assemblages he produced between the 1930s and l960s.  By recombining found objects and reproductions from popular culture and mass media and arranging them in small boxes, Cornell not only preserved forgotten objects and fading icons but also gave them new life.  As viewers travel metaphorically into Cornell’s miniature worlds, they will participate in the magic and poetry of the everyday.”

Though his work circulates in the world of Art and its sanctioned venues and he is referred to as a Sculptor who utilized Surrealist sensibilities in the production of his Assemblages, and as a pioneer of American Avant-garde cinema, he was not trained as an artist.

Lichtenstein says, “For Cornell, the work of art is a revelation produced from the spiritual engagement with the everyday.” Cornell’s term for this everyday magic is “metaphysique d’ephemera”. Mary Ann Caws further explains: “The metaphysique d’ephemera [sic]… betokens the passion he devoted to the wandering portion of his days, tracking down the trivial elements in his boxes which he saw as linked to a greater philosophical system. He took the term from the nineteenth-century French Romantic poet and novelist Gerard de Nerval, who wanted to indicate the supreme importance of the smallest things once the imagination transforms them.”

 Like the Surrealists before him, Cornell was intrigued by the retrieval of the outmoded. He created quiet, evocative memorials that exist between the ephemeral and the permanent in a poetics of desire. Remnants of a culture are saved before they are forgotten. The past is alive in the present. His theatrical “shadow boxes” are reminiscent of nineteenth-century Victorian “toy theatres” and cabinets of curiosities. (Lichtenstein)

For a list of exhibitions, theater and upcoming events click here

The Smithsonian American Museum of Art held an exhibition from late 2006 through early 2007 titled “Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination”. As a companion to the Art exhibit, the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art presented “Exquisite Surprise: The Papers of Joseph Cornell”.

“Exquisite Surprise” reveals Cornell’s sense of wonder through his private communications, personal musings and collected ephemera. Known mainly for his box constructions and collages, Cornell also was a filmmaker and graphic designer. In his personal papers, Cornell recorded on scraps of paper the intertwined sensations of seeing, feeling and remembering. His notes on the backs of envelopes, magazine clippings and wrapping papers illuminate his creative process. Deeply romantic, with wide-ranging cultural interests, he kept “dossiers” on people with whom he felt a special relationship-real or imagined- including actresses, singers, artists, ballerinas and writers. He also collected images from magazines and books, as well as prints, maps and artifacts as potential source material for his art. (Lichtenstein)

Featured in the exhibition are Cornell’s diaries, selected photographs and letters to him from George Brecht, Rudy Burckhardt, Roberto Matta Echaurren, Ray Johnson, Julien Levy, Mina Loy, Robert Motherwell, Dorothea Tanning and Fay Wray, and a sampling of source material that Cornell saved for his assemblages and collages. The Joseph Cornell papers were recently scanned in their entirety and are available online as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art’s five-year, $3.6 million grant to digitize 100 of the Archives’ collections. The public can view the entire collection online or through an exhibition kiosk at the Fleischman Gallery. The Terra Foundation offers the following description of the Joseph Cornell papers:


“This site provides access to the papers of Joseph Cornell that were digitized in 2006 by the Archives of American Art. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 32,775 images.

The papers of Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) measure approximately 24.5 linear feet and date from 1804 to 1986 (bulk 1939-1972). The collection documents the life, work, interests, and creative activities of the self-taught artist, who was best known for his shadow box constructions, assemblages, and collages. Papers include correspondence, diaries, source material, notes, writings, photographs, printed material, two- and three-dimensional ephemera, art works, and books, as well as a limited amount of legal and financial records, and some miscellaneous personal and family papers. The collection also includes the papers of his sister, Betty Cornell Benton, relating to the handling of Cornell’s estate and the personal papers of his brother, Robert Cornell.”



Cornell is the most solid example I could come up with as being a synthesis of all of the modes of collecting (in both the vernacular and institutional sense) that we have discussed. He gathers objects, re-contextualizes them, assembles them to make “new” objects, and archives his process. Though I think that his work straddles the philosophical questions that we are attempting to deal with, the work is presented as Art and this perhaps narrows the scope of discussion that surrounds the products of his practice. I’m not entirely convinced that his boxes are the work, and everything else is ephemera that documents the process of his making, but that is often how they are presented. It is my opinion that the distinction of his boxes being the work has been imposed by the institutions that exhibit his objects. I think it could be argued that his archives are actually his work. 

To see the Peabody Essex Museum’s online interactive companion produced in conjunction with Cornell’s retrospective “Navigating the Imagination” click here


Raychael Stine: Portia Munson’s “Pink Project”

Portia Munson creates art in a variety of disciplines but considers herself first a painter, and second, a collector of things.

Munson’s paintings are an exploration of individual objects spanning the intimate, corporeal, and sometimes banal spectrum of American domestic feminine culture. Munson isolates her congruently sized recontexualized renderings of objects on simple unidentifiable grounds; not unlike archaeological documentations or botanical illustrations historically used to classify recently excised artifacts or discovered species. Many of the objects Portia Munson collects and paints are directly connected to female sexuality (like a brassiere, or a delicately pair of panties unrolled from the body and left in their resting place) but many are not, and become infused with feminine corporeality through association and interpretation (like a strawberry stained napkin, or a child’s hand warming muff).

Munson’s practice of obsessively looking at and into these objects to exercise identity and formulate meaning from them, and then translating those meanings through the activity of putting brush to canvas, charges the images with a vulnerable sexuality and a sort of bodyness, furthering her explorations of the objectness of American “Womanliness”. These small paintings are often arranged on the wall in small groups (or collections of paintings of objects), and they often directly depict individual items installed within Munson’s larger found collections.

Portia Munson’s most famous work, “Pink Project”, first exhibited in the “Bad Girls” Exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in 1994, is a massive display of over two thousand pink plastic found objects; from house wares to product packaging, to girls toys, dog toys and sex toys; it is a selective and ordered exploration of the cultural consumption and gendered connotations of the color pink (the color of female genitalia and little girls) and of how these colored objects infantilize women and comodify idealized or essential femininity. Munson began collecting discarded pink plastic objects over thirty years ago, never expecting to integrate these collections into her art practice. Although she considers herself a painter first, she was unable to express all of the aspects of what she was interested in through painting alone.

“Pink Project” began out of twenty five years of collecting pink detritus, and it took more than ten years to refine it in its first conception back in 1994. It has been growing and evolving ever since; having first been exhibited in a highly selective, precisely placed and organized manner on a pink clothed table. It was later displayed in two vitrines; one organized in a scientific fashion with appropriately spaced shelves where the objects or artifacts seem to be classified aesthetically by size and shape, and the other filled to the brim with a wild mix of objects shoved together in a homogeneous mass. The “Pink Project” then turned a bedroom into a saccharine pink cave with the addition of pink fabrics hanging from the walls and ceiling, and more recently the project morphed into large overwhelming and unorganized mounds, referring more to our cultures mass consumption of color classified stuff than to the individual items gendered identities, though she continues to explore the individual identities of objects through her paintings and flower mandalas (a selection of freshly plucked flower heads she then arranges into patterns and photographs before they decay).

“Pink Project” inspired Munson to explore the cultural significance of other specifically colored consumable and disposable objects and broaden the foundations for her collections in a project called “Green Piece: Lawn” (2000-2007) and a project called “Garden”(2001-?).

All Images are Courtesy

Cited resources:

Nature Morte; Leslie Camhi. 1994. Catalog.

Washington post: Life 360 PBS- Junk with Portia Munson.

Warhol Museum: Artists Who Collect: Portia Muson

Art in America: June-July 2007. Portia Munson at P.P.O.W. by Kirsten


Claes Oldenburg’s “The Ray Gun Wing”

Claes Oldenburg’s “The Ray Gun Wing” is a collection of items shaped like ray guns. The preceeding sentence is based on the phrase “ray gun” more than any other and assumes a passing knowledge of science fiction from 1898, with H.G. Wells’ “The Heat-Ray” in The War of the Worlds, to the use of the phrase in 1959 when Oldenburg made ‘”Empire” (“Papa”) Ray Gun,’ a ray gun soft sculpture. The concept of the ray gun is fictional, referencing weapons from science fiction cinema and literature. Oldenburg’s approach to the collection is similar to children choosing sticks, or any other object, on which to base pretend guns. The objects in “The Ray Gun Wing” are specifically ray guns.

“Empire” (“Papa”) Ray Gun. 1959. Casein on papier-mache over wire, 35 7/8 x 44 7/8 x 14 5/8″ (90.9 x 113.8 x 36.9 cm).

As Oldenburg uses it, “ray gun” is a semiotic experiment, an exercise in sensational pattern matching. The script of ray gun is applied to all objects. Like an artificial intelligence algorithm seeking out patterns, Oldenburg’s script treats everything as a ray gun and then provides a range of ray guns. Every ray gun is a ray gun but some are more ray gun than others. Yve-Alain Bois quotes Oldenburg in Formless A User’s Guide: “Examples: Legs, Sevens, Pistols, Arms, Phalli-Simple Ray Guns. Double Ray Guns: Cross, Airplanes, Absurd Ray Guns: Ice Cream Sodas. Complex Ray Guns: Chairs, Beds.” Bois explains:

“…Oldenburg made huge numbers of ray guns (in plaster, in papier-mache, in all kinds of materials, in fact), but he soon saw that he didn’t even need to make them: the world was full of ray guns. All one has to do is stoop to gather them from sidewalks…Even better he did not even need to collect them himself: he could ask his friends to bring them to him (he accepted or refused a find, based on purely subjective criteria).” (Bois, 176)

Was Oldenburg’s criteria for the potential ray guns brought by his friends purely subjective or was he running a more complex decision script that mimicked a certain subjectivity? The following mix of screen-written and computer script, including a reworked “for each” loop from a web log (Rich), is a fictional approach to a possible scenario for Oldenburg’s choices:

Selections from “The Ray Gun Wing”


	INT. STUDIO of Claes Oldenburg

Claes and Friend are standing face to face.
Friend hands Claes a roughly L-shaped object.

Here's another ray gun.

Claes looks down at the object before accepting it,
 considers it, then accepts it.

bool rayGun (acceptedObject) {

	/* Claes
		The acceptedObject must be compared against all ray guns
		 that Oldenburg has already accepted or collected.

array^ arr=gcnew array(all_existing_ray_guns);
for each (str i in arr) {

	/* Claes
		Is this ray gun outside the bounds of what we
		 can consider a ray gun?
	/* Claes
		Is this ray gun over-represented in
	/* Claes
		Is this ray gun a worthwhile exception?

	/* Claes
		Does this ray guy reinvent the entire concept of ray gun?

Thank you.


“The Ray Gun Wing”, which is a collections of results of the ray gun script and not a finished collection of all ray guns, represents a range that collectively describe a ray gun as it exists in the comparison part of the ray gun script. Oldenburg asks the viewers to go through the same process, or run the same script, as they view the ray guns in the collection. Ray guns come from plastic bits, gloves, tire pieces, mostly from things that were once something else. They are reduced to ray guns rather than built into ray guns. “The Ray Gun Wing” undoes the ray gun and defines “ray gun” as objects chosen to stretch this definition. Oldenburg insist in a multiplicity of ray guns or insists that everything could potentially become a ray gun.


Adam Trowbridge

Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” – Jesse McLean

Chris Burden is probably best known for his performance work in the seventies where his personal safety was often jeopardized for artistic purpose.  Burden has continued making work but has focused on more assemblage-based sculptural endeavors.  His work began to reference collecting ideologies by the early nineties when he produced “L.A.P.D. Uniforms”, an edition of thirty Los Angeles police uniforms made in response to the L.A. riots.  A frequenter of flea markets, Burden collects of many objects that often become part of new artistic works.  As Susan Freudenheim of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Trains (toy and full-sized), cars (real and miniature), erector sets and oriental rugs are just a few of the categories that he has amassed in vast quantities, either with a design in mind for specific artworks or with a vague notion of future use.”
Another such collection is Burden’s group of light poles.  For years he collected and restored municipal light poles, almost entirely from the Los Angeles area, originally produced in the 1920’s.  The lamps were completed taken apart, stripped, rewired and restored to working conditions.  The collection began when Burden stumbled upon a light post at a flea market.  The vendor convinced him to buy two, giving him a cheaper price for the pair.  Afterwards, Burden started researching how he could get more and his collection eventually grew to over 150 lights.  Burden has publicly lamented the deterioration of the Los Angeles landscape.  By collecting and restoring the lights he was able to preserve part of the city’s history.  Wanting to keep the collection together and unable to find a gallery space willing to show the entire collection, Burden kept the collection on the perimeter of his studio for years.  In 2006, he stated in Art in America,

“I like the light poles here, so it’s not a terrible loss if they don’t get to go somewhere else.  There’s discussion of them going to Vienna, but I would never loan them for an exhibition.  When they go from here, they go to a home and I get a check.  It’s the only way it’s going to work for me.”

The research to find the poles and the process to restore the lights were laborious tasks.  Combined with Burden’s acknowledgement of the light’s beauty and craftsmanship, it would seem that he had an attachment to his collection.  However, Burden was also quite willing to sell the lights, making his relationship to this collection paradoxical. The inconsistency is somewhat resolved is his hope that the collection could remain whole, wherever it ends up, but regardless of how his light pole collection began, the objects have been transformed into an art installation. This separates Burden’s collections from other types of collecting activities.  The objects that formed his personal collection will be sold, eventually becoming absorbed into a museum or into a private art collection.
In 2008, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art became interested in acquiring the piece and it is now installed on a newly built plaza. Once he knew the location for the permanent installation, Burden increased his collection of lights to 202 restored and fully operational vintage streetlights.  “Urban Light”, the title of the piece, links LACMA to the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum.

Poles installed at Burden's studio

Poles installed at Burden's studio

Installed at LACMA

Installed at LACMA

Gerhard Richter’s Picture Collection, Atlas – Jeremiah Spofford




Over the past 40 years the German painter Gerhard Richter has amassed an expansive and heterogeneous array of photographs that began as a tool in service of his painting practice and has since evolved into an exhibited collection.  The photos have periodically come into public view in Europe and the United States, shown on panels, and the current size of the collection hovers somewhere near 600 panels and some five thousand photographs.  I am interested in a couple aspects of Richter’s collection, the first being at what point does the compilation of visual aids become a collection?  What are the aims of Richter’s collecting practice?  And finally, how does the artist’s considerable fame as a painter influence interest in his photographs?

Commenting on Atlas Richter said, In my picture atlas…I can only get a handle on the flood of pictures by creating order since there are no individual pictures at all anymore.   Richter’s not exactly inventing the wheel by using photographs as potential sources for paintings.  However I am attracted to the poetics of compiling his own picture atlas, a map of visual stimuli, through which he navigates his painting practice.  His map has categories that include found newspaper clippings, portraits, pornography, sketches and diagrams.  I have a problem with the above quote describing Atlas due to the fact that upon more careful consideration of the categories, much of the content includes photos he has taken himself, sketches and ideas for installations.  I would argue that in one sense this collection serves as a display and platform for his photo practice rather than a mechanism that he uses to tackle an onslaught of images.  It is evident that he is both maker and collector simultaneously and when these two modes find combination within his collection a partial history is illustrated, though not a history born totally from the necessitation of ordering that Richter asserts is all one can do when confronted with the orgy of images found in the world today. 

 Lynn Cook writes in her essay Atlas that the collection serves as much more than an artist’s repository for memorable images.  She goes on to say that what began as a cumulative, improvisational activity has evolved from an album to a potentially encyclopedic project, driven by its own idiosyncratic, internal logic.  Cook argues that it is apparent that with the continued iterations of the collection Richter has began to play more to the role of collector, orchestrating the material in terms of the overall layout, establishing larger rhythms and references between the parts.  That said, this compendium functions not as a generator of meaning but rather to point to relationships between images through association.  Richter has often asserted that his picture collection is not selling an ideology and proceeds according to no preconceived plan.  Atlas occupies a liminal space between archive and scrapbook, collection of photos and collection of a photographers photos and an artist’s interest in the imagery around him.  The ample scholarly interest surrounding Atlas is no doubt partially due to Richter being arguably the most important German painter post World War II.(He’s certainly the most expensive.)  

The collection can be found online at –  

Here are the first 3 panels from the collection which began in 1962.


Tjebbe van Tijen’s /Scroll of Scrolls/ – Andrew Oleksiuk

For full impact, please visit the website:

(each scroll will open in a viewing window when clicked; please be patient as they load)

Tjebbe van Tijen’s Scroll of Scrolls website uses a clever curatorial style, as well as excellent display technique for an artist-collector.  Using densely populated collage, van Tijen focuses our camera-eye on vast amounts of information compacted in a small space. This serves two functions: it allows us to appreciate the scale of the work, and provides an efficient viewing mechanism for large amouts of collected visual imagery. The scroll display mechanism alludes to the earliest forms of picture writing which in turn became alphabets. Van Tijen’s studied yet lyrical approach lures the viewer into a picture-world that shows us a sophisticated grammar of communication and scales to the level of encyclopediae, archives, and knowledge taxonomies.

While many artists have dabbled in collage, gluing bits of bone, pennies or hair onto canvas, collage really takes root in 20th century modernism with Dada. Van Tijen’s montages draw from this tradition, but rather than using visual discontinuity and jarring juxtapostion, van Tijen’s scrolls are ordered and narrative in style. The scroll device reinforces the concept of narrative with its form, and is symbolic of the medium of early written language. What makes this work function well on so many levels is van Tijen’s use of rhythm. The scrolls function as texts and the images have a alphabetic quality in that each individual image evokes a singularity within the grouping. The swiss theoretician Ferdinand de Saussure (father of semiology or semiotics) noted that alphabets as collections of phonemes function as they do because each element is different. Thus in each of van Tijen’s scrolls the relatedness of the individual elements make the collection work as a sum greater than its parts. The rhythms and repetitions that permeate van Tijen’s work function as grammars that help us read the scrolls as stories. This format serves van Tijen well, as such a system can have infinite combinations, allowing him to scale the work as a collection of story objects. The creation of series in artmaking is a common convention. Variations on themes exist in nearly all media and genres. Furthermore van Tijen’s scrolls also evoke the notion that rigidly ordered texts can serve a dual function as textures.

I would contrast van Tijen’s work with a library picture classification system such as the one in use at the Harold Washington Library Center. On one hand, the accumulation of photos, advertisements and other visual material in the library is edited over time, with additions (mostly) and deletions (possibly) occurring in various categories. The librarian acts as the author of the collection. On the other hand the images are usually items of individual interest. The order of the items in individual files is random. The classification scheme functions as a finding aid, not as a grouping with meaning.

Tjebbe van Tijen’s Scroll of Scrolls uses metaphor of image as well as concepts. The structures reinforce the content with their allusion to language and communication. The linkage of collecting to artmaking is clear, and van Tijen’s use of scale metaphorically suggests the idea of archived knowledge.

Hiroshi Sugimoto – Conceptual Forms

Artist Collection – Alejandro Borsani

Conceptual Forms (2004) is a series of photographs by the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (I found only a couple of them on the web).  He writes: I have photographed suites of “stereometric exemplars” purchased from the West during the Meiji era (1868-1911), now preserved by the University of Tokyo. The mathematical models are sculptural renderings of trigonometric functions; the mechanical models were teaching aids for showing the dynamics of Industrial Revolution-age machinery.

Sugimoto references Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass 1915-23) and says: “The Large Glass attempted to throw projections of the unseen fourth dimension onto our three-dimensional experience, much in the same way that three-dimensional objects cast shadows onto two-dimensional surfaces”. He also finds male and female characteristics in the photographed objects. The mathematical models will be asociated with the bride and the machanicals models with the bachelors.

I was interested about this work because it appear to me as a collection of abstracts objects: equations, functions, relations between forces. The mathematical models are objects of 12 inches of height, they make me think in fragments of a bone structure eroded by time. Maybe they are like old ideas, pieces of an old paradigm.

There is a relation between science, knowlege and art in the journey of these ojbects. First they were objects of scientfic study (made in Germany), then they were purchased and became imported knowlege (Japan) and finaly they were “elevated” to the category of art objects (this work was first showed at the Fondation Cartier pour le art contemporaine in Paris).

These machines and models were created without any artistic intention. This is what motivated me to produce this series of photographs and title them ‘Conceptual Forms.’ Art is possible without artistic intention and can be better without It.
– Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Artist as Collectors of Info: let’s get personal – olivia ciummo

I was thinking about the differences between practices of artists in book collecting as to people who collect books for their rarity. I guess it is self-explanatory as to how and why a person would collect for the sake of collecting an object, pretty straightforward.  I guess the question I ask is it the same for artist?

With artist I found a distinct engagement in the way the collection is formed, the content and cataloging. A personal connection to the collection rather than a collection biased on accumulation of rare forms.  I’m not saying all that collectors outside of the realm of art have no connection to the content of their collection. Rather the idea of contrasting and comparing collecting objects for personal reference to collecting objects for sequential relevance due out of a system of capitalist (meaning money making) publishing.

I interviewed filmmaker, video maker and artist tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE to investigate the functions of his book collection. (please note the questions I ask) I also referenced Martha Rosler’s collection to look for similarities in these two artists’ trade of collecting books. This I contrast with book collectors of another kind. Such as noted in Baudrillard’s The System of Objects (I know we all love Baudrillard) page 93. He accounts a story told by Maurice Rheims (art collector and writer on art) about a bibliophile that dealt with unique and original copies of books, who one day learned about a second copy of a particular book. Leaning this he tracked down the location, bought the book burned it and had a lawyer draw up a legal document stating that his copy was now the ONLY copy. This is the contrast I speak of between artist that collect and collectors, though possibly extreme.  The notion of objectification and putting forth the effort of doing violent actions to identify the object as an object to be counted, collected or amassed.  This I think is absent form the story on Martha Rosler’s website ( and form the interview below with tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE. These artist have collected to do research, to understand knowledge and to use it to make art. Not to own an object.


When did you start being a book collector? Was it a particular book or subject that got you started?

The value of the books that I collect is based on their content & the significance of that content to me personally NOT on market value – which would usually be contrary to what I consider to be important.  It’s also based on how rare the content of the book is.

For example, I’m not as likely to buy a mass-market cookbook, even though the recipes might be useful, just because there’s no ‘need’ for my library to contain a book that’s likely to be found easily elsewhere.  The books I acquire are books I intend to READ or, at least, use as a reference work.  As such, I’m much more likely to look for rare music theory, politics, film history, science, literature, art, etc, books than I am for something as omnipresent as something by a popular horror writer, eg.  I won’t get a book just because it’s a 1st edition or some such, but I will look for publications that I think will be hard to find because they’re small editions, etc..

How you go about searching for books on the Internet? Do you still use methods of searching other than the Internet?

I’m almost constantly researching & looking for books that might be valuable sources for me to study.  EG: after we talked on the phone tonight, I started thinking that I should read that Iranian book of the so-called ‘terrorist’ confessions that I was lucky enough to pick up an English-language copy of in Australia.  That got me to thinking about Reza Baraheni, the author of “The Crowned Cannibals: Writings on Repression in Iran”.  Reza was an Iranian poet in exile in the USA who had been tortured under the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK.  I knew him in Baltimore & we both gave readings at a friend’s apartment one night in Baltimore in the late 1970s.  I decided that I should read his book 1st so I went online & ordered a copy of it (only $5.00 w/ shipping!).  That means I’ve now set in motion YET-ANOTHER research for myself.

How do you go about lending books out?

If someone that I know will benefit from or appreciate the book I will lend it out to them
(unless it’s TOO irreplaceable).  The lending process is ‘controlled’ by trust and memory. For example, if someone borrows a book it’s up to them to remember to return it.  If it’s been a long time and I see that the book is still missing I’ll harass them to return it.  If neither they nor I remember then it’s a loss. I don’t lend to people I don’t know.
My system isn’t that different from any other lending library except that it’s based more on trust & doesn’t have a bureaucracy.

How do you catalog each item?

Again, not THAT differently from any other library insofar as books are organized according to content rather than by, say, the cover’s color or some such.  The organizational categories are simply very common ones that I’m likely to remember such as Literature, Art, and Film, etc. But these categories aren’t necessarily the best for accuracy.  For example, Timothy Leary can be found under Drugs, though he might be more correctly filed under philosophy – I just put his books under drugs because I mostly associate him with expanded consciousness research that involves LSD, etc.

When did you start being a book collector? Was it a particular book or subject that got you started?

When I was a little kid my elementary school had a few book sales
& I got a copy of a book of limericks & illustrations by Edward Lear
called “A Book of Nonsense”.  I probably had other books before that
but that’s the one that really sticks in my mind as somehow ‘precious’
– ‘precious’ in the sense of seeming almost magically wonderful to me.

How you go about searching for books on the internet?

I rarely search for books on the internet.  If I did I’d have to use extreme critical limitations or it would be too expensive.

Do you still use methods of searching other than the internet?

I mainly look for books in used book stores, at library sales, yard sales,
that sort of thing.  Wherever they can be gotten cheapest or for free.

If you are especially eager to obtain a copy of a particular book, do you buy one in lesser condition if that is all that’s available?

Condition is of little importance except insofar as it effect readability.
I want all of its pages to be there..  that sort of thing.

Do you upgrade to a better copy when one becomes available?

Not usually.  I’d rather get a different book than repeat.

What other hobbies, interests, or recreation or arts, etc., do you enjoy?

I’m interested in almost everything EXCEPT sports.

What would you like to tell us, business or personal, about yourself?

electronically signed,


Amir-ul Kafirs

Some tenuous beginnings of P.N.T. (Perverse Number Theory):
(for all x)x = (for all x)x (Anything is Anything)
(A Double Negative As Not A Positive)
(A finite quantity represented as a set containing
an infinite quantity of its subdivisions
(such as its subdivision in terms of rational numbers)
does not equal the same finite quantity
represented as a set containing an infinite quantity
OF A DIFFERENT DEGREE of its subdivisions
(such as its subdivision in terms of irrational numbers).)
m + n does not equal n + m is isomorphic to x
the ceiling of x is greater than or equal to the ceiling of the ceiling of x
(Enough is Enough)
The Formula of the Origin of the H.M. (Hermaphrodite Mafia):
(S0+S0) = so&so (predicate: 1 + 1 = the free variable so-&-so)
interpretation 01: predicate:
The successor to zero plus the successor to zero
equals the free variable so-&-so.
interpretation 02: predicate:
Parents have produced a child
that transcends their fixed gender status.

Some tenuous beginnings of I.J.T. (Internal Jumbling Technique):
The biran of hdeas teird & selpt ’til its biarn was in a wreid sacpe.  It cvread the stlay crud on its berad & in its driay snak in the sitan of the bran & the bran aklie.

Work will make you Free Trade,

anonymous /
David A. Bannister / Luther Blissett / Monty Cantsin / Karen Eliot /
E.G.Head / id ntity / Tim Ore / Party Teen on Couch #2 /
RATical / Alan Smithee / SpRATacus / tANGO, aLPHA cHARLIE /
1/2 of “Who is like God?s”

For a highly abridged promotional lo-fi version of my “Book ‘Em” documentary:

For a copy of my book that references my 1st 9 books:

For info about the press that published the above:

Here’s a recent article I wrote about my friend Bruce Stater’s writing:,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,32/+Staterment&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=us

The video of my presentation at THE INFLUENCERS fest in Barcelona in 2004
can be accessed @:
wch surprises me because I was pretty unpopular there.

For 2 volumes of my “Piano Illiterature” on the Internet Archive:
Thanks to the ever-lovin’ Germaine Fodor for putting this on-line!!

the “Whoop Up @ the Funny Farm” audio track
from the “Luther Blissett – Open Pop Star” CD
can be downloaded from:

An outdated version or another of the venerable Seven by Nine Squares is available at:

A subset of the above concentrating on my writings being:

S.P.C.S.M.E.F. web-site: <;
or is it: <;

tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE action reports:
or is it: <;?

“History Begins Where Life Ends” can be read at:

WIdémoUTH tapes related text: <;
or: <;

Now available for download, Retrograde Release no. 28, February 2004:
PhonoStatic 27′ cassette
Description: <;
(direct download of 11 ogg vorbis file available on above link)
This includes my 8:20 sped-up piano piece entitled:
“It’s Not As Easy As You Might Think To Be A Pseudo-Virtuoso (#2)”

Downloads from CD release of Scrape Audio Magazine #1:
“Tone Fones Duet” & “Top Bottom”
are available at:


N.A.A.M.C.P.: <;
or is it: <;

I reckon that one of these yrs there’ll be link from here:
to the vaudeo I made about the Industrial Arts Co-Op’s Deerhead sculpture.

Mottos & Slogans:

“Anything is Anything”
“No More Punching-Bag Clowns!”
“Neoism Now! & Then!”;
“Kill Normality Before It Kills You!”
“The Revenge of the Impotent is to Try to Neuter the Fertile”
“Before You Decide Against Biting the Hand That Feeds You,
Ask Why It Has So Much Food in the First Place”
“WE are all UNEQUAL under the LAW & THAT is its PURPOSE!”
“USICIAN, Use Thyself!”


Mad Scientist / d composer / Sound Thinker / Thought Collector / As Been /
PIN-UP (Postal Interaction Network Underground Participant) /
Headless Deadbeat of the Pup tENT Cult /
booed usician / Low Classicist / H.D.J. (Hard Disc Jockey) /
Psychopathfinder / Jack-Off-Of-All-Trades / criminally sane /
Homonymphonemiac / Practicing PromoTextual /
Air Dresser /
Sprocket Scientist / headitor & earchivist / Explicator /
Sexorcist /
Professional Resister of Character Defamation /
Proponent of Classification-Resistant What-Have-Yous /
Princess of Dorkness’s Right Hand Man /
Human Attention-ExSpanDex Speculum /
Imp Activist /
SPLEENIUS / Cognitive Dissident

social associations:

nuclear brain physics surgery’s cool founder & graduate
Krononaut / Church of the SubGenius Santa / Neoast?! / Pregroperativist
talent scout for Olfactories Organized
S.S.S.B.ite (Secret Society for Strange Behaviour -ite)
(Anti-Secret Society for Strange Behaviour Asshole Son-of-a-Bitch)
member of the I.S.C.D.S. (International Stop Continental Drift Society)
1 time supporter of the ShiMo Underground
Ballooning One in the Fructiferous Society
founder & president of the N.A.A.M.C.P.
(National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored Peoples)
co-founder of the S.P.C.S.M.E.F.
(Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sea Monkeys
by Experimental Filmmakers)
Borderline Kneelite in the KNEEHIGHS GANG
emphatic member of the No-No Class
Street Rat Liberation Front
Money Against Capitalism
What?! Collective

“Why, if we allow them to think for themselves there would be anarchy!”
– a fictitious quote from Daniel Webster

The PRESENT of Information Storage/Retrieval
lies in understanding how to decode-from/encode-in ANY medium
(such as the surface you’re reading this from)

File under DDC#040.002

Gordon Matta-Clark, Fake Estates

Documentation of an Artist’s Collection
Erik Peterson

Can one collect air?  Can one collect stars?  Can one collect land?  The answers to these questions is of course yes, yes, and yes.  Marcel Duchamp collected 50 cc of Paris air and cell phone companies are buying it from over our heads, the naming rights for stars is for sale on, and certainly land is bought and sold as “property” all the time.  Collecting intangibles like “land,” objectifying and possessing it as property, is probably the cornerstone tenet in our democratic/capitalist society.  In young America, property not only had functional value, but political as well.  Land gave freedom for a white male to participate in government, to cast a vote as a “landowner”.
Land is one of the most one of the most sought after objects to own, everyone wants a “piece of the pie.”  The playground question I remember from childhood was: do you own just the skin of the crust or the diminishing slice all the way to the molten core?  Is land a surface or volume, a painting or sculpture?  Perhaps owning land, you are just purchasing the right to use it until you and all your descendents die.  The functionality seems paramount, a farmer buys arable land, an hotel developer buys land on the beach.  But what if the land is unusable?
Gordon Matta-Clark, most famous for his work cutting large voids into disused buildings, observed these oddities of American land ownership and went about collecting parcels of land that were as close to unusable as can be.  His collection consisted of 15 extremely marginal pieces of the New York City pie, fourteen in Queens and one in Staten Island.  The land, sold at city auctions as “gutterspace,” was often behind or in-between buildings, utterly inaccessible, extremely small and oddly shaped, or quite literally a gutter.  Formed by the quixotic jousts of municipal intervention – strange zoning arrangements, cast-offs from public works projects, and left-over slices from surveys – these lots became metaphors for the fracturing of space and the inherent strangeness of property ownership.  The fact that Matta-Clark purchased the parcels (instead of simply collecting photos of them or circling them on a map) speaks volumes to the absurdity of the commercialization of something so physical and yet so ephemeral.  It also speaks to the nature of collecting, where an object is stripped of its intended function to become a singular possession.  The nature of the possession of land becomes even more intriguing when the land is functionless, such that the only purpose is to be the “property” of a collector.
The final manifestation of the project, which was to be called Fake Estates, was never realized due to Matta-Clark’s untimely death in 1978.  The cycle of landownership redoubled, and the city reclaimed the sites due to unpaid taxes.  Luckily, a physical manifestation of the piece is still possible due to the artist’s collection of buerocratic ephemera surrounding the sales of the estates.  Matta-Clark not only collected unusable (and often unseeable) bits of land, but also the documentation surrounding its existence.  His archived collections – the deed of sale, tax-assessors maps, photographs and films of the sites, and writings – now form the material representation that documents his immaterial collection of former possessions: land that had no function but to exist.

Video stills from a 1975 video by Jaime Davidovick with Gordon Matta-Clark shot on site during Matta-Clark’s Reality Properties: Fake Estates project

Alison Knowles Lecture Wed Oct 29

Alison Knowles Lecture

Art+ Design Lecture Series, Columbia College Chicago

Oct 29, 2008

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

623 S. Wabash Ave. room 203

Alison Knowles is a genuinely interdisciplinary artist. One of the original members of the Fluxus group in the 1960s, she was a founder of Something Else Press (with her husband Dick Higgins), the source of numerous iconic publications connected to Fluxus, including Notations, the book she edited with John Cage. Her works have encompassed performance, sound, conceptual art, sculptural work incorporating found objects, pieces made from handmade paper, printmaking, and artists’ books. Her work is collected internationally, and she has an active career as a practicing artist and as a guest lecturer and teacher. In 2008 alone, she has done residencies in New York; Minneapolis; Durham, NY; London; Cologne; Cardiff, Wales; and Genova, Italy. After her visit to Columbia College, she will be performing in Berne and Zurich, Switzerland, and have an exhibition of her series “Rake’s Progress” in Berlin.

posted by Andrew Oleksiuk