Greg continues to send things, boxes full
Curatorial Essay by Caroline Picard and Lara Schoorl
I’m sorry that my communication has been a little bit erratic. I’ve been having some problems with my hand and it’s made it difficult to type. Shall we meet tomorrow? I thought we could talk about what to present to the designer. I worry that the initial invitation is too vague. Either they don’t reply, or they say, What?
The project began with an attempt to envision what an alternative, Ideal, Utopic institution might look like—a museum or an academy. But then, you see, that kind of place is absurd: a perfect place that is maybe non-hierarchical, inclusive and accessible, but also well-curated; a place that doesn’t compromise any formal, aesthetic standards without being didactic, putting any attending viewers or students at ease to such an extent that they can express doubt confidently; a place with fulfilled employees and endless funding and support for artists and academics, where the emphasis isn’t on a product, but on the engagement of public inquiry and experimentation; a place for interactive learning, one that is ethical without being morally oppressive…we could go on. But how can you have funding without a product? Or formalism without hierarchy? Regardless, this prospective institution would also have a carbon footprint; it makes trash and administrative debris and even in the best case scenario, some employee in some department will inevitably hate going to work sometimes. J.J. saw a rat in the kitchen, by the way.
Rami says we can pull images from his Tumblr for his contribution. Do you have a recommendation for a pest service? What is our criteria? I’ve lost track of so many email threads over the course of this project. Jane wrote that she keeps her bio short because otherwise it looks like a resume and she hates what that format represents. Stevie also says that she doesn’t like bios; she just gives a sentence about where she works and lives. I’m like, Yes! But what would a perfect international art center look like? I think of the Queen’s museum which dedicated a huge empty space for non-object based, socially engaged projects. Apparently, it was difficult to convey the importance of that emptiness to a museum board. Or Lise Haller Baggesen’s Mothernism tent—what if that structure was some other kind of standard? The Hyde Park Art Center is an alternative art center too but it doesn’t operate on quite the same scale as the Louvre or the Art Institute. Sometimes I find those places oppressive: the myth of changeless objects. Did you see when the Louvre had to put its Ancient Greek statues on office desks and file cabinets to keep them dry during that Paris flood? I love that photo for some reason.
I spoke to a web developer about the Institutional Garbage exhibition design. He says it won’t work on mobile devices and asked me to consider the differences between virtual 2D space and material 3D space. It was a middling argument. Curators proposed imaginary exhibitions in 140 characters or less and the posters make everything look as though it already happened. Actually, the only thing that has actually happened is the Every house has a door, Wasted Hours project. Anthony and Josh created an institution out of thin air, but it feels real. For instance, I’m very happy that Brad got into the Mesoamerican Institute of Tenochtology. It makes me believe in the netherspace these artifacts inhabit. Scans from Suzanne’s book, Promising Young Women, capture life inside a mental health facility. You feel the materiality of the book, even in its absence. I was thinking about the psychiatric ward, and perhaps also societal expectations of gender and personhood, as institutions that the individual has to specifically negotiate, often without mention. A lot of the contributions respond to different types of institutions—whether academic, art-related, race-related, or having to do with capitalism etc. Ah, the little b/rat is still with us. She chased away J.J. and Margot away for a night, but since I have not seen her (only heard her scurry) I pretend she is not completely real… I like how her sporadic presence influences our life. She also loves Himalayan Sea Salt! Apparently it’s complicated to have a website begin in the middle of the page. Everything starts top left in digital space. Since Nam Chi’s manifesto is about the checkout girl being ignored (both literally and metaphorically), I thought we could place her manifesto somewhere near the entrance of the exhibition. Can we track how many people actually see the “The Checkout Girl”?
Rowland Saifi went to Naropa way back when. After working as an adjunct teacher for years, he is keen on questions around education. At the end of Black Mountain College, it struggled to bear the weight of its own administration and Charles Olson paid his own money to keep things going. Rowland brought up another school called Highland because it was the first place to arrange the classroom in a circle for discussions; he says history tends to focus on the appearance of radical individuals and cultural production in the 60s as a strange and accidental psychic convergence, but actually one can trace that radicalism back to ad hoc and experimental colleges. Both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King went there. I knew Naropa was a Ginsberg school, but I didn’t realize that Ginsberg had teamed up with a radical Tibetan monk who had been given CIA money to start a militarization school for similarly exiled monks; Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche went through the motions of having such a training camp but used government money to fund the poetry school instead.
The manuscript would just sit there as though it’s been forgotten, or not officially processed by the institution. I mean, it’s complicated. I definitely have some favorite videos, but am also curious about the ones that you haven’t posted yet. Especially the one you mention in which another curator critiques your video performances! I think you don’t need the scare quotes. I told Caroline about the strict division between maker/artist and non-maker/curator/scholar present in the Netherlands, and don’t think those delineations are as strong in Chicago. Since both #’s and sound are in Dutch, I wonder if we should offer translations. I keep thinking about the Naqeeb Stevens building the wall. Versus Mara Baker’s cardboard Pisa. It’s disconcerting when curators show up with a very concrete concept.
I hadn’t thought about the word archive yet, but it is interesting to consider (even if it’s used so often in the past decade). Have you heard of The Salvage Art Institute? It reminds me also of my job at the Roger Brown Study Collection where the Greg Brown archive keeps growing (Greg continues to send things, boxes full). For the past six months, Anna L., Gabe and I have been categorizing and sorting all of it. I even have the “power” to throw out doubles now! Then, of course, the RB house itself is a living/dead archive, which always leads to curatorial questions as to why we keep the stomach acid pills on his bed side where he left them, and which we strictly denote as not-art. There is even a tooth in the bathroom cabinet! Let me know if you have any further thoughts re: Mia’s email. I can respond to her. Also Caroline, the rat has become my roommate as of last night. Literally, she was in my room and just quietly left when I noticed her and she me…Hence the midnight emails, I was suddenly very awake..ha ha.
Helvetica I get, and we can, of course use Helvetica. Kuras and MacKenzie’s sculpture installation includes corporate mission statements. They install the phrases along the baseboards of a gallery. We only have miscellaneous documentation of the project here, but you can see the text is in Helvetica. I want to somehow hold two feelings equally in this show—on the one hand, a feeling that visions of progress are doomed to produce more problems than they intend to fix, and that one must nevertheless try, that there is a beauty in trying, and something fundamentally important to the danger of not-trying. Someone told me that Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan was originally stated by a prisoner just before his execution. The phrase has morphed into popular use, urging citizens at large to produce, to race, to succeed. An imagined land of equal opportunity and technological luxury—with the absurd predicament of waste in which we find ourselves today (that is also obviously not just American, but—because it is here in Chicago via us). So, Helvetica.
My friend April sent this word to me yesterday: sonder.
“Everyone has a story” is obvious, but it’s nice that it has a word.
This essay is an edited compilation of Lara and Caroline’s Institutional Garbage email correspondence (Sept 2015-Aug 2016). Thank you Corinne Leigh Butta, Allison Peters Quinn, Mike Nourse, and the Hyde Park Art Center for prompting this opportunity; and special thanks to Pouya Ahmadi and Ben Nicholson for their metaphors, patience, and concentrated effort.
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