Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Circle Game

I've never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I'm not proud of my address
In the torn up town, no post code envy - Lorde, Royals 2012
The wind is in from Africa
Last night I couldn't sleep
Oh, you know it sure is hard to leave here Carey
But it's really not my home - Joni Mitchell, Carey 1970
About a hundred years ago, when I had just arrived in New York, I used to visit art galleries almost every weekend. Back then the Frick, MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art were things of wonder.

I had almost forgotten about those salad days of exploring New York until an article in The Guardian by Andres Serrano jogged my memory.

I remembered going to Brooklyn to see the much advertised "Piss Christ" by Andres Serrano - a  photograph of  small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine.

Before then I had not realized that art could be hype - that art didn't need to be  about technical expertise or embedded creativity. It could be about ideas represented in some visual media.

Some time in the late 1990s I went to see a photo exhibition comprised of portraits of homeless people wearing clothes from "Gap". I don't remember what the photographer was trying to achieve, what he was trying to convey, but I guess I got it right. What I saw was a bunch of photos of homeless people wearing clothes from "Gap".

And it was around then that I figured that Marshall McLuhan was spot on when he said in 1964 that "the medium is the message". The Gap homeless exhibition and the Piss Christ photo were really just about getting an idea and having the balls, confidence and connections, to realise it in a piece of self-referential object d'art art, before anyone else could think of it.

Serrano's latest piece of art is a collection of signs that he purchased from homeless people in New York - usually paying $20 a piece. He cleverly titled the collection "Signs of the Times". You can read his take on it in The Guardian's - A Creative Times Report - "I purchased 200 signs from homeless people in New York City. ... I call this piece a collection because that's what it is, a collection, and I’m the collector. But I’m also an artist and I’ve made my collection a work of art"

Apparently he wasn't the first person to think up the idea of collecting homeless people's signs, but somehow he didn't know about the ones that came before, and so wrote about his achievement in The Guardian as if he were the first person to conceive it.

By now you are probably wondering why I have chosen to illustrate this post with drawings of people. Well one person - in different guises. They are Facebook profile pictures that my brother Tim drew. Over a period of three months he uploaded the drawings, one by one with about a week in between,  in the sequence you can see here. I decided to put them together and put them in one of my blog posts,  and then I had an idea.

I do hope that it is a first.

 I remembered reading that Mark Zuckerberg got the idea for Facebook from American university year books - paper books published annually which included photos of the students' faces - hence "Facebook". My idea is to turn Zuckerberg's idea on its head - or  should I say, face.

I plan to make a paper book of Facebook profile images. Of course I will ask permission of the the owners of the images,  and I  will not do an Andres Serrano, offering $20 for each sign and exhibiting them,  without even attributing the signs to the homeless people who had made  them.

But I WILL make a book, a paper book. Of course I won't be able to call it Facebook. I can't call it anything with the word "face" in it,  as I am certain Mr Zuckerberg would complain. But I do have a few ideas as to what I will call my work of art. However right now it's under wraps.

The only clues I will give is that it is self-referential, backwardly compatible, intuitive,  and no homeless people will be used in its production.

 Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Well, it will consume a lot of time and give you endless frustration with agents, and if you're lucky, publishing houses. Then too, you'd best have lots of storage space. Most self-published authors use their garage, but in Manhattan???
I keep telling myself, I gotta get my book together and went to the trouble of printing the first page of some 20 chapters and hanging them on my closet door - y'know, 'storyboarding' but I've lost interest lately. Must be age or the realization that no-one would give a darn.

monty said...

Phizog would work. Good luck.

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