Monday, May 30, 2011

Jonathan Safran Foer's "Tree of Codes"

Imagine my surprise when I opened Jonathan Safran Foer's book Tree of Codes on the airplane and it looked like this (image via):

Then imagine the people watching me read this book on the airplane. In the last week, I've read it twice and with each reading feel like I've gained something new not just in the content but in the act of how to read a book. The first page looks like this with many other pages underneath:

My two favorite pages scanned with a sheet of paper behind them:

From the Author's Afterward: "For years I had wanted to create a die-cut book by erasure, a book whose meaning was exhumed from another book. I had thought of trying the technique with the dictionary, the encyclopedia, the phone book, various works of fiction and non-fiction, and with my own novels. But any of those options would have merely spoken to the process. The book would have been an exercise. I was in search of a text whose erasure would somehow be a continuation of its creation. The Street of Crocodiles is often my answer to the impossible-to-answer question: What is your favorite book? And yet, it took me a year to recognize it as the text I'd been looking for.... At times I felt that I was making a gravestone rubbing of The Street of Crocodiles, and at times that I was transcribing a dream that The Street of Crocodiles might have had. I have never read another book so intensely or so many times. I've never memorized so many phrases, or, as in the act of erasure progressed, forgotten so many phrases."

It reminds me of Ann Hamilton's Tropos:

Needless to say this interlibrary loan from Boston College has gravitated to my "buy" list. Check out the Visual Editions website and this video on how the book was constructed.

Inflatable Pool Update

... because this week's postings focus on the swimming pool... Image by HB.

or to look more like Hannah's original drawing of "paradise":

Ode to the Swimming Pool

This will be a multi-faceted entry undoubtedly extending throughout the summer.

Joel Sternfeld, Wet'n Wild Aquatic Theme Park, Orlando, Florida, September 1980

Pipilotti Rist, Sip My Ocean

Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva, Untitled 2, 2010

André Kertesz, Underwater Swimming, 31 August 1917

Jordan Tate, Topeka, Kansas

Sheila Newbery, Blue Pool

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Paradise Regained

The similarities between my sister-in-law's margarita and the inflatable swimming pool are striking (though tomorrow the pool will look more enticing).

Four hours into filling this mammoth pool, and it's only 2/3rds done.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hannah Hoch's "Album"

I checked out Hannah Höch's Album that she created in approximately 1933. It consists of 114 pages and contains over 400 photographic illustrations from periodicals. She liked images of female nudes, cats, and children as they are the most commonplace photographs. She liked cats so much, I scanned all the pages with them.

From Gunda Luyken's essay: “She created associative contexts which, knowing the circumstances of her life, permit of very impersonal interpretations. Beyond this, her album is marked by purposely introduced ‘disturbance factors.’ One such conscious accent, for instance, is the head of an emu, set on a double page otherwise devoted entirely to cats.”

In case you were wondering (because I was), Album contains 18 domestic cats.

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Town, New Piles

The story of my week (after Round 1):


Burn Pile

Astoria Dump

Final after the first round to be retrieved in the not so far future.

Additions to the Cat Collection

I shipped one box home... it contained nothing but paper cats (yes, I'm obsessed). Some of the best of the new acquisitions:

Thanks Mom!

One box of postcards. $10. 30 cards. 4-5 depictions of a cat on the front of each. 120 plus cats in one setting (plus stocking up on the most loved cat toy in the world in PDX).

Home Sweet Home at the Rummage Sale

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Five Objects Photographed Before Throwing Away

One of our toys with old film canister attached (oh for the days of screw top, metal canisters). Discarded due to paint falling off the back (and we kept more memorable that we had a connection to).

My grandmother's homemade, dried parsley from 1972.

Javy's most hated math flashcards with a very rusty paperclip.

Arizona charm bracelet from Uncle Dan & Aunt Jennifer. Unfortunately, the roadrunner fell off within the first year of wearing it. The metal is too corroded to keep.

My undergraduate photo box (Konica paper) with several titles to photographs written all over the top. Tossed due to mold (test strip photographs it contained were burned in the pyre by the sea).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

22 Globes at the Astoria Coffee House

... and a photograph of a toy deer pressed up against a screen (that I forgot to ask who made it).

Bad i-Phone photography Version #9,610

"Collections of Nothing" - William Davies King

"Collecting is a way of linking past, present, and future. Objects from the past get collected in the present to preserve them for the future. Collecting processes presence, meanwhile articulating the mysteries of desire. What people wanted and did not want drives what collectors want and do not want in anticipation of what future collectors will want or will not want... Usable things sometimes become collectible, but collectible things rarely become usable."

William Davies King's memoir, Collections of Nothing, is preventing me from getting sleep these days. I read it until my eyes close and then pick it up first thing in the morning. I checked it out from the library thinking of the woman who made the cat scrapbook and now I'm fascinated by the weird things everyone collects. For example, Davies turned his childhood stamp collecting book into this:

"For the last twenty-five years I have been placing in the vacant spaces of The New Pioneer Album those little rectangles you find in the upper right-hand corner of certain envelopes, stamp outlines usually containing instructions to Place (or Put or Affix) Stamp (or Postage or Postage Stamp) Here."

King began his collections as a teenager. On long walks, he picked up discarded pieces of metal and later polished them until they were shiny. The more useless the better. The first collection in his "adult life" was the plastic and paper labels of all the food products he consumed. He didn't save duplicates but only variations in the advertising. This became a record of his life; an autobiography in consumption.

"Mostly I save paper, polyurethane bags, cellophane, and cardboard. If a label is badly damaged I don't bother, but a little tear or stain or wrinkle is okay. Labels that have been in direct contact with sticky or greasy foods (like chocolate milk cartons or Crisco wrappers) I usually don't save, but some, such as bacon boxes, are so appealing I cannot resist, even at the risk of a little grease stain.... Instead of remaining loyal to a brand, even one I had always used, I started exploring all the other brands, and the crunchy as well as the smooth; cinnamon as well as plain; small, medium, "convenient family, and jumbo (inconvenient family). A collection that was initially 'about my consumption' began to shape my consumption as I became a self-conscious collector."

At the time of this writing, King had "83 binders of flat labels and 51 boxes of miscellaneous boxes, not including cereal boxes, which are in such an array of containers, it is difficult to count."

"The bigger the collection gets, the harder it is to keep. The bigger the collection gets, the more completely it represents me and my history, and the more I feel oppressed by it. The bigger the collection gets, the more extraordinary and 'valuable' it is, and the more I mourn the thousands of hours spent assembling it. In the hole and on the peak, I love this collection and hate it, and I keep it because it expressed me, though rudely. It is a poor collection wishing it were rich. It is a celebration of material culture wrapped around a contempt for material culture. It is a burgeoning collection full of emptiness. It is a collection of nothing. This is my title, and I am its lord, its consumer and author and subject and victim."

"On a personal level, the collection speaks of love and its loss, self-worth and self-hatred, and the awkwardness of my own connection to other people. On an impersonal level, it speaks of the riches and excesses of an era of late 20th century life. It testifies to the remarkable liberty of a middle-class academic to satisfy his hungers in diverse, luxurious, laughably mundane, and occasionally exotic ways, and at the same time it begs the question of why that liberty was exercised to these ends."

"There are collectors who do not amass, in a physical sense, such as those who fill their heads with shaggy dog jokes, bird watchers who hope to check off yet another species on their life list, others who collect one item only to discard another, and many who think small or even miniature (figurines, thimbles, coins, spoons, wee books). But collectors all occupy a conceptual space that is the enlarged but displaced sense of self. Every day in every way our collections will get better and better, even if the world does suck rocks."

"Collections are not merely owned, they are performed. They structure your life and assign roles."

One of my favorite collections in the whole book is envelope linings. King arranges the pages according to "stripes, florals, hatch-marks, trademarks, solids, airmail specials, and so on."

King's most recent collection is a close second:

"I had an old laboratory notebook: octavo, four hundred pages, and for years it awaited contents. But all at once I knew that I wanted to fill the book with the diminutive illustrations you find in dictionaries, those skimpy, anonymous imagettes, so obsequiously not Art. They aim only to convey one bite or two of verbiage from our world. Crafted as they are, and even stylish in their rejection of style, they refuse to draw attention to themselves, and never are they signed... Each page holds about 35 images, so the number of pictures in the book is in the neighborhood of 7000. To select and cut each image, to glue and position it, might take about three minutes. Thus, the book entailed approximately 350 hours of work. True, the work was relaxing to me, done in 2 or 3 hour evening stints, often to the accompaniment of fine music or a video, but still I spent nearly 6 percent of my life over those nine months executing this collection. By any accounting, I squandered this time, because there is no way, I believe, that this book could ever prove worthwhile by economic standards. At what was then minimum wage, $6.75/hour, the book cost about $2400 to produce, but here in Santa Barbara we aspire to what is called a "living wage," then calculated at $11/hour, which brings the cost of the book close to $4000. That does not count the cost of the Elmer's Glue or the notebook or the dictionaries themselves, which admittedly were cheap. I used 17 dictionaries to fill the book, and I'm sure I did not pay more than a dollar or two for any one of them. Many I got for free..."

This is a great book for anyone interested in collecting the normal and abnormal. It certainly makes me feel better about my collection of paper lunch bags and hair cut off my head since moving to the Midwest.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best Google Search Landing on this Website in Months

"Painting Schizophrenic Art Cat"

They were probably looking for Louis Wain who, according to Wikipedia: "was an English artist best known for his drawings, which consistently featured anthropomorphised large-eyed cats and kittens. In his later years he suffered from schizophrenia, which, according to some psychologists, can be seen in his works."

I will have over a thousand cats by the end of this trip to Oregon. Accumulating in mass here in the NW.