Indepth Arts News: |
"A Book About Death"
2009-09-10 until 2009-09-22
Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery
New York, NY,
USA United States of America
The Emily Harvey Foundation is pleased to present
A Book About Death, a sprawling, collaborative unbound "book" on the subject of
death at the Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery in New York. The opening, on
Thursday, September 10, 2009, one day shy of 9/11, brings together hundreds of
artists in a global exhibition that honors the late artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995),
whose own work inspired this exhibition; Emily Harvey (1941-2004); and the artists
themselves, who have presented their unique visions of the subject through
combinations of art, photography, and text. Featured in this exhibition is Virginia Milici who displays her work in a Free Portfolio at absolutearts.com.
Conceived and organized by Matthew Rose, a Paris-based American artist, A Book
About Death is comprised of artists' postcards from original art created specifically
for the exhibit. These pieces collectively form the pages of the "book." While many
of the artists involved in the exhibition are internationally known – Yoko Ono, Eric
Andersen, Peter Schuyff, Rodney Alan Greenblat – all of the artists share the stage
equally. Each artist has contributed 500 postcards to the exhibit, and visitors to the
gallery are encouraged to take "pages" away with them to create their own book
about death. The exhibit is thus designed to "disappear" on its own schedule as
people attend the exhibit.
"Ray Johnson is part of the history and spirit of The Emily Harvey Gallery, now The
Emily Harvey Foundation," explains Christian Xatrec, EHF NYC director. "Taking the
title from Ray Johnson, Matthew Rose's A Book About Death project refers to Ray’s
groundbreaking-groundbreaking-work in the ephemeral, expanded field of correspondence art.
However, this show sets those key Johnsonian concepts on a new course, in sync with
the evolving interests of the Emily Harvey Foundation program today. The developing
mission of the Foundation, and Rose's show, refuse the notion of hierarchy and the
buttressing of institutional framings."
"Understanding death in any complete sense, doesn't seem at all possible if you're
alive, but these artists have fleshed out many hundreds of approaches," says Matthew
Rose. The artist pays tribute to his own mother, Doris, who died during the project,
with a photograph of her taken on her wedding day, January 18, 1948. "I'm
pleasantly astonished at the intellectual breadth and high humor of the works, and I
think both Ray and Emily – and even my mother – would be, too. It's a fascinating
"Between March 1963 and early 1965, Ray Johnson sent out an unbound 'book' in
the mail one page at a time," explains Mark Bloch, one 13 speakers and performers
for the opening night. "It was a largely unnoticed milestone in the history of books.
To make things even more interesting, like much of Johnson's art, it took as its subject
‘death’. Now almost 15 years after the mysterious death of Johnson himself, a huge
cross-section of international artists have been asked to revisit Johnson's original
strategy by submitting one page each to a new 'Book About Death.'"
"I think it's going to be a real 1960s-style Happening for the new millennium," adds
Bloch. That "happening" will also be webcast live – to fit the 21st century and the
global nature of this project.
"This project has been compelling for its sheer openness on a topic that is universal,"
says Caterina Verde, artist and website designer of the "wall" style site for A Book
About Death. "To see the images submitted from around the world and the cultural
permutations of the subject, the variations of temperament, thoughts, aesthetics --- is as
we observe ourselves walking through life : Ordinary and extraordinary."
"The distribution of art and ideas was very much Ray Johnson's thing," says Denverbased
photographer Mark Sink, who contributed a photograph of his mother, a
three-time cancer survivor, to the exhibition. "It's very exciting to see him and the
concept honored in this exhibition." Sink noted that when first confronted with the
project, he drew a blank on death. Then, with some time, the ideas came rushing in.
"Life is all about death -- Freud's dissertation of the human drive – sex or death and
'the death of analog...the death of our culture…the slaughter of self-aware sea
mammals, and of course, our dying earth. Now I can't stop thinking about it!"
Verde, for one, is "surprised to see that there are no images – besides David Rager's
poster – that touch upon 9/11, as the opening is the day before the anniversary. Perhaps," she muses, "this is still a taboo subject."
"A Book About Death has become a book about life," adds Joan Harrison, artist,
writer. "I have the strangest sense I can hear Ray (Johnson) chuckling over my
shoulder every time I work on anything involved with this project!"
An opening program is set with Carolee Schneemann, David Shapiro, Colette
Copeland, Michael Andre, Mark Bloch, Colleen Nika, Hens Breet, Jac Charlesworth,
Cecil Touchon and Keith Buchholz, Simon Critchley, Brabdstufte and Dr. Phil Shinn. A
live webcast of the opening will be available not only for those artists who have
contributed from all corners of the globe, but for anyone interested to see the work
up close and the performers and speakers. A videotape will be produced afterwards
from the many videos taken during the opening – yet another aspect of the global
collaboration. [Webcast address: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/abookaboutdeath]
Posters especially produced for the exhibition by designers Julia Hoffmann, Robert
Mars, Cecil Touchon, Caterina Verde, Matthew Rose, David Rager and Osiris Hertz
have been offered free as high-resolution PDFs on the web site: http://abookaboutdeath.blogspot.com/. Visitors to the site are encouraged to
download the posters and print them at home.
SOCIAL VIRAL ARTWORLD
The project has taken off in a viral way via FaceBook, e-mail, Twitter and word of
mouth in artist communities from Spain and Belgium to Australia and Brooklyn.
FaceBook was a particularly powerful organizing medium: a group was formed and
an event page was created. Artists began to network, talk to each other and
collaborate on performances, posters and, of course getting feedback on their works.
Very much Ray Johnson-envisioned, this exhibition is a collage of people, some living
some dead, all very much a part of this very special happening.
With projects like A Book About Death, a collaborative work involving creative acts
from all directions, the Emily Harvey Foundation concerns itself with supporting ideas
resistant to boundaries of easy legibility," explains Xatrec. "Our emphasis is on giving
voice, and momentary material form, to discursive and process-based practices," he
says. "Show by show, we aim to move within the vicissitudes of collaborative and
cross-disciplinary approaches, generating alternatives to other more solid frameworks
for contemporary practice."
For more details, please see the links for the live webcast, sponsors, posters the
opening program, and other information, as well as the "wall" of all the art works on
both http://abookaboutdeath.blogspot.com/ and http://abookaboutdeath.net/
View more work by Virginia Milici at http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/v/virginiamilici
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