Always carry two wallets on your person, one of the usual type, and the other as a decoy, empty save a few dollars and some innocuous business cards. This isn’t so much an art project as it is a way to avoid being robbed, a way to improve your life, which makes this an art project.
Here’s a problem: spend the afternoon writing jokes and you might be a comedian, spend it lifting weights and maybe you’re a body builder, but spend it working on poems and you’re probably a cop. Why is that, you ask? That, my friend, is the problem.
Don’t think of an elephant not thinking of an elephant. Art isn’t in the thought but in its echo. Art isn’t in the thought but in its echo.
Were I to say the same thing here as I did in the previous entry, you’d no doubt be ready for it; even when it isn’t, art is all about preparation for the experience of art.
Build a snowman. Work with diligence. Work until you reach that place that all real artists occasionally find, that place where art and work not only intersect but also gel, that place so like a door able to swing both inward and outward, but a door that is ultimately unnecessary, as one discovers the wall in which it was embedded doesn’t actually exist. The only other guideline I can give you for this project is the following: your snowman should be made without snow.
Draw a staircase with your eyes closed. Here’s mine:
Imagine every passing idea as a stranger worthy of following through a crowded street not out of curiosity but out of boredom. Now, imagine every street as a passing idea and yourself as the stranger. Art is what happens when someone else begins to follow you.
In the 2nd grade, I got a ribbon for Best Large Tomatoes. This is a fact. It functions as an anchor within a work of art. One way to proceed: add a boat, someone on deck, something about eating. Another way: turn the memory inside-out until its roots spill all over the place.
Get a job writing the subtitles for television programs. Do humans still do those jobs? I think it’s all automated at this point, right? You know, as an aside, this book, the one you’re now reading, was originally inspired by my own experience with automated subtitles. It was right around the time that the first two books by Édouard Levé appeared in English: Suicide and Autoportrait. I loved those books, so much so that I sought out Levé’s oeuvre. Sorry, that was a joke. Levé’s first book was actually titled Oeuvres. At the time, 2012 or so, there was no English translation of Oeuvres, but I was able to find on Youtube a video of the author reading from the work in French. I watched the video for a few minutes using one of Youtube’s automatic translation and subtitle functions, but knew quickly that I should stop and simply begin my own book. Now, right now, the now I’m anchoring this particular sentence to (the now of July 15th, 2014) I’m waiting to get my copy of the book in the mail. The title in this English version is Works. Although I’ve yet to read the book–and I’m already two years into the writing of this one—I can safely confirm its influence on my own.
I can never get this exactly right, and both ways seem to work, but was it “Form is never more than an extension of content” or was it “Content is never more than an extension of form”?
Make a list of every encounter with an insect that seems somehow memorable. Create for each a tiny shrine. Light a candle. Blow out a candle. See how that little wisp of smoke does a funny dance just before disappearing? Those are your steps, learn them!
I just had an epiphany I’d like to share. It goes something like this: if the art of fraud is tricking people out of money, then the fraud of art is tricking people out of attention. I know that’s not quite right, but I’m getting there.
Close your eyes. Draw a tree. Here’s mine:
Revisit the journalistic, critical, and academic writing you’ve amassed, those things tucked away in deep folders on your desktop, you know, things collecting the digital equivalent of dust. Does dust have a digital equivalent? That’s a question better posed for a different time. Wait, can a question pose? Can it take a stance? Can it respond to commands? Once, a decade ago, I was in line at a convenient store when a woman working the register said to her coworker: “I ain’t even posed to be here.” I assume she intended the colloquial shortening of the word “supposed” but was so struck by the pure metaphoric beauty of one unable to stand in such a way so as to be present in the world that to this day I often think about this exchange. Anyway, speaking of exchange, dust off this occasional and mostly-forgotten work, work that should, by the way, focus on others: papers you wrote in grad school, old reviews, introductions to events, other tidbits unable to find a permanent home. Now, replace the subject of these bits of writing with your own name. When an author’s book is mentioned, replace it with one of your own. Finally, assemble as much of this material as you’re able to salvage into an autobiography, your autobiography. Early on in his “Lecture on Nothing,” John Cage includes the famously provocative statement: “I have nothing to say and I am saying it.” As the lecture proceeds, with equal parts anecdotal example and imagistic digression, to comment on structure, material and composition itself, it turns out that there is in fact much to say, and that much of what is said is punctuated by a self-reflexive awareness. What does this tidbit about Cage have to do with this particular instruction? Well, I just cut and pasted it in from an older review I’d written on some long out-of-print chapbook. Everything deserves a second life.
Poetry peppered with sly, askance humor often makes one want to sneeze, which is to say it risks trivializing itself by allowing what amounts to the elbow-jab after the joke to resonate more strongly than the confluence of delivery, content and context which originally formed it. If you agree, move on to the next entry; otherwise, please read the sentence over until it sinks in.
Something about the Peel Sessions. A joke, really a pun. Something to do with pealing.
Attach a camera to the front of your car. Film yourself driving 500 miles. Install a treadmill in the center of a gallery. Place a TV in front of it. Loop the film of you driving, but slow it down tremendously. Have the gallery play “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers on repeat. Stand on the treadmill. The show opens when you begin walking.
Keep track of all the money you spend for a year. Make a list. Number this list. See, for example, the numbers here. Now, buy yourself something nice. After all, you deserve it.