The Other Corner: PS1 Books Inspire

One Sunday ago, after work I strolled over to witness the mass of artists, publishers, and small presses at MoMA PS1 for the New York Art Book Fair.  This was my first. It retained the excitement of the book fairs that would pop up every year at my elementary school–a temporary store of colorful, educational tools which would be a class requirement to attend. Except at MoMA there were probably more picture books than were stocked in the assembly hall at Barnhart School in Arcadia.  Show and Tell day was very important back then.

Kirley-Lyons holding the fort signing postcards for Steven
Kirkly-Lyons signing postcards for Steven

That afternoon, from what I could glean of the myriad of accents zapping through the air, there were participants from all over the country and world.  My brother Nick was one of them, in the W-wing of the 2nd floor.  In his corner station appeared a brick-faced puppet whose human hands signed postcards and catalogs from his previous body of work “STEVEN”  From behind a black scrim, with a ten-dollar microphone and small amp, Nick talked to intrigued passers-by.  Chances are high he had the only live puppet-signing promoting his upcoming exhibition at Invisible Exports, running October 17-November 23.

I just had to spend all of my cash tips on art books, after all I was in a pop-up candy store.  I was fascinated to walk around and be discerning about which books attracted me: minimal, well-bound, with little to no imagery on the cover.  The three turned out to be all literary.

• • • • •

(in order of purchase)

1. From OnomatopeeThe Best American Novel of the 20th Century presented by Société Réaliste

A novel is pieced together, all in a seemingly random, cosmic context: one line from the best selling novels from 1900, from 1901, et cetera, all the way through the century.  So, it’s basically ALL OF THEM smushed together!  The meanings of each paragraph are disjointed in terms of plot and fact, so the reading requires taking a step back to listen to the tone, and cultural and historical content.  Thumbing through the footnotes one runs across Churchill, Salinger, and through the decades to Toni Morrison.  As I spoke to the man at the table from Copenhagen, I rightly called it “conceptual literature,” and offered that it could make an interesting theatre piece or exercise for one person or group to be assigned a particular chapter. It’s a fun way to capture the literary design of the 20th Century.

Quest for Fire: demonstration image and entry for "Copulation"
Quest for Fire: demonstration image and entry for “Copulation”

2. From Publication Studio Vancouver, Quest for Fire: Language by Christian Mayer, a Berlin-based artist who has remounted the original journal as a found object from an actor in the film.

It was given to actors for the 1980 film Quest for Fire, about 3 dudes from a prehistoric tribe who set out to find fire.  Starring Everett McGill, Ron Perlman (from Sons of Anarchy), and Nameer El-Kadi.  The journal details a phonetic alphabet designed by anthropologist Desmond Morris and writer Anthony Burgess, who developed a fictitious language and set of accompanying gestures for the Ulam tribe in the film, designed from other Proto-Indo-European languages.  What a dream of a rehearsal journal!  I read it aloud and acted out some of the specific hand and head movements.  It includes words like HUNT, FIRE (of course), as well as a long, explicit action entry for COPULATION.  Mmm, rough.

3. The White Review, Issue No. 6, a British Quarterly Publication of Fiction, Interview, Essay, Poetry, Art

After buying the first two, I was determined to find a magazine for a truly mixed bag of inspiration, and I found their table in “The Dome.”  The White Review takes its name and a degree of inspiration from la revue blanche, a Parisian magazine which ran from 1889 to 1903, whose contributors included Toulouse-Lautrec and poet Paul Verlaine among others.  This issue offers a good balance of many mediums: sharp theoretical criticism in one interview with Ceramicist Edmund de Waal, some removable prints of photographs and paintings, then topped off with a fiery selection of fiction by Jack Cox about an adulteress on vacation.

• • • • •

In terms of sheer numbers, the experience of being inside the museum walls that afternoon was likened to some slice of Manhattan at rush hour.  Except there were no suits, briefcases and pushy tunnel vision.  I was wading through more artsy, bohemian, stylish creatives than I ever have at one time.  (Coachella does not count one bit.)  It was a special warp, me feeling like it was an Echo Park Art Walk on crack.  Even though it was stuffy and my feet were aching from standing all day, it was a good feeling to clutch three new pieces of work in my hands as I waited for the subway.

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