This evening’s opening at the Corcoran’s Second Installment of Faculty Work was interesting. It served as a good opportunity to view the work of many of my colleagues I teach alongside – only a couple of them I have met.
What I wanted to really engage was the public response to a work that I do not think would otherwise be accepted into any of the calls for entry that I could participate. The documentation of Note 2 Self made its debut this evening, along with the opportunity for individuals to participate, and many people were.
Earlier this week I bumped into Mark Cameron Boyd at the Katzen, reworking his installation outside the museum. He currently has three of his chalkboards available for people to fill in. And some have in rather obscene ways. We talked about that briefly and he mentioned how he has to accept that some people are going to interpret his work differently than his intentions, and if he is inviting people to contribute to the piece he has to except and accept that. This is the polite and academic way to state that there are those who will vandalize.
So, I was not surprised to see someone write “imposter” on a Post-It, or to actually write on the wall. Such defiance I was expecting. People were defiant the first time this was exhibited in a bus stop in late March. As for the imposter, I might have egged that on.
This piece I naturally assumed would have a relationship to Frank Warren’s Post Secret for two reasons: the public participation of personal/private (though innocuous) information, and because the material – a Post-It Note – has a relationship to the first word in Warren’s title. Anticipating that, and in a lousy hope to avoid that I have prefaced both the installation and the documentation by requesting that not be what is added in my piece. In fact, this time I explicitly requested participants to reserve all secrets for Warren’s piece.
HISTORY -- Note 2 Self was a piece conceived a little over one year ago waiting to commute to work when I was considering all of the chores I had to get done in the gallery, and what was left undone at home. And, judging the way people stared off into space waiting around me, I figured I wasn’t the only one. Even when my nose was in a book I was thinking but things to get done.
The Post-It Note has been a regular convention of my upbringing, and from the age of seven I remember that was how we communicated with one another about phone messages, groceries to get, and if I was going to the park to play basketball. (It’s only coincidence that my cousin art is one of the inventors; I’ve never met him to my knowledge, but I am told he is rather pleasant and humble.) I wanted to cover that bus stop in Post-It Notes, but hadn’t figured out how.
Fast forward nearly two months and I saw Frank Warren’s brilliant project in the old Georgetown Staples. I’d heard about it on Kojo, I’d been sent the link by a friend, and I even recalled the article in the Post. What I did not do was think about my little piece. Sometime later I thought there could be a relationship between the two, it is plausible that all the media attention of Warren’s work had primed my consciousness to conceive this piece, and I was willing to credit that plausibility. But, Post Secret starts with what is a seemingly profound and private secret and turns it into something more universal. I’m beginning with the universal and the banal, but highlighting the monumentality of an act of disposable authorship. Post cards we keep, and Warren publishes on a blog and in a couple of books. Post It Notes lay to waste in litter baskets and city dumps. Both contain something written and important. Both are organisms and public spectacles.
For a moment I had a bit of injured pride when I read the word “imposter.” But there is something empowering about that. I have inspired someone to publicly, and anonymously, heckle my work in an effort to humiliate me. When all is said and done that Post-It Note will be framed alongside the Post-It from the original installation – the Post It Note also anonymously authored that says “I love this piece.”