Sunday, September 27, 2009
A Note On : A Book About Death 
A week and some after the closing of A Book About Death, I'm reflective: The whole phenomenon of the show – or what should be described as an event – very closely simulated the experience of death and the dispersal of the estate.
I don't know how many of you have been through a death where family members fight over who got what when a loved one died but, the aftermath of a death – especially a familial patriarch or matriarch, causes a lot of interesting reactions in people. I saw them played out in how people are dealing with this show. It can get really emotional. I know Matthew has had at least a few responses that were very negative from participants related to the 'estate' of the cumulative corpse that was ABAD.
[By the way, ABAD is a name meaning Father in Aramaic and Arabic. So our exquisite corpse nicknamed ABAD might be thought of as a gathering together and dispersal of a Patriarch. I actually have an old Sufi friend by the name of Abad. Here are some definitions found on line...
The boy's name Abad \a-bad\ is a variant of Abbott (Old English), and the meaning of Abad is "father, priest." Or : ABAD - Arabic: Father
First name variations: Abbe, Abbot, Abba, Abbe, Abboid, Abbott. Last name origins & meanings:
1. Spanish: nickname from abad ‘priest’ (from Late Latin abbas ‘priest’, genitive abbatis, from the Aramaic word meaning ‘father’). The application is uncertain: it could be a nickname, an occupational name for the servant of a priest, or denote an (illegitimate) son of a priest. 2. Muslim: from a personal name based on Arabic ‛Abbād ‘devoted worshiper’ or ‘servant’. The banu (tribe) ‛Abbād claims descent from the ancient Lakhmid kings of al-̣Hirah. The founder of the ‛Abbadids of Seville was Muhammad bin ‛Abbād (1023"42), whose son ‛Abbād succeeded his father as chamberlain to the pretended khalif, but was soon ruling in his own right under the honorific title al-Muta‛̣did ‘petitioner for justice (from Allah)’].
The corpse, as it lay there on the gallery floor with several hundred people stooping down to gather the cards, was very much like carrion picking away at a dead body. More than one visitor commented on that to me. One lady was deeply disturbed by it. I explained that this was the whole point of the event. A gathering together from the ends of the earth of a single body into a single place and then to celebrate it as a commemoration and then let it be consumed like a Catholic communion or like the breaking of the fast at Passover. An art feast extraordinaire – a powerful art ritual.
But people clearly 'got it.' What did they get? The whole spirit of the exhibition from the collaboration to the content to the co-ownership of the show. For example: The number of people waiting in line outside, many of whom had to be turned away, was also extraordinary in may ways. But folks were very cool. I have been to very few openings in New York City but just imagine: There is a small, unassuming, almost invisible door that says nothing more on it than "537." On one side, a big Lucky Jeans Store, on the other side, a big Guess Jeans store (combined: Lucky Guess) The Lucky Store is having a big event trying to get people to go in the store for free drinks and food, the Guess Jeans manager is standing on the steps trying to keep the line for ABAD from blocking entrance to his store.
And the line of people waiting to get into the almost invisible art show stretches all the way to Prince Street or, in other words, about a block long - and those are LONG blocks on Broadway. Both Matthew and I went out and spent time talking to people in the crowd but eventually many had to be turned away as the time for the performances approached. I am sure there were many disappointed people although they could all come back another day for the cards.
Sure, there could have been a number of improvements, $50,000 would have gone a long way to make it a world class event media wise but hey, for Matthew and everyone else working out of their own pockets to pull it all together around one guy's crazy idea - damn impressive! And with the wonderful participation of The Emily Harvey Foundation, Christian Xatrec (director of the EH Foundation in NYC), Deven Marinner, Phil Shinn and many others who simply walked into the space and were suddenly employed cutting apart boxes or arranging the works in a grid Matthew set up, it all came together. And all the more so that it was done on a shoestring by remote coordination and then everyone swooping in from all over the place to meet each other for the first time and pull off two evenings of fresh performances. We should all be very proud. I would say it was a landmark event.
The trick from this point forward will be to keep it alive through further exhibitions of ABAD with documentary photos, artifacts and so forth. So, let's see what some of the participants and artists come up with. Several exhibitions are already in the works around the world. Write your comments here...
– Cecil Touchon, Fort Worth, Texas