Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ripe Art Gallery, Greenlawn, NY [53]

Louise Honey Millman sent these images from the October 2009 exhibition of the ABAD project at the Ripe Art Gallery in Greenlawn, Long Island, New York.

Photos: Owner Cherie in front of the gallery and artist Honey Millman checking out the installation during the opening.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Alix Lambert : The Body Farm [52]

Photographer and author, Alix Lambert contributed a work to the exhibition in New York City, but the postal gods had other plans when the cards were mailed to the gallery. We've tried to rectify that by featuring her work and the story behind it, a fascinating investigation into The Body Farm, located in a dead corner of the state, a no man's land of a completely different sort.  Alix writes ...

Beyond a sign that states in simple, unadorned fashion – Anthropology Research Facility State Forensic Anthropologist – are barren acres of fenced-in land. Unremarkable at best.  There is a shed, an abandoned trailer, some trees, dirt paths that lead nowhere it seems.

Walking through this nothingness towards its center in the cold autumn air, one discerns rows of dark green garbage bags, laying side by side. You can laugh, almost; if you had to guess, they might be covering bodies. Twenty yards closer and you see yellow sashes wrapping around one tree trunk and running to the next. The unmistakable words CRIME SCENE are written in black.

And then you see, as if for the first time, what's really here: Skulls and an assortment of femur bones among the leaves, and bodies in varying states of decay. If you look very closely, that movement that you thought was a trick of the eye turns out to be swarms of maggots gnawing on the human remains.

The Facility, or The Body Farm, as it has been nicknamed much to the chagrin of some who work here, is dedicated to the study of the rate of human decomposition, a key understanding needed in murder trials.

The Facility was founded by Dr. Bill Bass and is affiliated with The University of Tennessee.  Although other “body farms” have been planned in the US, this one remains the only one of its kind in the world.

For a man who oversees the very end of the end, Dr. Bill Bass is all charm and smiles. Twice my age, he seems to have twice my energy. He's almost gleeful for someone who works all day with corpses. Standing on the Tennessee soil, bodies in varying states of decay all around us, he happily answered questions he's answered thousands of times over the past years.

"We are not a culture of death," he says about how we as people tend to hide from view all that happens after we die. "Let’s say for example there were a body out on the road; someone was killed and thrown out on the edge of the road. The police are called. They come and they hold up a sheet so that no one can see what’s going on and everybody drives by looking and looking but they can’t see anything. Then the body gets put in a black disaster bag, again no one can see what they are doing. The body bag goes to the morgue; well they don’t give tours of the morgue, so no one knows what goes on in a morgue and if they ever do see that individual again it might be at the funeral - if they have an open coffin. But if they don’t then the person is buried and nobody ever sees it."

"There are so many things that happen after people die that we have closed off in our culture, and essentially said, ‘you can’t look at that.’ Bass goes on: "I think people wonder ‘what goes on behind those closed doors?’ I don’t know why we cover it up. Of course, there are certain cases in which you don’t want to let everybody know what happened. I don’t think you ought to let key evidence out, but I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t go into great depth about what goes on.”

Dr. Bass allowed me to photograph the Body Farm, and the results have taken me on a very strange and sometimes beautiful journey, regardless of morbidity of the subject.

Conversations with some of the researchers at the body farm revealed narratives that one might only find in Hollywood.  One researcher, Joanna Hughes, recalls: "When I was in third or fourth grade, I remember, there was a person found somewhere in my home-town in a refrigerator in the woods, and somebody had done a facial reconstruction and that just kind of stuck with me. Then in the seventh grade, one of my science teachers asked what do we want to do when we grow up? And I said, 'I want to put faces on skulls.' I didn’t know what it was called. I didn’t know if it was a real job, I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do. So, here I am."

Joanna Hughes was adopted as a baby as was her brother; she grew up in Alabama, in the South. Her parents were very religious; she knew from the day her parents picked her brother up that he was evil, she said. During the course of our conversation, she went on to discuss the murder of her parents by her brother, who was sentenced to death in 2005, and killed himself in 2006.

"As my brother’s last surviving family member, I made the decision to donate my brother’s body here to the facility. He did no good in life and if he’s just buried in a hole he won’t do any good in death. If he’s here he can do good for however long they have his bones. A lot of people don’t understand. They were asking ‘When’s the funeral? Are you going to bury him next to your parents?’ I don’t think they’re thinking it through. I really don’t care what they think. This is the best thing that he could possibly do. He’s doing it and I don’t have a problem with it."

I come to realize that we are interested in – or sometimes obsessed with – our own humanity, and the “vessel” that contains whatever we deem ourselves to be. The recognition, as I look at the bodies around me that, yes – this is my vessel, too.

The work I presented for the project, A Book About Death, comes from this series of photographs.  And, as fate had it, the photo post cards were either lost or destroyed in the mail, never making it to the exhibition. So, in a bit of black humor, I've exhumed them here, and would be more than happy to send a card to anyone who is missing one in their collection.  The remaining cards will be going to MUBE in São Paulo, in February, for the next chapter in this itinerant book about death.

Please contact Alix Lambert if you would like to have one of these cards for your collection from the exhibition.  Her e mail: Alix has a full text on her investigation of the body farm, and you will find it on her site. You will also discover her photographs and her book, CRIME. Click here:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ryosuke Cohen's Brain Cell [51]

The Japanese artist Ryosuke Cohen, who for decades has been sending out waves of his Brain Cell sheets of rubber stamp images across the planet, picked up on Peter Dowker's mailing (below) in his edition No. 752. The sheets are typically A3 size and something of a magazine of the various logos and phrases and images in rubber stamps that pour into the artist's studio.

Writes Peter in explaining why Ryosuke didn't directly contribute to the project: "I think he has a mission to produce 150 copies of these rubber stamp prints every 10 days and he doesn't stray too far from that. But the fact that he chose this to include over anything else on the card shows that it didn't go unnoticed."  [See Peter Dowker's website, FLIP FLOP MAIL ART].

Peter sent a detail of the Cohen piece: "It's strategically located next to a great OH BOY Ray Johnson stamp "Eating Toejam."

Ryosuke Cohen is something of a mirror of global mail art activities.  See his web site and blog here:

Cohen writes on his site: "Recently, I have observed many signs that make me feel as if Mail Art is drawing to a close, and that there are many past publications that could be seen as 'compilations' of Mail Art. Quite a few predecessors of Mail Art have passed away, including Ray Johnson (USA), the Father of Mail Art, G.A.Cavellini (ITALY), Robin Croziel (ENGLAND), Robert Rehfeldt (GERMANY), G.Deisler (GERMANY), Carlo Pittore (USA) and others. This is probably also because exchange by mail in the age of computers is considered primitive, and after the end of the COLD WAR between the East and the West, the necessity of correspondence between those two different worlds has been lost. On the other hand, I have been regularly receiving mail art by mail and fax, in response to my BRAIN CELL PROJECT dating from the year 1985, which has been numbered issue No. 652, as of June 2006.

Every time I receive mail art, I am pleased to see more and more new participants. After making them a collage of their drawings, designs, logos, seals, stickers and the like, I make it a rule to send the finished project back to each participant.

Mail Art is far from finishing. I appreciate the role of collaboration in Mail Art. It is important to have new participants each time, but it is more important to be evoked by other mail artists' ideas from within the large and deep Network with a diverse range of expressions and concept. I can make mail artists' ideas more interesting by actively availing myself of seals and stamps and other materials sent from others and through my own printed matter. What is more, I can give other mail artists the feeling that they can utilise other's art and collaborate their ideas."

Monday, November 23, 2009

MUBE - São Paulo, Brazil : Call For Works. Exhibition Februrary 2010 [50]

MUBE: Museu Brasileiro da Escultura, opens a new chapter in A Book About Death with a new call for art works for exhibition February 6 - 28, 2010.

A website set up specially for the exhibition by organizer Angela Ferrara will document the show as it happens.


SINGLE WORKS: Approx. 6" x 9" 
MEDIUM: Open; all works accepted
THEME: A Book About Death
DEADLINE: January 30, 2010

MUBE – Museu Brasileiro da Escultura is asking for submissions from artists throughout the world as a critical part and new chapter in the exhibition of the “A Book About Death” collaborative project. This exhibition at MUBE opens on February 6, 2010 and runs through February 28.

“A Book About Death” is a collaborative project conceived by American artist Matthew Rose for the Emily Harvey Foundation in New York City, where the original exhibition took place from September 10 - 22, 2009. Approximately 500 artists contributed 500 artworks in the form of post cards of varying sizes each created from works made especially to create an unbound book about death.

The exhibition paid special homage to Ray Johnson (1927-1995), a highly influential figure in contemporary American art, a formidable collage artist and long acknowledged as the "Father of Mail Art" with his creation of a network, The New York Correspondence School. The exhibition also paid homage and celebrated the life of Emily Harvey (1941-2004), the late art dealer who tirelessly promoted Fluxus artists and whose Foundation generously supported the project.

The exhibition opened with a packed house, and a line snaking up Broadway more than 500 people long waiting to get in the doors to make their own book. Since then, the exhibition has traveled to the Otis College of Art and Design in LA, The River Mill Art Gallery in New Jersey, The Mobius Gallery in Boston, MA, The Queens Museum in Queens, NY, The Sexta Literary Arts Festival in Tijuana in Mexico, as well as smaller galleries and schools in Louisiana, Wisconsin and Long Island. Complete sets of "A Book About Death have entered into the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (Library), and the LA County Museum of Art Research Library.

The project, in its sprawling, global reach explored how we celebrate memory and consider death. The only requirement to participate in the project was to include the words “A Book About Death” somewhere on the card.


We are also asking individual artists to submit works, either a single card or a group of cards for exhibition at MUBE.

Ideal dimensions are approximately 6" x 4" either horizontal or vertical orientation, but variations in size are permissible. We would like to ask all artists to be aware that we need to easily install works on the wall, so consider this aspect of the exhibition.  Artworks can be handmade or printed commercially. You can mail the card by itself or in an envelope. (Please make a digital capture of the works for your records).

A deadline of January 30, 2010 has been set for reception of all submissions, although we
will install any cards received after that date. Digital works are not accepted, sorry. To be included in this exhibition, make a postcard on the theme of death and send it to:

MUBE – Museu Brasileiro da Escultura
Avenida Europa, 218 – Jardim Europa
CEP 01449 000 - São Paulo - Brasil

All works submitted to MUBE will become a part of the permanent collection of the Museum, and will not be returned.

Documentation online of all new works will be made over the course of the next few months.


Matthew Rose :

Carta Aberta

MUBE - Museu Brasileiro da Escultura aceita artistas de todo o mundo para apresentar seus trabalhos como parte de um novo capítulo na exposição "Um livro sobre a Morte”, que acontecerá de  6 a 28 de
fevereiro de 2010.

"Um livro sobre a morte" é um projeto colaborativo concebido pelo artista norte-americano Matthew Rose na Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery, em Nova York. A exposição original ocorreu durante o período de 10 a 22 de setembro de 2009. Cerca de 500 artistas participaram, cada um deles contribuiu com uma série de 500 obras de arte sob a forma de cartão  postal, obras de tamanhos variados criadas especialmente para compor páginas desacopladas de um possível livro sobre a morte.

A exposição fez uma homenagem especial ao artista  Ray Johnson (1927-1995), uma figura influente na arte contemporânea norte-americana, consagrado como o "Pai do Mail Art", e como criador do The New York Correspondence School. A exposição também homenageou e consagrou a vida de Emily Harvey (1941-2004), que com a sua fundação apoiou e promoveu generosamente projetos de artistas Fluxus.

A bem sucedida mostra em Nova York, recebeu um sua primeira noite mais de 500 pessoas. Desde então, a exposição já viajou para o Otis College of Art and Design em Los Angeles, The River Mill Art Gallery in Nova Jersey, The Mobius Gallery em Boston, MA, The Queens Museum in Queens, NY, The Sexta Literary Arts Festival em Tijuana, México, assim como galerias e escolas em Louisiana, Wisconsin e Long Island. Coleções completas de "Um livro sobre a morte” foram adquiridas para o acervo permanente do MOMA – The Museum of Modern Art, e para o acervo do LA County Museum of Art Research Library em Los Angeles.

Um projeto de extenso alcance global explora as diversas maneiras de como nós celebramos a memória e a morte. O principal requisito para participar deste projeto é a inclusão da expressão "Um livro sobre a Morte" em qualquer parte do cartão. As obras tem como base as dimensões 10 x 15 cm, em orientação horizontal ou vertical, mas variações de tamanho, formatos e materiais são admissíveis. Podendo ser feito manualmente, impresso ou a combinação de ambos. Desde que os artistas estejam conscientes de que precisamos instalar as obras facilmente na parede.

Os artistas poderão enviar um trabalho único ou um conjunto de obras. O prazo de recebimento se encerrará no dia 31 de janeiro de 2010. Desculpem-nos mas obras digitais não serão aceitas. Para que os artistas sejam incluídos nesta exposição, fazer um cartão postal sobre o tema da morte e envie para:

MUBE - Museu Brasileiro da Escultura
Avenida Europa, 218 - Jardim Europa
CEP 01449 000 - São Paulo – Brasil

Todos os novos trabalhos apresentados ao MUBE passarão a fazer parte da coleção permanente do Museu, e não serão devolvidos. Documentação on-line de será feita ao longo dos próximos meses.


Angela Ferrara (

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Book About Death – THE REMAKE [49]

A Book About Death – REMAKE is an Unbound Art Exhibit

The initiative by Louisiana State University Digital Art students is yet another take on the exhibition that took place in New York, and involves a large, student-wide project to recast the show in a local, personal way that has meaning to the students and, to the local community. Left, one of the posters made by an LSU student.  Other posters reproduce the originals in new ways.

Below is the text announcing the exhibition, and on the website set up for the show, there are many pre-installation pictures and information about the show. Below, right, one of the students organizes the works for installation.

Exhibition : December 4 - 16, 2009
Opening : December 4, from 7 - 9PM
Location : 200 Government St, Baton Rouge, LA

A Book About Death - REMAKE is a local re-interpretation of the collaborative, globally produced exhibition A Book About Death that was first presented this September at the Emily Harvey Foundation in New York.

LSU Digital Art students set out to join this project and remake the exhibition in downtown Baton Rouge. The result, A Book About Death - REMAKE, is a 'pop-up' exhibition, taking place in a non-traditional venue in the unfinished retail space and lobby of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant at 200 Government Street.

Please join us for the opening celebration on December 4 from 7:00PM to 9:00PM. Come for food, drink, art and performance and to participate in the making of live video art.

See the LSU web site for the project and pre-installation shots, re-made posters and more information about this exhibition.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Un Libro Sobre La Muerte En Tijuana [48]

Un Libro Sobre La Muerte en Tijuana, organized by Bibiana Padilla Maltos, opens at The Primer Festival Literatura en las Artes 09 España La Sexta House of Music, Tijuana, Mexico, 21 Noviembre 2009.  Site.

A Book About Death, es el título original de la exposición colectiva de 500 artistas que contribuyeron con más de 500 postales y 500 copias de ellas. El creador de este proyecto es el artista Americano Matthew Rose, quien propuso que se creara un libro de postales sueltas con cada uno de los trabajos de los artistas participantes, esto es pues, una exposición colectiva que a su vez es interactiva, en la que el público puede llevarse cada colaboración consigo, haciendo ya sea un catálogo completo, o un catálogo de selección personal.

Un libro sobre la muerte es también un homenaje tanto a Ray Johnson como a Emily Harvey, ambos artistas impulsores e inovadores del movimiento Fluxus.

Primeramente presentado en la Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery, en Septiembre de 2009, en la ciudad de Nueva York, A Book About Death se ha montado en diversas ciudades estadounidenses y otros países como Brasil y Canadá. Así mismo el itinerario de esta exposición incluye: Bélgica, Alemania, Francia, China, entre otros.

ABAD (apodo que se le otorgó seguido de la inauguración), se encuentra en diversos hogares tanto del público general que ha asistido a las exposiciones interactivas en la galería de la Fundación de Emily Harvey y OTIS en Los Angeles, así como artistas, galerías, y dentro del catálogo del Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, en Nueva York (MoMA).


PHOTOS: Above, left, Ben Elmer's image from A Book About Death used as a poster for the festiva. Above, right, Bibiana Padilla Maltos holding the poster made for the project by Osiris Hertz.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Angela Ferrara, an artist based in São Paulo, Brazil, created this film 
for the exhibition A Book About Death. Angela, contributor to 
A Book About Deathsee her art here – worked tirelessly to not 
only learn new software applications but to curate the original 
show into themes and sync it all to the beautiful music of 
Garry Schyman – his piece, Praan.
Visit The Music Of Garry Schyman

Bhulbona ar shohojete
Shei praan e mon uthbe mete
Mrittu majhe dhaka ache
je ontohin praan
Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami
(Repeat 3X)
Shei jhor jeno shoi anonde
Chittobinar taare
Shotto-shundu dosh digonto
Nachao je jhonkare!
Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo am

Praan (English Translation)

The same stream of life
that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world
and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life
that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life
that is rocked in the ocean-cradle
of birth and of death,
in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious
by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages
dancing in my blood this moment.

Use of Garry Schyman's music for Praan – originally written for Where The Hell Is Matt? – has been generously granted by the composer.

Lyrics adapted from the poem "Stream Of Life" from Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore.

Music Credits: Music By Garry Schyman.  Drums and Engineering Dan Blessinger. Vocals Palbasha Siddique. Guitars and bass Kevin Dukes. Concertmaster Belinda Broughton. Orchestral contractor Ross DeRoche (DeRoche Music Inc.).  Vocal Contractor Melissa Nixon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Last Dance: Queens Museum Of Art [46]

Selections from A Book About Death at The Partnership Gallery in The Queens Museum of Art will close on Sunday, November 15, but not without  a party.  From 3 to 6pm you can join artist and curator Louise Weinberg (pictured here, waltzing with one of the artists) for a look at the installation and the more than 165 new works sent in for this exhibition. (Louise notes that no works will be returned to the artists).

The exhibition brought many artists from the original project in contact with nearly 200 more from all over the world who responded to Weinberg's call for new artworks.  These pieces, along with their envelopes, were installed in vitrines, on walls using a simple clothes-line system and in large glass cases in the gallery.

Many of these pieces were made by children in the workshop at the QMA, while others came from Europe, South America and across the United States. Votives and homage works for friends and loved ones, and even Neda, the young Iranian woman killed in the election battles in Tehran, came pouring in to the gallery.  Visual essays using collage, drawing and digital techniques took on the complex subject of death; but the works were unusually uplifting, particularly in their sense of humor and their head-on take-no-prisoner's approach to death, dying, murder and oblivion.

"It was a tireless but extremely rewarding experience," says Weinberg.  "Another chapter in a vast and wonderful collaborative project."

Other artists are currently working in Mexico, Montreal, São Paulo, Brazil, Belgium and even Beijing (where public Internet access to even this web site is prohibited) to put on the exhibition in new and varying ways, inviting the local community to contribute and dipping into the deep well of global collaborators to expand the venue.

Last days at the Queens Museum.  Closing November 15, 2009, from 3 - 6 pm: Queens Museum of Art, New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, NY 11368.

[Installation shot above: Nora Gomez, all other photos: Louise Weinberg].

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Queens Museum of Art : Installation [44]

Some views of the installation of A Book About Death, curated by Louise Weinberg. (November 1 - 15, 2009). Click the image for largest possible view. Photographs by Louise Millman.

Louise Weinberg invited artists to contribute single works by mail to the Queens Museum exhibition and the response was in the hundreds.  Works came from all over Europe, the US and of course Mexico which heartily celebrates El Dia De Los Muertos throughout the country.

The exhibition included works from A Book About Death, the posters from the Emily Harvey Foundation exhibition in NYC, as well as videos and Phil Shinn's presentation slide show about euphemisms used when discussing death.  That slide show can be seen in its entirety below.

Louise Weinberg dedicated this chapter in A Book About Death to the memory of Moki Cherry, Minnie Weinberg and Nancy Spero. Here, in this space, we would like to add Rebecca Lipkin, who was a great friend, a bright and beautiful light and who left us way too early.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Letter From Mark Bloch : On My Participation In A Book About Death [43]

Mark Bloch, artist, performer and author, reflects on his piece and participation in A Book About Death, citing Ray Johnson as the center of his performance art at The Emily Harvey Foundation the night of the opening.

I voluntarily made a poster for A Book About Death by taking Marcel Duchamp’s art work “Fountain,” a urinal turned on its side and submitted for inclusion in a 1917 art show to which anything was supposedly acceptable, and substituting it for the many crosses that disappear into the horizon as grave markers in Normandy, France, where D-day occurred. Duchamp hailed from Rouen, nearby, and so I thought it was a fitting tribute to both the heroics and futility of death as well as Duchamp, the fountainhead of the avant garde for me and for the generation that came before me.

But the true story of my involvement with the recent A Book About Death links not directly to Marcel or to graveyards but to three “books,” none yet published and all conceptual on some level or another. First and foremost, the American artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995) the founder of the New York Correspondence School deserves all the credit for creating the concept of A Book About Death because he was really onto something when he came up with the concept in 1963.

Between March of that year and February 1965, he sent out 13 pages or so of something he called A Book About Death. In framing one piece of a paper as one page of a conceptual book, he anticipated many literary developments of the four decades that have followed. Ray Johnson’s A Book About Death connects to hypertext, cyberpunk, the internet, as well as devices like the Kindle, a device that is an accumulator of electrons that shows its user pictures on a screen of what can be thought of as a book. But the Kindle, one of the possible signposts of what the future of reading will be like, cannot show us an entire book. It can only show us one page at a time.

The second “book” is the biography I am writing of Ray Johnson. In 1995 when he died, I had already been trying to piece together the details of his life for my own edification. Since then I have completed dozens of interviews about him and thousands of hours of research into the details of his life and his activities. I have many boxes of files about him, the art he sent me, notes on our phone calls which he considered part of his art, and copies of what I sent him. There are files on the many people he was involved with and the names he dropped. To be writing a book about Ray Johnson is to be indirectly linked to almost everything in the world and also the afterlife. My book about Ray is a huge undertaking that only gets larger. Some day I would like to stop researching my fascinating subject and start writing but I am not sure how to define the boundary between these two activities.

The third “book” is Three Ugly Islands my own three-part autobiographical work of temporal distortion, influenced by many things including the concept of "The Death of the Author" by Roland Barthes. In my book the hero Martial Panterel is a performance artist and secret Kaballist who knows very little Hebrew but grabs little pieces of things that remind him of the Talmud, a link between text, the spiritual realm and pictorial writing, because he believes his superimposing the oeuvre of Marcel Duchamp over Jewish mysticism holds the key to his dilemma. Less the “writer” of his book but more someone determined to impose order over it, he sets off on the insurmountable task of moving his own unwieldy four dimensional scrapbook, which he calls The World Accordion, containing ephemera, documentation, explanations and detritus of his own life, from place to place, in search of clues to his existence and the plot of his story which is increasingly overwhelming and confusing.

Thus, my original thoughts about a project that would use Ray Johnson’s concept of A Book About Death as a “jumping off point” were pretty much what manifested themselves almost a year later after I suggested to Matthew Rose that to unify the project, and as an homage to our mutual friend Ray, that participants in the project could include the words A BOOK ABOUT DEATH on every card, identifying itself as part of a whole. I moved in that direction when I made my own card about Ray and his original idea. When the project was complete I noticed only a dozen or so other people referenced Ray in their cards. The rest that did not were mostly about death, also an appropriate subject, of course.

The other idea I proposed to Matthew Rose, the project’s organizer, was that there be some sort of panel discussion on Ray and his “book” concept during the run of the exhibition. He did not follow that suggestion but he did invite me to perform at the opening, for which I was grateful. This resulted in my appearance there as a one-man panel discussion in costume as Ray Johnson’s A Book About Death itself. I had glued dozens copies of the loose pages of Rays book to myself until I resembled a Michelin Tire Man of my own literary aspirations.

In the crowded gallery space, stripping to my underwear, I began the performance when I put on this immense costume, which my wife Amy Scarola helped me transport to the gallery by taxi. I suppose it really began earlier that evening, when I decided to carry with me to the gallery by subway, thousands of pages of my Ray Johnson research as part of the piece, muttering to the other passengers like a crazed paper-bound gypsy and even dropping the pile at one point on the subway floor. Prior to that, standing on the subway platform, combining all my thoughts on the subject of the past several months, I had composed a text to read in thirteen parts or sections called “books.”

Once the performance “officially” began with my introduction by Matthew Rose, I was joined by Blbiana Padilla Maltos who I had spontaneously asked to assist me by handing me each of the folders of my research one at time as I listed them. I felt like a paper-pushing Harry Houdini with Bibiana as my stage assistant. To end the performance I had made a decision to blow my papers with an electric fan, in a move that hearkens back to a performance Jean Dupuy, a former residence of this very gallery space at 537 Broadway, who once blew pepper on an audience through a vacuum cleaner.

Performing on the same bill as Carolee Schneeman and following Brandstifter's Keith Buchholz’s and Cecil Touchon’s conceptual pieces was an honor. I enjoyed all of them a lot. I predicted in the press release that this event would be a terrific show and a Happening and it was.

As I alternately stood and sat in that suit, reading from my performance “score,” just as I did when I composed it, I let Ray lead me from the grave, something I spoke about in my piece. After all, the late Mr. Johnson had made death the center of his work and my own mystical leanings view the connection between life and death as an illusory veil always waiting to be penetrated, in both obvious and not-so-obvious ways. I did my best to penetrate it that night to keep Ray centered in the overall scheme of things which I thought was important to the largely uninitiated audience. An awareness of Ray, his communication art innovations and his connection to mystery are sure to be helpful when considering any “book” about “death” or any A Book About Death.

Visit Mark Bloch's website, click here.

[PHOTOS: Mark Bloch Poster;  Mark Bloch performing opening night by Michael Chan; the artist with his files and assistant; Ray Johnson, source unknown.]

Brandstifter NYC Performance : Das Band des Todes / The Tape of Death [42]

Brandstifter's original performance, Das Band des Todes, at A Book About Death, September 10, 2009 at the Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery, NYC, NY.

Zunächst stellte ich mich allen Besuchern der Emily Harvey Galerie persönlich vor und bat sie über ein Mikrofon ihren Namen auf eine Audiokassette in meinen tragbaren Kassettenrecorder zu sprechen. Bei der Performance spielte ich dann das Band mit den vor einer Stunde aufgenommen Namen und Hintergrundgeräuschen von der Ausstellungseröffnung ab. An den Anfang der Kassette hatte ich den Hinweis, dass alle nachfolgend genannten Personen sterben werden, aufgenommen. Nachdem der letzte Name verkündet war nahm ich die Kassette aus dem Abspielgerät, drängte mich durchs Publikum, zog dabei das Band aus der Kassette und verband damit die Anwesenden. Ich weiß nicht ob jemand der Teilnehmer mittlerweile verstorben ist, aber wir werden...

– Brandstifter, New York, 10/31 2009

Brandstifter (Firestarter) is an interdisciplinary Artist and Networker from Germany, and is currently Balmoral Artist in Residence at Flux Factory, New York. Through Happening and Visual and Perfomance Art, as well as sound and music, he uses communicative means of social interaction to transform anarchic concepts from everyday life into burning-down-the-house Intermedia. See Brandstifter's website :