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A book title conveys not just content but attitude.
I had been reluctant to produce a conventional book about my work, recognising the inevitable commodification, both of the work itself and the addition of yet one more multiplied object to an askew economic system. Many artists have made work commenting on financial structures, from Rose Finn-Kelcey’s 1987 Bureau de Change recreating Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting, using over 2000 coins, to KLF’s 1994 action of burning a million pounds on the island of Jura. A few weeks ago, a stencil spray painting by Banksy shredded itself after it was sold for more than £1m.
Much of Santiago Sierra’s work addresses hierarchies of power and class within these economic systems, by hiring underprivileged or marginalised individuals to perform menial or pointless tasks in pieces such as Person paid to have a 30 cm line tattooed on them, Regina Street # 51, Mexico City, May 1998 or 8 people paid to remain inside cardboard boxes, G&T Building. Guatemala City, August 1999. In Mexico, 1988, with Bow Gamelan Ensemble, we realised that the usually throwaway oil-drums of our society, which we used in various ways to make sound, were highly valued in Mexico, whilst human labour was devalued, mostly disposable. We therefore adjusted our normal tactics of making large scale work from discarded materials by employing, as part of the ensemble’s public performance in Mexico City, many street vendors who used sounds themselves, from bells to steam whistles, to attract attention to their wares.
Bow Gamelan Ensemble, Damned Near Run Thing, Southbank, London, 1988. Photo: Ed Sirrs
I have made several works in everyday situations to stimulate dialogue by ‘tilting’ realities, including perceptions around economic exchange, such as setting up stalls in Brick Lane with goods that are not for sale and The Sound of £100 on Brighton beach with a metal detectorist, whose detector I amplified to blast the ‘kerching’ of detected coins across the beach. He could distinguish coins by their sound and he didn’t bend down to retrieve any less valuable than 10p.
All these ambivalent strands and strategies were in my mind when I first scribbled my back-of-envelop-stream-of-consciousness jottings of about 50 titles for my own upcoming book, which included Sold Out, Souled Out, By the Book, Don’t Buy This Book, ABook, This Is Not A Book, This book troubles me, Un Cover, Uncover, OPEN, A Closed Book.
Another of these jotted down titles, May I Briefly Inhabit You? acknowledges the rise of the new economy, the ‘attention economy.’ This new economy, which again we all are complicit with, has time, not money as the ultimate resource. Deep engagement is debased in the clamour to ‘rent’ each other’s minds, to be acknowledged, however marginally and so this outcry for attention builds into an overwhelming din, as we all shout louder. Another scribbled title, This Moment is a Collaboration with You, wanted to recognise this racket, but turn it into a more positive space.
Abbie Hoffman’s publication Steal This Book, ironically became a best seller, underlining the process in which countercultures are disembowelled.
With the thought of turning this on its head, i.e. This Book is a Steal, I wondered if I should choose just the free titles to recommend from Unbound to add more layers to this economic stew. Several insights chimed with me from these free items, such as:
In Time: A Collection of Live Art Case Studies
Live Art ….an art form grappling to find other ways of proceeding and ensuring not just its own future but all of our futures…. - Lyn Gardner
In Live Art and Performance…. I learned a creative disrespect for the borders between art forms and a real respect for what you can do at those borders, or in the space between them. I think more and more artists work there, .... because somehow that’s where it’s possible to get close to the experience and the issues that really concern us in the start of the twenty first Century. - Tim Etchells
The Outsiders Handbook
Scottee, Travis Alabanza, Selina Thomas, Emma Frankland
The radical act is to exist.
You are not too much, simply the world is too small.
Stay weird and keep smiling!
You cannot buy Paper Stages; we ask only for you to spend one hour of your time doing something to help other people
This is not actually a book. This is a festival disguised as a book.
Toolkit for Itinerant Artists: A Toolkit of methodologies
Participation is not always progressive or empowering.
Your project may have elements of participation but know how this can just as easily be limiting, tokenistic and condescending. Your demands on our community sharing our stories may be just as easily disempowering. What frameworks have you already imposed on participation? What power dynamics are you reinforcing with such a framework? - Tania Canas
The Free University of Liverpool
FUL Press recognises that academic publishing underpins capitalist property relations and assists the neoliberalisation of higher education. FUL Press intends to disrupt such relations through copyleft distribution. We invite all readers to copy, adapt, and distribute this publication as long as the final work remains copyleft.
Splat! The Adventures of Little Bitch: Part One
Lauren Barri Holstein
An eruptive, disruptive, immersive, explosive, subversive tomato stew fuses with vaginal blowouts as Alethea Raban’s visceral drawings capture The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein’s captivating visions.
The London Musician’s Collective shared a building, in the 1970’s with the London Film-makers Co-op. When the naming of LMC was being discussed, founder member, Paul Burwell, said that the group were not the co-operative sort, but that collectivism worked. A loose structuring of people who might disagree vehemently on many subjects, but who share fundamental tenets, make a strong armature for both the sheltering within and the springing out. I think that even if this collectivism is subliminal, a submerged awareness of any connection to a group, it still mysteriously acts as a strong force for sharing arenas and thus, meeting points of inner and outer life. Hannah Arendt wrote that ‘even the greatest forces of intimate life, the passions of the heart, the thoughts of the mind, the delights of the senses—lead an uncertain, shadowy kind of existence, unless and until they are transformed, deprivatised and de-individualised, as it were, into a shape to fit them for public appearance.’ As Arendt made apparent, the presence of others ‘who see what we see and hear what we hear’ allows us to feel that our reality of both the world and ourselves is viable. Thereby, this gives courage and openness to push these thoughts to tough and complex edges, springing between ourselves individually and the group.
Another scrawled title, ABracadabra: I Create what I Speak.
"Unlike lying, an imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persists, the imagined reality exerts force in the world" ― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
I think what LADA has provided, so astutely, is the space for a nuanced mix of voices, whose forays, sometimes extreme, into imagined realities, can come together in a loose association and can thus be perceived, be acknowledged, be effectual, be potent. This then creates a rippling, way beyond the group. Unbound plays a major part in this process. This collectivism is what provides the value in producing.
A stall with only white objects on Brick Lane Market, explaining that nothing is for sale. Photo: Markéta Luskačová
Orbituaries had figured as a possible title, to follow on from my book Autobituary. This sense of the ideas we pick up on, and the ideas we hope we stimulate others’ imagination with, all in orbit, all from an undefined interplay of the living and the dead, felt like it is very central to the book.
Another of my scrawled titles was BOSOM. A close friend and myself, use the word whimsically as a verb, to be close. I liked the thought of a book with BOSOM written across it. Same with BELLY, another title, the vital centre from where we were attached, to our mother and eternity. Both of these words hold eroticism, nurture and primal channels as does BLOOD SISTERS, again a scribbled title, another act of entanglement with others in my young life, another intimate act, another sharing of bodies, of fluids, a ritual, a breaking out beyond self, scored in milk, amniotic fluid and blood. Not Even I am Me. Everybody sees the wind blow.
So, my book ended up being titled Self Etc.
This thought of self etcetera (etc. from Latin: ‘and the rest’) was present with me as I browsed Unbound. I realised how many people I know and how much I have shared with numerous beings who are represented in the catalogue. With this sense of overwhelm, plus looking over my initial list of my own book titles, which formed an organic composite, I was spurred on to finally choose products that resonated because of titles, not names. This method provided insights into artists and ideas that I might not have come across otherwise. A poem emerged from these Unbound titles, a totemic whole:
Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life
Everywhere is Somewhere
Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie
Foolish Suicide Attempts
Pain in Soul
Mourning Sex: Performing Public Memories
Feelings are Facts: A Life
Visions of Excess