THE STORY IS READ BY THE ARTIST
EXCEPT … PAGES ARE BLANK.
About AN ART BOOK by FIONA CONNOR edition of 100
(The art book was bound by hand by volunteers and presented in the gallery at Red Cat, Los Angeles, January 9 -10, 2016)
By Rosanna Albertini
“A collection of sheets of paper or other substances, blank, written or printed, fastened together as to form a material whole.” The Oxford English Dictionary
Unfolding the pages, one after the other, Fiona Connor lets the voice flow out of her memory. From January to March, some details have already disappeared. One can follow her journey through Los Angeles from Cloverdale to San Pedro, Santa Monica, Riverside, Ventura, El Segundo, Pasadena, Burbank, asking a few people she had met in the past, but mostly others completely unknown, the favor to print for her as many possible pages, if possible one hundred, of a book she conceived as an art piece made with collective cooperation. A family of printers are from Persia, a young woman is from Australia, and a guy, he just had a baby. Linda, Rich, Tiffany, Lynn, Jesus, Becka, Joyce, Damaris, Ed, Ben, Kat, and everyone else she asked, “kindly obliged” and printed at the bottom of each right hand page the template the artist requested:
‘name’ of the printing machine
address of the place where the printing happened
first name of the person who did the printing work
I can’t avoid seeing her as a beggar, the artist who breaks the commercial ritual of buying the service. She becomes the person who serves the needs of the art piece: her feet on the sidewalks of the metropolis or on public transportation; her intention and desire to involve and obtain a certain amount of work everywhere she can find a printing device.
Downtown, while wandering around the gray brownish grid of pavements and buildings, she happens to find herself face to face with Harry Gamboa Jr., another artist who has made himself, for decades, a vessel against the lures of a power based on money. Fiona recognized him, his face often printed in art catalogues and books. It seems they looked at each other, did not talk. Fiona’s private persona is a shy one. For sure, he didn’t know who she was. This story is not in her reading.
A conceptual art project in 2016.
The personal mark of the artist isn’t physical. Her name goes along with “the concept.” The © belongs to Red Cat. No author, no title. Therefore the book is left on his/her/its own nature: born from so many it could be an orphan. Or an outcast book mainly white, home of the white noise, unidentified presences. The artist dares to expose the absence of a traditional text as a value: although we see and touch that something is lost, it’s almost impossible to say or write what it is, even if the desire to express it is more than alive. In the XVI and XVII century Europe, this contradictory sentiment – the awareness of missing the point – turned into unfriendly attitudes toward beggars, women, the insane, hermits and illiterate humans: those who didn’t share the common knowledge, and failed to be heard. Michel de Certeau called MYSTIQUE their lack of knowledge and made them the angels of the Mystique Fable (Fable Mystique, 1982).
I wonder if, unconsciously perhaps, Fiona Connor has reversed history as she often does in her work, so that readers and writers are the ones devoured by our contemporary Mystique Fable. They, we writers, are becoming the excluded from a reality in search of a different medium. Looking for something better than written words. In the meantime, artists try to keep on with ordinary things that have become furniture of the human landscape in our brain, we like to sit on them.
Let’s step back a few decades to the early seventies: Allen Ruppersberg calling for attention to the human matter that goes through words and pages: the living time, more significant than personality. He drew a book perfectly recognizable: Sanctuary by William Faulkner, and added: “Reading time: 12 hrs 43 min.” We shouldn’t forget his visual replica, word by word, by his own hand, of Walden 1973, and The Picture of Dorian Gray 1974.
Fiona Connor instead replicates steps, walls, museum benches, fountains, bulletin boards, bricks. The reverse engineering of the objects, that are very accurately remade, makes it hard to distinguish them from the original. The original could be surprised facing the archival translation of it’s body.
“Art should be familiar and enigmatic, just as human beings themselves”
“Art should make use of common methods and materials so there is very little difference between the talk and the talked about”
Ruppersberg’s thoughts are his own conceptual coat that strangely fits quite well with Fiona Connor’s art. Keeping the similitude between the two artists suspended on the acrobat’s rope, I add one of Allan McCollum’s observations ― about Al Ruppersberg reproducing or even embracing America’s banal traditional rituals ― that I particularly love and feel appropriate to Fiona Connor and our present time:
“In my memory, it was Al who reminded our troubled generation that simple, normal, everyday rituals of human commerce (horrors!) contained a significant complement of decency and joy that needed to be recognized and appreciated ― not in spite of, but along with whatever else might have been wrong with the world in those especially uneasy years.”
Our years are not less uneasy, they are only uneasy in a different way.
Photos: Peter Kirby