Gwen Allen— Ephemeral Interventions: Media as Art in the 1960s and 1970s

In 1966, the American conceptual artist Dan Graham published a short article, “The Artist as Bookmaker: The Book as Object,”
In 1966, the American conceptual artist Dan Graham published a short article, “The Artist as Bookmaker: The Book as Object,”

In 1966, the American conceptual artist Dan Graham published a short article, “The Artist as Bookmaker: The Book as Object,” in which he described an imaginary book, Le Livre. Originally dreamt up by the 19th century poet Stéphane Mallarmé, it was a three-dimensional book with a set of mobile sections contained in boxes. Instead of being read privately by individuals, the book would be performed aloud collectively. Le Livre was never realized in Mallarmé’s lifetime, but Graham, who was then primarily a poet, publishing in experimental little magazines such as Extensions and 0 To 9, came across Mallarmé’s posthumously published notes about it in the avant-garde music journal Die Riehe.As Graham explained:

The linear book’s ‘time’ is enclosed, whereas Mallarmé’s ‘Book’ exists in a moment-to-moment specificity, its duration being formally identified with the constituent group of ‘readers’ whose presence literally informs it. Unlike the old book, the reader does not work his way progressively through in one direction.[1]

Graham was not alone in his fascination with the possibilities of the book as a new kind of object and social space in the 1960s. At a time when Marshall McLuhan was hailing the end of print, Roland Barthes was declaring the death of the author, and the countercultures—including the civil rights, anti-war, gay rights, feminist, new communalist, and environmental movements—were launching widespread social revolution, the book was ripe to be reinvented as realm of radical, utopian promise. Printed publications were no longer just places to record and store texts and images, but spatio-temporal entities in their own right, with the potential for actions, events, and relationships.[2]

The following year, Graham had the opportunity to put some of these ideas into practice in an issue of Aspen magazine, an unbound periodical that included posters and booklets, Super 8 films, Flexi-disc records, and various kinds of artists’ projects contained in a small, laminated cardboard box.[3] Issue 5+6, a special double issue, was dedicated to Mallarmé. Contained in a square, white box, it evoked the proverbial white cube, and functioned as a miniature traveling gallery space with contributions by artists and writers including Sol LeWitt, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Robert Morris, William Burroughs, and Robert Rauschenberg, among others. However, rather than cloistering art away from everyday life, Aspen released it back into the world, prompting a distinctly temporal and participatory experience. For example, Cage contributed “Fontana Mix,” an interactive score, and Tony Smith created a dollhouse-sized cardboard sculpture that could be cut out and pasted together by the reader.

Graham’s own contribution to Aspen 5+6 was a conceptual do-it-yourself poem, “Schema,” which consisted of a generic list of variables—such as “(number of) adjectives,” “(type of) paper stock,” “(name of) typeface”—which were to be completed by the editor or reader. Like Mallarmé’s own site-specific poem, “Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard,” 1897, Schema relied upon the materiality of the printed page: each time it was published, the piece was modified, registering the graphic design and typography of the specific publication in which it appeared—adopting the stark modern style of sans serif, for example, or the bureaucratic, old-fashioned look of Courier. To “read” the poem is to be momentarily distracted from the meaning of words and instead become captivated by the shapes of letters and numbers, and even by the texture and pliability of the page on which they are printed. In addition to foregrounding the materiality of the page, however, Schema called attention to its distinct temporality and transience—the fact that periodicals are linked to a specific window of time, after which they are relegated to the status of back issues. This limited duration was, according to Graham, key to Schema’s critical function. As he explained, “[the work] subverts value. Beyond its appearance in print or present currency, Schema is disposable, with no dependence on material (commodity), it subverts the gallery (economic system).”[4]

Schema was just one of numerous examples in which artists created works of art expressly for the printed page. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, publishing became an important new medium and distribution form—one that promised to circumvent traditional exhibition venues and reach new audiences. The disposability and seriality of magazines and newspapers dovetailed with the aesthetic concerns of Minimalism and Conceptual artists, who were abandoning canvases and pedestals in favor of ephemeral, process-oriented works. Graham went on to produce several such works, including his well-known “Homes For America,” (1966-67), an article he wrote about suburban tract housing developments, which in its tone and terminology uncannily mimicked the way art critics were discussing Minimalist sculpture at the time. Appearing in the now-defunct periodical Arts Magazine, it masqueraded as an ordinary article, which was part of its effectiveness since it allowed Graham to infiltrate the magazine and catch the reader off guard. Likewise, Mel Bochner and Robert Smithson published “Domain of the Great Bear,” (1965), a campy essay about the Hayden Planetarium embedded with found publicity materials, in an art magazine called Art Voices.

Artists also published works in other kinds of publications, including fashion magazines and underground newspapers. Graham published his work Figurative, a reproduced shopping receipt, in the March 1968 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, where it was serendipitously sandwiched between ads for Tampax and Warners bras, inflecting its meaning with a gendered double entendre. Moreover, artists began to tap into advertising space itself, in order to circulate their ideas under the radar of editorial oversight. For example, Graham’s project Detumescence, (1966), based around a clinical description of the post-coital state of the human male, took the form of advertisements placed in Screw, the New York Review of Sex, and National Tattler. Likewise, the conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth took out ads in newspapers and periodicals, including the New York Times, Artforum, Museum News, and the Nation, as part of his Second Investigation (1968), in which he published excerpts from Roget’s Thesaurus. And the Brazilian artist Cildo Miereles used actual Coca-Cola bottles to circulate subversive anti-imperialist messages in his Insertions into Ideological Circuits, (1970).

Among the most elaborate and sustained uses of advertising space during this time was Adrian Piper’s Mythic Being project, for which she placed a series of seventeen advertisements in the Village Voice between 1973-1975.[5] The ads chronicled a performance in which she adopted a macho African American persona and walked around the streets of New York in order to explore the stereotypes and subjectivities of race, gender, and class. However, Piper’s advertisements, which consisted of photographs of her dressed in drag, superimposed with thought bubbles of excerpts from her diary, not only documented her performance, but in some sense augmented it by extending the performance from the public space of the city into the communicative space of the media, where a much larger pool of viewers/readers might have the opportunity to encounter it.  

While such practices had a pragmatic, even entrepreneurial, aspect, allowing artists to garner publicity, and reach larger audiences, they also had an antagonistic dimension. Taking out paid advertisements was a way for artists to commandeer media space and repurpose it for their own interests, which often involved challenging the dominant institutional and economic conditions of art. Tucked away among the usual run of articles and advertisements, these stealthy interventions by artists were tactical: they exploited commercial publicity, and used it against the grain. The irony of utilizing mainstream advertising space for anti-establishment ambitions was not lost on these artists. Indeed, the ambivalence of these practices and the contradictions they sustained was central to their effectiveness as works of art, and remains one of their most fascinating qualities.[6]

Artists’ publication projects from the 1960s and 1970s anticipate more recent appropriation and détournement practices by artists such as Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Keith Haring, Group Material, Gran Fury, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Alfredo Jaar, to name but a few. Displayed on billboards, LED displays, t-shirts, shopping bags, and posters, these “interventions” are by turns activist and agitprop-oriented, or poignant and personal. Certainly, as communication technologies and historical conditions have changed, the meaning of such practices has evolved.Yet, the past can shed important light on the possibilities of this work today.

Indeed, as far back as the 19th century, Mallarmé himself was presciently attuned to the then-novel possibilities of commercial media such as posters and newspapers, which he called an “electrifying accomplishment.”[7] Comparing headlines and advertisements to poetry and collage, he observed that, among other things, the oversized, sectioned format of the newspaper changed the role of the reader. With their random juxtapositions of different kinds of information, newspapers encouraged readers to devise alternative and idiosyncratic ways of filtering meaning, as they scanned or perused the page.[8] Mallarmé’s Book was in fact inspired by these new possibilities. He insisted that books be “restored to the people” and described that ways in which Le Livre would empower readers to participate in the meaning of the text and establish their “right” to circulate it.[9]

As Graham recognized, Mallarmé located the emancipatory potential of printed matter in its conditions of circulation and distribution, and ultimately, in the indeterminate possibilities of its readership. Graham himself conceived of the publication not so much as an object or final product, but as an intermediary—a broker between the reader and the world, connecting the two, however temporarily. He imagined a publication that might foster these possibilities, and encouraged artists to collaborate with corporations to create ads/artworks whose meaning would be “immediate, topical and more or less short-lived,” and which would “[point] directly to the outside world—to products to be played (maybe records) and services to be rendered.”[10] What began as an experience on the page would thus necessarily extend beyond it, activating future meanings and experiences—moments that can never be fully predicted, contained, or controlled.


[1] Dan Graham, “The Artist as Bookmaker II: The Book as Object,” Arts Magazine 41, no. 8 (Summer 1967): 23, quoted in Gwen Allen, Artists’ Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art (Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 2011), 53.

 

[2] For an account of the artistic and political significance of artists’ publications, see Gwen Allen, Artists’ Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art. For an excellent account of the role of publications in the counterculture, see Geoff Kaplan, Power to the People: The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture, 1964-1974 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).

 

[3] For a more detailed history of Aspen, see my chapter “The Magazine as a Medium: Aspen, 1965-1971” in Artists’ Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art.

 

[4] Dan Graham, “Other Observations,” in Marianne Brouwer, ed., Dan Graham: Works 1965–2000 (Düsseldorf: Richter Verlag, 2001), 97, quoted in Allen, Artists’ Magazines.

 

[5] For an excellent account of Adrian Piper’s Mythic Being series, see Cherise Smith, Enacting Others: Politics of Identity in Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Adrian Piper, and Anna Deveare Smith (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011).

 

[6] For a discussion of artists’ publication interventions and advertisements see “Chapter 1: This is Not To Be Looked At: Artforum in the 1960s and 1970s” in Allen, Artists’ Magazines

 

[7] Stéphane Mallarmé, quoted in Anna Arnar, The Book as Instrument: Stéphane Mallarmé, the Artists’ Book, and the Transformation of Print Culture. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 50.

 

[8] For an excellent account of Mallarmé’s interest in mass media see Arnar, The Book as Instrument.

 

[9] Stéphane Mallarmé, quoted in Arnar, The Book as Instrument, 5; 7.

 

[10] Dan Graham, editorial statement for Aspen 8, 1970-71, quoted in Gwen Allen, Artists’ Magazines, 66.


Gwen Allen is an Associate Professor at San Francisco State University, where she specializes in contemporary art, criticism and visual culture. She writes for publications including Artforum, Bookforum, Art Journal, and East of Bourneo. She is the author of Artists' Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art (MIT Press, 2011)

We were very inspired by Gwen's research regarding Dan Graham's work in the 60's, as well as his interest in Mallarme's work. In fact, the title of this publication, Moment to Moment, comes out of Gwen's research. We felt that this publication could not exist without some sort of historical context, and so we commissioned Gwen to write an essay on Dan Graham's work in the world of advertising spaces.  

 

 

 

 

London

6 August 2013 - 12 August 2013

Oxford Circus Tube Station, London  August 6- August 12

Featured Contributor:  Jon Rubin

For London, we commissioned visual artist Jon Rubin to create a site specific piece.  His project entitled "Oxford Circle" involves a series of photos of a man standing on the Oxford Circus Tube platform.  The photos are inserted into the advertising panels of the Tube Station.   The man, who is being portrayed by Michael Crow, will arrive during rush hour and stand at location close to the signs and wait. He will not get on a train.  The result, when noticed by the busy rush hour commuters, is something that is both jarring and exciting.  Those who notice, are suddenly befuddled by the advertisement and the actual man.  He is both in the advertisement and there waiting for the train.  There is no explanation.  Much like the other projects, it invites the viewer to slow down and take notice of something that is both fully part of their everyday and completely separate.  More on Oxford Circle can be found here:  Oxford Circle

Also Featured in this Edition:  Anthony Discenza, Dave Muller, Starlee Kine, Susan O'Malley and Harrell Fletcher. 

Dave Muller— Summer Diary

Commissioned specifically for Moment to Moment, Dave Muller's series of large scale water color paintings are made from moments in his life that have defined "summer time."

As a DJ, curator and artist, Dave Muller examines with wit and irony the formation of an individual's identity through the amassing of cultural references.  He is known for his wall drawings and large-scale works on paper that employ iconic structures, such as top ten lists, to create diagrammatic yet uniquely personal portraits based on the musical passions of their subjects.

New York

For New York, we commissioned visual artists Susan O'Malley and Anthony Discenza to create projects specifially for the Bedford and Delancy Street Station.  We also commissioned writer and radio personality Starlee Kine, to create a series of chapters or installments within the Essex Street Station.  The idea in all of this was to create a subtle moment where subway riders might be pulled out of the liminal space (if only for a moment) and consider the details around them.  It should be noted that this edition has been so popular that Anthony Discenza's pieces have been stolen and replaced at least once during the run.  

Starlee Kine— Suggestions for notes to leave behind in the place where you just house/pet/plant sat:

There is where your cat was indifferent to how much cable I was watching. This is where I questioned my taste in succulents.

Suggestions for notes to leave behind in the place where you just house/pet/plant sat:

This is the desk where early morning productivity was achieved.

This is the mirror where productivity dropped off in the afternoon and I stared at my face while assuring myself that no one looks good in sunglasses.

This is where I flipped through a fashion magazine and saw how everyone looks good in sunglasses. 

This is where I made myself feel better, judging you for having a fashion magazine subscription.

This is the counter with the single serve coffee machine where I most envied your life.

This is the dark, warm spot in the closet where I most envied your cat’s life.

This is the bowl that looks like it was your grandmother’s where I ate cashews and then rearranged the remaining cashews in to make it look like I hadn’t.

This is where I felt closest to you because I knew half the people in the photos on your fridge.

This is where I wondered why I wasn’t in a photo on your fridge.

There is where your cat was indifferent to how much cable I was watching.

This is where I questioned my taste in succulents. 

This is the dresser where I compared the cuteness of your baby pictures to mine.

This is the closet where I tried on three of your dresses.

This is the part of the living room where the light hit in a way that reminded me of my first apartment.

This is the rug which I laid on while looking up my college roommate.

This is the quilt in the trunk at the foot of your bed where I wondered whether I’d ever be able to have a family of my own, since I didn’t have the kind of childhood where handmade quilts got passed down.

This is where I caught the last five minutes of a movie my sister and I used to watch when we were kids and thought about calling to tell her I missed her but then a new movie started. 

This is where I spoke with a French accent to the delivery guy after not speaking all day.

This is where I traced guesses about your neighbor’s name on the shower tiles.

This is where I was tempted to read what appeared, judging by the hand-drawn hearts on the envelope and the wax seal, to be a love letter addressed to you, but resisted.

This is the old fashioned rotary dial phone on a hall table where a fight was picked with my boyfriend about why doesn’t he write me letters with seals and hearts.

This is where I stared into space after returning from the coffee place you recommended, where I ran into the last person I expected to see: the person I always want to see most. 


Starlee Kine is a contributor to the public radio program This American Life.  She does stories about the world's slowest car chase, misunderstood ghosts and presidential library reenactments.  She also wrote a torch song with the help of Phil Collins and designed a heartbreak cutting board designed specifally to cut tear-inducing onions on for THE THING Quarterly, to which she is a contributor at large.  

San Francisco

22 July 2013 - 18 August 2013

Market St + Castro Takeover: July 22nd to August 18th

The San Francisco Edition of Moment to Moment is the first in a series of public interventions that will take place over the summer and fall in SF, LA, Tokyo, London and NYC. The intervention is a magazine that uses existing advertising space in both the Castro Muni Station and around 16th and Market Streets, allowing the viewer/reader to walk through this magazine.

Specific to the SF Edition, we commissioned visual artist Leslie Shows to create a piece for a billboard at 16th and Market. Choosing to work with the history of the billboard itself, Shows has created a collage that incorporates details of past advertisements.

The Edition also includes the work of visual artists Susan O'Malley, Dave Muller, Harrell Fletcher and writer/radio personality Starlee Kine, who will have two large floor texts in the Castro Muni Station.

This edition will launch on July 22nd. We will provide documentation of this location in the coming days.

Good Things Take Time

Michael Bell Smith— -

Michael Bell-Smith has contributed a new animated gif, commissioned specifically for Moment to Moment.

P – R – A – C – T – I – C – E
P – R – A – C – T – I – C – E
P – R – A – C – T – I – C – E
P – R – A – C – T – I – C – E
​P – R – A ….

In Michael Bell-Smith's work, he takes familiar visual elements and arranges them within new conceptual frameworks. Addressing the circulation and proliferation of digital media and language, his animations and appropriations wryly reflect upon our cultural moment.

 

Harrell Fletcher— Hello There Friend: Los Angeles

"Hello There Friend" is an ongoing series of works in which artist Harrell Fletcher goes on a walk in an unfamiliar place with someone. On this walk, Harrell's companions collect details of their surroundings and present them to him. The result is a conversation through the often overlooked details of an unfamiliar place.

Harrell's collaborators in Los Angeles were: Beatrice Red Star Fletcher, Kelly Bishop, and Jenni Stenson.  You can see the site specific installation at La Brea and 3rd here.

Harrell Fletcher creates participatory art projects in a variety of contexts with various people - many of them non-artists. He is an associate professor at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon where he directs the Art and Social Practice program that he founded in 2007.

Will Brown— Mediated Morandi

Mediated Morandi is an ongoing search for Giorgio Morandi paintings inserted into film backgrounds.
Mediated Morandi is an ongoing search for Giorgio Morandi paintings inserted into film backgrounds.

Mediated Morandi is an ongoing search for Giorgio Morandi paintings inserted into film backgrounds. Born in Bologna, Italy in 1890, Morandi is often considered the greatest master of Natura Morta (still life) in the 20th century. His distinctly subtle paintings depict the modest arrangement of bottles, vases, boxes, and pitchers stripped of all detail except light and color. As the painter’s popularity grew toward the end of his career, his work became synonymous with class, wealth, and refined sensibility.

Federico Fellini paid homage to Morandi by displaying two paintings in Steiner’s Salon in his 1960 film La Dolce Vita {fig. A}. An avid Morandi admirer, Fellini stated that he featured the works as the ultimate symbol of sophistication. Morandi’s images were also displayed in Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte (1961) {fig. D}, illustrating Giovanni Pontano’s financial success as a writer, in Luca Guadagnino’s Io sono l’amore (I Am Love) (2009) {fig. B}, and Tommy Wiseau’s cult smash The Room (2003) {fig. C}. Due to the beloved nature of Morandi’s work, it is likely that his paintings—or reproductions of his paintings—exist quietly in numerous other films.

Mediated Morandi investigates how the context of an artwork evolves through various levels of mediation at the hands of multiple authors. Initially, the artist arranged objects and rendered them on canvas. Over time, various Morandi “stills” were inserted into moving image works. And here, on these pages, they have been removed and refrozen as elements of a larger intentionally arranged still life.


Will Brown is a collaborative project based in a storefront space in San Francisco's Mission District.  Their main objective is to manipulate the structures of exhibition-making as a critical practice.  Will Brown is Lindsey White, Jordan Stein, and David Kasprzak.

Jason Jägel— Figure Paintings

For Moment to Moment, we asked Jason to work with us on creating a series of his painted newspaper works.  We like the way they conflate advertising and art, and then further conflate the issue by placing these manipulated images back into an advertising framework as art – it was more than we could pass up.  

About Jason Jägel

Emerging from his San Francisco backyard studio / record shack, Jason's drawings and paintings have been widely exhibited nationally and internationally since 1995.  His 2008 monograph is entitled Seventy-Three Funshine.

 

Jonn Herschend— Rock

levis_2

Jonn's film, entitled Rock, was commissioned by Levi's Made & Crafted and consists of a single take in which nothing happens and everything happens.  A woman (THE THING Quarterly's Managing Editor Sarah Simon) walks through a field and discovers a rock.  Herschend's work is focused on the moments where confusion, boredom and beauty exist.  He feels that it is in these moments that we can better understand who we are and what we are doing in this confusion that we live in. 

Jonn Herschend is a San Francisco-based artist and filmmaker.  He is co-editor and cofounder of THE THING Quarterly and a recent recpient of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's SECA award.  

Los Angeles

La Brea and 3rd Los Angeles, July 22- Aug 18

Los Angeles Edition Part 1 of Moment to Moment is the second in a series of public interventions that will take place over the summer and fall in SF, LA, Tokyo, London and NYC. The intervention will take place on a bill board at Le Brea and 3rd Streets and will feature a piece by visual artist Harrell Fletcher.

Specific to the 1st installment, we commissioned visual artist Harrell Fletcher to create an installment of his on going series "Hello There Friend", in which Harrell invites a companion on a walk in an unfamiliar place. On this walk, around La Brea and Third in Los Angeles, Harrell's companions collect details of their surroundings and present them to him.  The result is a conversation through the often overlooked details of an unfamiliar place.

Harrell's collaborators in Los Angeles were: Beatrice Red Star Fletcher, Kelly Bishop, and Jenni Stenson.  More images from Harrell's walk can be found here:  Hello There Friend, Los Angeles

The later edition of Los Angeles, will feature a series of bus boards by writer Starlee Kine.

Good Things Take Time

Will Rogan— Bonsai

will_rogan_tree

For Moment to Moment, Will was commissioned by Levis Made & Crafted to create a video piece.  As in much of Will's work, time plays an integral role.  He chose to work with his old friend Bob Linder, who is featured in the video trimming a bonsai tree.  The idea of taking time to see the details of the tree is punctuated by the jump cut edits (cuts) that take us further and further into the moment but also serve to remind us that time is continually moving on to the next moment. 

Will Rogan lives and works in Albany, CA.  He is co-founder and co-editor of THE THING Quarterly.  He was the recipient of the SECA award in 2002, is a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellow, and is represented by Altman Siegel Gallery in San Francisco and Laurel Gitlen Gallery in New York.  

Kota Ezawa— Dancer in the Dark

Kota Ezawa is a San Francisco-based artist who often reworks images from popular culture, film and art history, stripping them down to their core elements.  His simplified versions remain easily recognizable and potent, the result of a process that illuminates the hold certain images have on their viewers.

This is Kota's first commissioned GIF.

Geoff Dyer— On the Beach

I remember reading, years ago, that there are no happy periods, only happy moments. So how long can these moments last? An afternoon? Does an afternoon count as a moment?    I'm thinking, naturally, of one afternoon in particular, an afternoon a bunch of us spent by the ocean, on Canaveral Beach. Canaveral is not […]
I remember reading, years ago, that there are no happy periods, only happy moments. So how long can these moments last? An afternoon? Does an afternoon count as a moment? 
 
I'm thinking, naturally, of one afternoon in particular, an afternoon a bunch of us spent by the ocean, on Canaveral Beach. Canaveral is not the best beach in the world—few beaches are!—but it’s wild-looking, stretches for miles, and on the Wednesday after Memorial Day, was almost entirely deserted. There were seven of us. A strong wind was blowing; the sky was bright blue. It would have been scalding hot without the wind which stopped you from noticing that you were being scalded. The waves were crashing in, though the tide may have been going out. We all spread out our towels. Josh and Anne-Marie ran straight into the sea. Josh, a former pro-surfer, had brought a pair of flippers, and everyone except me had brought a serious book to read. It’s something that happens as you get older: the last thing you want to do on a beach is read a book—and maybe that doesn’t apply just to beaches but to other places as well. 
 
After ten minutes of just sitting there I suggested we have a running race. There was only one taker; everyone else was either in the sea or into their books. So it was just me and Paul, and it wasn’t exactly a race. I drew a line in the sand in front of where the others were sitting reading, stretching from where they sat to the sea. Paul and I did some stretches and began jogging along the water’s edge, like in Chariots of Fire, but this was Florida and not England. It was hot, windy, sea-clear and sky-bright, and the shoreline was wild and empty. The waves were crashing in to our left. I kept an eye out for dead jellyfish, unsure if they stung after they were dead or even if they were dead once they were washed up on the sand. It was hard-going; the wind was in our faces, blowing north. I don’t know how far we ran—far enough so that when we stopped and got our breath back we couldn't see the others with their little encampment of towels. 
 
“Make no mistake,” I said, drawing another line in the sand. “We jogged here as friends but we are racing back. The winner, obviously, is the first one to cross the line where we started.”
 
 “So the starting line has become the finishing line,” said Paul. 
 
“We can jog, we can chat, but ultimately it’s a race. It might seem that it’s not a race or that it only becomes a race at a certain moment—”
 
“But it was actually a race from the moment we began.”
 
“You got it.” 
 
We got into position at the new starting line and began jogging back the way we had come. It was much easier this way, with the wind urging us on and the sea pounding in to our right. I only like running on the beach and I only like running in a race. I love racing. We jogged along gently but all the time we were jogging I was also racing, conscious that the jog could turn into a race at any moment, that the jog was part of the race not a prelude to it. I began to breathe heavily, not because I was tired, but to get more oxygen into my system. Maybe this wasn't the right thing to do but it’s what I was doing. We were side by side. I was slightly more in the sea than Paul. The sand was harder, though, which seemed to more than compensate for any slight resistance caused by the water. In the distance we could see the spot where the others were, maybe two hundred yards away. I was waiting for Paul to make his move. We were still just jogging but we were no longer talking. The pace increased slightly. A squadron of pelicans glided towards and over us, tipping their wings. Paul had still not made his move. He must have been waiting for me to make my move just as I was waiting for him to make his. It was not clear who had the best sprint or if either of us even had one. I was fifty-four, would be fifty-five in a week, but it was like being fifteen,  with an added consciousness of death and depression, of the ease with which the body’s numerous muscles can be pulled, and of how wonderful it is to feel like you're fifteen—way better, of course, than actually being fifteen. 
 
We were about fifty yards from our friends— I could see them clearly enough, the world existed in sparkling clarity—and I figured that I could sprint from there. We were still just jogging. The sea was rolling in or rolling out and Paul had still not made his move. I kicked, leaving him instantly five or six yards behind. I kept glancing behind my shoulder and saw that he wasn’t going to catch me. My legs were tying up but I crossed the finishing line, which had once been the starting line, and was nowhere to be seen because the tide, evidently, was coming in. 
 
I love winning. I just do. I am one of those people who loves to win. I would like to have given interviews about my victory because it was clear to me that I had run a great tactical race. I had kicked at exactly the right moment and left Paul for dead. I felt like Mo Farah and I stood bent over with my hands on my knees, thinking about what it must have been like to have been Mo, when he came into the finishing straight in London, in the five and the ten thousand metre finals, knowing that he’d got it, the double gold. The pleasure of winning gold here was slightly diminished by the suspicion that Paul had just come along for the ride, for the run, that despite his assurances he didn’t really believe we were racing, or, if he did, had perhaps let me win because he could tell that I love wining and was so much older than him. So it wasn’t a total triumph, but that hadn't occurred to me as I'd crossed where the finishing line used to be and raised my arms in skinny triumph.
 
The wind was still blowing, the sky was blue, the sun was blazing and the sea was rolling in. Time was passing in the timeless oceanic way. The sea is the perfect backdrop for happiness—for moments of happiness—because it is always there. You could have been here ten thousand years ago and it wouldn't be changed at all. The only thing special about this afternoon is that we were here. 
 
While the others were reading I kept thinking about my victory in the running race. It would have been even better if we had been running with our shirts off—I didn’t take mine off because I am too skinny, but the other guys all had their shirts off, including Josh, the ex-pro surfer. A few days earlier we’d all posed for a photograph together. I'd been standing next to Josh and when I put my arm around him my long thin arms were barely long enough to reach around his shoulders. I sat for a while on my towel, in my t-shirt. I hadn't brought a book, but I had brought a tennis ball so I suggested that we play catch. I'm like a dog—I love to run and play catch— but a dog with a voice, who can suggest races and games of catch, rather than just sitting around looking hopeful, waiting for someone to rattle a leash or hold up a chewed-up old ball covered in dog saliva.
 
Playing catch with a tennis ball is one of the world’s most underrated sports; it’s way more fun than Frisbee or any of the other throwing games people play on a beach. Five of us played, three men and two women, close together and far away, always changing positions, trying to make sure that someone else had the sun in their eyes. We caught the ball one-handed and hot-potatoed it to someone else. Or three of us bunched together while the thrower walked back and threw the ball far and high in the sky so we had to jostle and jump for it and quite often the result of all this jostling and jumping was that no one caught the ball and it came splashing into the sea like space debris falling out of the earth’s atmosphere. It was also fun to throw the ball hard at someone’s face from a distance that was only borderline safe. It was just the guys who did this. It’s a guy thing, flirting with the possibility of hurting or getting hurt, and we never threw the ball aggressively at Connie or Ann-Marie, only at each other. When another flight of pelicans came by I threw a ball at them and missed. I didn’t want to injure a pelican but it is always a challenge, trying to hit a moving target. I didn’t even come close and the pelicans didn’t take evasive action; they just cruised on down the beach, indifferent and maybe not even interested, heading south. We humans threw the ball back and forth and it was great even though I was conscious that in addition to pulling a muscle slightly in my left calf during my victory in the running race I was aggravating a long-standing shoulder injury. Throwing is terrible for the shoulder. Palestinians must have constant shoulder and arm problems from all the stone-throwing they do. My left arm— my throwing arm—soon felt like it was several inches longer than the other one. Then it felt like it was attached to the shoulder by only a few sinews. I wouldn't have been surprised to see the ball flying off with my scrawny arm still attached, like a hammer thrown in the Olympics. 
 
I had not taken off my t-shirt but Connie had taken off hers—a blue Kurt Cobain t-shirt—so she was wearing just a bikini, a yellow bikini. It occurred to me that one of the great things about beach life is that you get to see women in bikinis, get to see their limbs, to see them nearly naked, and you don’t have to remark on this or avert your eyes but the deep truth is that those unaverted eyes are seeing things they don’t get to see on a city street in winter when everyone is wearing coats, and these things your eyes are seeing are the things nature has spent tens of thousands of years making you want to see, backdropped against a blue ocean that has been around for even longer, for millions of years before we slithered out of it, with gills for lungs and no eyes to speak of, when God himself could never have dreamed that the bikini would one day become a much-looked-at  fact of modern life. 
 
Connie had long tanned legs and arms, bony strong shoulders. We were all playing catch, our attention was focused entirely on the ball but this did not mean that I did not have some surplus attention with which to observe Connie in her yellow bikini, catching the ball in hands that were at the end of long arms which led smoothly to the rest of her, hanging on to the ball despite getting thumped over by a big wave. She brought a supple intensity and slinky single-mindedness to throwing and catching but not so much concentration that she did not have attention left over to notice that Josh had these incredible surfer’s shoulders or that I was still wearing my t-shirt, ostensibly to keep the sun off my back but also, and obviously, because I was so skinny. The t-shirt wasn’t fooling anyone: in the process of fumbling a catch I too had been bowled over by a wave so my soaking-wet shirt hung from me, stretched darkly by the weight of seawater like a very short dress. The tide kept coming in. We were all in the ocean, up to our calves and knees.
 
Connie was an excellent catch and the combination of sea, sun, limbs, and wet bikini added a crucial element to the happiness of the moment: desire. Desire for what was happening in this moment to lead to other moments and curiosity about what those moments might be like and where they might lead.
No one took any photographs but the happiness of the afternoon was all contained in a single moment, in the way that a photograph might have done if one had been taken. Or maybe not. It’s difficult to catch the moment of catching a ball. Without the surrounding frames, the moments leading up to and following on from the catch, it just looks like someone holding a ball. You can show someone about to catch or having just caught the ball, not actually catching it. The photo removes the element that makes a difficult catch so exhilarating: the possibility of the ball being dropped, of the caught moment spilling unnoticed into another moment, dissolving into nothing. 
 
The ball is in the blue air. An arm goes up. The ball smacks into fingers which curl around it. You hold it even as a wave crashes in and bowls you over but you hang on to it and your arm appears above the wave, still clutching the ball: a yellow fruit plucked from the blue sky. 

For Moment to Moment, we asked Geoff to create an essay focused on a simple moment.  

Geoff Dyer's many books include Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, But Beautiful, The Ongoing Moment, and Yoga for People Who Can't be Bothered to Do It.  

 

Jason Kalogiros— Double Sunsets

To produce these images, Jason used a double pinhole camera fashioned from a Quaker Oats oatmeal container. Holes poked through the eyes of the iconic portrait that appears on the front of the container were turned into twin apertures, yielding a double image. While a sunset represents an ending, a double sunset suggests a metaphor of an alternate story, of the hope and possibility of multiple endings.

Jason Kalogiros lives and works in San Francisco, CA. He received his BFA from Tufts University and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2004, and his MFA from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA in 2008. Jason has been featured in numerous exhibitions both nationally and internationally. He is represented by Bob Linder Gallery.

Susan O'Malley— Mantras for the Urban Dweller

We've been long-time fans of Susan O'Malley's enthusiastic sign-based work that reads more like positive pep-talks. For Moment to Moment, we envisioned these pieces existing in an urban landscape as visual mantras for the urban dweller, something to pull us out of our daily routine and into something larger.  Susan states that the works are "off-kilter, open-ended public service announcements; invitations to pause among the noise, the grit, and the hustle of the city.  The texts open the possibility for a flash of introspection in the hamster-wheel of life; and the words can be repeated, changed, spoken, howled, whispered or interpreted.  In these works I'm suggesting my wish for how things could be: if we paid closer attention to our being, to our grieving, to the way the sun makes a spectacular reflection on the buildings at that certain time of the day.  It has to begin somewhere, why not here?  It's your choice."

Susan O'Malley makes art that connects us to each other.  She has given pep talks in parking lots, asked for advice from strangers, and installed inspirational posters in public – because, as she states,"we are all in this together."  She lives, works, walks, and talks to other people in Berkeley, California.  Susan is represented by Romer Young Gallery in San Francisco.

Starlee Kine— A suggestion:

Here’s a game you can play whenever you are putting off doing something tedious, like washing the dishes.

Here’s a game you can play whenever you are putting off doing something tedious, like washing the dishes.  It’s called “stage business.” The rules of the game are simple. You are an actor in a dramatic scene and need to busy yourself with an everyday task. So while it may look like you are just scrubbing a plate, really this is happening moments before the event that advances the rest of the plot forward. This plot is your life. Maybe the event will be a ringing phone, and you will reach for a paper towel to dry your hands, but the tube will be empty because you keep forgetting to buy more, and so you’ll have to use your pant leg. This will have the bonus of helping to establish your character. Or it might be that in a moment you will drop the plate, and when you go to pick up the pieces, you’ll notice a poem that’s been written in the crack between where the floorboards start and the kitchen counter stops. You’ll devote the next thirty years to finding out who put it there, not as a full-time job, but as an unpaid, casual side project. 


Starlee Kine is a contributor to the public radio program This American Life.  She does stories about the world's slowest car chase, misunderstood ghosts and presidential library reenactments.  She also wrote a torch song with the help of Phil Collins and designed a heartbreak cutting board designed specifally to cut tear-inducing onions on for THE THING Quarterly, to which she is a contributor at large.  

Harrell Fletcher— Hello There Friend: Tokyo

"Hello There Friend" is an ongoing series of works in which artist Harrell Fletcher invites a companion on a walk in an unfamiliar place. On this walk, Harrell's companions collect details of their surroundings and present them to him.  The result is a conversation through the often overlooked details of an unfamiliar place.

Harrell's collaborators in Tokyo were: Tomoko Yamashita Smith, Leo Smith, Hana Smith, and Beatrice Red Star Fletcher

Harrell Fletcher creates participatory art projects in a variety of contexts with various people - many of them non-artists.  He is an associate professor at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon where he directs the Art and Social Practice program that he founded in 2007.

Joe McKay— Big Time

Press 'get time'


turn in real time
spin fast
12 hour

Before the invention of trains, each town had its own time. BigTime reintroduces local time by calculating your time based on your exact distance from the prime meridian. In the diagram, the red line represents the prime meridian, and the blinking dot is your current location.

 


Joe McKay is a digital media artist that uses games and interactivity to critically examine the way our culture is consuming and creating current technology. McKay works is several different mediums, including sculpture, performance, video games, video, photo and more.

He received a BFA from NSCAD and a MFA from UC Berkeley. In 2001 McKay participated in the Whitney independent study program. He has an extensive exhibition history, both in New York City and internationally and is currently represented by Pari Nadimi Gallery in Toronto. McKay is a professor of New Media at SUNY Purchase college.

Leslie Shows— A Curving Trail

Specific to the San Francisco Edition of Moment to Moment, we commissioned visual artist Leslie Shows to create a piece for a billboard at 16th and Market. Choosing to address multiple viewer distances and the scale and function of the billboard itself, Shows has created a blown-up collage that broadcasts a set of material incidents.

Leslie Shows has exhibited at the 2011 Mercosul Biennial in Brazil, the 2006 California Biennial, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Solo exhibitions include the Jack Hanley Gallery in New York, Haines Gallery in San Francisco, and, in 2014, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Kota Ezawa— -

Kota Ezawa is a San Francisco-based artist who often reworks images from popular culture, film and art history, stripping them down to their core elements.  His simplified versions remain easily recognizable and potent, the result of a process that illuminates the hold that certain images have on their viewers.

Starlee Kine— A nudge:

Let’s say you need to put in a new light bulb in your apartment. Don’t worry, this is not going to be a joke.

Let’s say you need to put in a new light bulb in your apartment. Don’t worry, this is not going to be a joke. You drag a ladder out and even though it’s a very ordinary and not particularly attractive ladder, its presence makes everything look so new and different. There’s an immediate release of tension in your neck and shoulders that comes with such a tangible example of change. So you leave the ladder out, right in the middle of your kitchen, bumping into it a lot at first until your body starts automatically arcing around it. On the first day, you throw the tube of toothpaste you’ve been milking for all it’s worth into the trash. You write your name in gold ink on the slip under your buzzer. On the second, you send a cautiously sentimental note to someone you wronged. On the third, you get a dog. You switch careers. You are able to believe what your friends said about your last break-up not being your fault.  Just keep cramming those changes in until the power wears off. When you start placing cans of food or stacks of freshly washed towels on the ladder, using it as a shelving system, that’s when you fold it back up and hide it from sight. And then wait for the next opportunity. It could come in any form, like taking off your sweater and tying it around your waist instead of tossing it in your bag. Suddenly you are the person who pulls that look off..


Starlee Kine is a contributor to the public radio program This American Life.  She does stories about the world's slowest car chase, misunderstood ghosts and presidential library reenactments.  She also wrote a torch song with the help of Phil Collins and designed a heartbreak cutting board designed specifally to cut tear-inducing onions on for THE THING Quarterly, to which she is a contributor at large.  

Jon Rubin— Oxford Circle

Jon Rubins contribution to Moment to Moment consists of several photos around the Oxford Circus tube station which depict a man waiting for the train. For 2 hours a day during rush hour the same man will be on the platform, waiting. The work creates an uncanny simultaneity between between the space of advertising and the space of life, what is past and present. In keeping with the theme of Moment to Moment the project creates a moment of contemplation within the chaos and perpetual motion of our daily lives.

More on Jon's Contribution at Oxford Circus can be found in the London Edition

Anthony Discenza— Advisories

Anthony Discenza is a visual artist based in Oakland. He primarily spends his time thinking and worrying about an extensive variety of subjects. Occasionally, this activity results in the production of tangible objects and situations intended for presentation in different public and semi-public venues for varying lengths of time.

Kristin Lucas— TK

We commissioned visual artist Kristen Lucas to create a series of GIF for Moment to Moment.  For these GIFs, Kristen uses an image processing app that functions like a video sythesizer to combine and mix animated GIFs into new computation patterns.  The series of animated GIFs integrates footage generated during an artist residency at Institute for Electronic Arts (IEA) at Alfred University in 2013

Kristin Lucas is a multidisciplanry artist.  Her work investigates the overlaps of virtual and physical realities and the physical and psychological effects of technologies on perception of time and space, behavior, and identity.  She is currently an artist in residence at Eyebeam in New York City.  Her works have been exhibited internationally and are represented and distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) and Postmasters in NYC.

Starlee Kine— A selection of thoughts you probably had while staring at a stranger sitting across from you:

I make more money but she/he is better at only buying well-crafted items that are both practical and beautiful.

A selection of thoughts you probably had while staring at a stranger sitting across from you:

  • She/he is cuter.
  • I’m cuter but she/he dresses better.
  • I dress better but she/he has the kind of body that can get away with wearing worse clothes.
  • She/he has a more interesting job.
  • I have a more interesting job but she/he makes more money.
  • I make more money but she/he is better at only buying well-crafted items that are both practical and beautiful.
  • I’ve traveled to more countries but she/he has gone to ones that are harder to get to with more challenging language barriers.
  • I was more popular in high school.
  • I was less popular in high school but aged better.
  • I was less popular in high school and aged worse and every conviction I ever had about the world not being fair is right this moment being demonstrated in front of me.
  • I went to a worse school.
  • I went to a better school but she/he is more down to earth.
  • I have a plusher couch that guests like sleeping on but she/he has a more modern one that guests take photos of.
  • I have more friends who will listen to my problems but she/he has more friends without kids who will go with them to parties.
  • I call my parents more often but hers/his make her/him feel less lonely.
  • I’ve broken more hearts.
  • Her/his heart’s been broken less.
  • I’ve dated more people but she/he has had more friendships turn into relationships.
  • I’m so glad I’m not dating her/him.
  • I wish I was dating her/him.
  • My girlfriend/boyfriend is cuter.
  • My girlfriend/boyfriend is funnier.
  • My girlfriend/boyfriend is less funny, more ambitious, about the same amount of cute, and has a lower-maintenance family who take it less personally when space is needed during holiday visits.
  • Would she/he ever date me?
  • Was she/he watching me fix my sock just then?
  • If her/his boyfriend/girlfriend were to say, next week, “Think of one person, besides me, who you would want to be with forever,” will it be my face that flits, even for just a second, through her/his head?

Starlee Kine is a contributor to the public radio program This American Life.  She does stories about the world's slowest car chase, misunderstood ghosts and presidential library reenactments.  She also wrote a torch song with the help of Phil Collins and designed a heartbreak cutting board designed specifally to cut tear-inducing onions on for THE THING Quarterly, to which she is a contributor at large.   

Starlee Kine— A tip:

If you say you’re going to wake up tomorrow and renovate your whole apartment or memorize every

If you say you’re going to wake up tomorrow and renovate your whole apartment or memorize every South American capital or learn how to play all of “Stairway to Heaven” even though you’ve never picked up a guitar and aren’t even positive that that’s the main instrument being played…it’s not going to happen. That’s called “setting yourself up for failure.” Even if you do memorize all those capitals— the most doable of these tasks— it will only take one instance of the person you have a crush on smiling at you in a new way to make those names spill out of your head. Keep it simple. Here’s one example of how you do it: instead of tackling every movie made before this year that you’ve ever intended to see, you decide to finally watch My Dinner With Andre. When you get to the scene where Andre talks about designing his own flag, you think, “Yes! I will design my own flag too.” Then be sure to stop yourself before you also think, “But wait, it’s too bad that I don’t live in the ‘70s or ‘40s or whenever this movie was made. The past, in general, was so much better. Women wore pants that made them look like they rode horses. Men wore vests that made them look like tax attorneys. People even stood differently, and thus more superiorly, back then.” Put a halt to all that, don’t even let it get going. It might help to picture one of those bottles of water that gets inserted into a standing dispenser with hot and cold spigots. There’s always a bit of water that pours out in the moment between turning the bottle upside down and fitting it into the dispenser. The amount depends on the strength of the person maneuvering the transition. Listen, today you are very strong and only a few drops of water manage to leak out, the water being your self-destructive runaway thoughts in this scenario. When the movie is over, scrounge up a piece of paper. Any piece is fine. It doesn’t have to be in a sketchbook. It doesn’t have to be a sheet from that stationary set that you never use because you think it’s too nice. If it’s from your printer tray, that is great. If it’s your phone bill envelope, even better. Grab a pen and then draw a rectangle. That is your flag. Your kitchen table is now officially a nation. Good job! Everything you add is just sprigs of parsley on an already successfully accomplished project.  You can’t screw it up. If you do happen to, say, draw a star and then decide you want it to be a moon and so you cross it out really aggressively, going over and over the image until you tear the paper a little…just remember that in some cultures, a flaw is purposely built into each project so as to prevent a perfection-off with the gods. 


Starlee Kine is a contributor to the public radio program This American Life.  She does stories about the world's slowest car chase, misunderstood ghosts and presidential library reenactments.  She also wrote a torch song with the help of Phil Collins and designed a heartbreak cutting board designed specifally to cut tear-inducing onions on for THE THING Quarterly, to which she is a contributor at large.  

Tao Lin— Spring 2010

Something staticky and paranormally ventilated about the air, which drifted through a half-open window, late one afternoon, caused a delicately waking Paul, clutching a pillow and drooling a little, to believe he was a small child in Florida, in a medium-size house, on or near winter break. He felt dimly excited, anticipating a hyperactive movement […]
Something staticky and paranormally ventilated about the air, which drifted through a half-open window, late one afternoon, caused a delicately waking Paul, clutching a pillow and drooling a little, to believe he was a small child in Florida, in a medium-size house, on or near winter break. He felt dimly excited, anticipating a hyperactive movement of his body into a standing position, then was mostly unconscious for a vague amount of time until becoming aware of what seemed to be a baffling non sequitur—and, briefly, in its mysterious approach from some eerie distance, like someone else’s consciousness—before resolving plainly as a memory, of having already left Florida, at some point, to attend New York University. After a deadpan pause, during which the new information was accepted by default as recent, he casually believed it was autumn and he was in college, and as he felt that period’s particular gloominess he sensed a concurrent assembling, at a specific distance inside himself, of dozens of once-intimate images, people, places, situations. With a sensation of easily and entirely abandoning a prior context, of having no memory, he focused, as an intrigued observer, on this assembling and was surprised by an urge, which he immediately knew he hadn’t felt in months, or maybe years, to physically involve himself—by going outside and living each day patiently—in the ongoing, concrete occurrence of what he was passively, slowly remembering. But the emotion dispersed to a kind of nothingness—and its associated memories, like organs in a lifeless body, became rapidly indiscernible, dissembling by the metaphysical equivalent, if there was one, of entropy—as he realized, with some confusion and an oddly instinctual reluctance, blinking and discerning his new room, which after two months could still seem unfamiliar, that he was somewhere else, as a different person, in a much later year.
 
He kept his eyes pressurelessly closed and didn’t move, wanting to return—without yet knowing who or what he was—to sleep, where he could intensify and prolong and explore what he residually felt and was uncontrollably forgetting, but was already alert, in concrete reality, to a degree that his stillness, on his queen-size mattress, felt like a kind of hiding. He stared at the backs of his eyelids with motionless eyeballs, slightly feigning not knowing what he was looking at—which also felt like a kind of hiding—and gradually discerned that he was in Brooklyn, on an aberrantly colder day in late March, in the two-person apartment, in a four-story house, where he had moved, a few weeks after returning from Taiwan, because Kyle and Gabby, to “save their relationship,” had wanted more space.
 
It was spring, not winter or autumn, Paul thought with some lingering confusion. He listened to the layered murmur of wind against leaves, familiarly and gently disorienting as a terrestrial sound track, reminding people of their own lives, then opened his MacBook—sideways, like a hardcover book—and looked at the internet, lying on his side, with his right ear pressed into his pillow, as if, unable to return to sleep, at least in position to hear what, in his absence, might be happening there.
 
*
In early June, after four more parties, two at which he similarly slept on sofas after walking mutely through rooms without looking at anyone, Paul began attending fewer social gatherings and ingesting more drugs, mostly with Daniel and Fran, or only Daniel, or sometimes alone, which seemed classically “not a good sign,” he sometimes thought, initially with mild amusement, then as a neutral observation, finally as a meaningless placeholder. Due to his staggered benzodiazepine usage and lack of obligations or long-term projects and that he sometimes ingested Seroquel and slept twelve to sixteen hours (always waking, it seemed, at night, uncomfortable and disoriented and unsure what to do, usually returning to sleep) he had gradually become unaware of day-to-day or week-to-week changes in his life—and, when he thought of himself in terms of months and years, he still viewed himself as in an “interim period,” which by definition, he felt, would end when his book tour began—so he viewed the trend, of fewer people and more drugs, as he might view a new waiter at Taco Chulo: “there, at some point,” separate from him, not of his concern, beyond his ability or desire to track or control.
 
When he wanted to know what happened two days ago, or five hours ago, especially chronologically, he would sense an impasse, in the form of a toll, which hadn’t been there before, payable by an amount of effort (not unlike that required in problem solving or essay writing) he increasingly felt unmotivated to exert. There were times when his memory, like an external hard drive that had been taken from him and hidden inside an unwieldy series of cardboard boxes, or placed at the end of a long and dark and messy corridor, required much more effort than he felt motivated to exert simply to locate, after which, he knew, more effort would be required to gain access. After two to five hours with no memory, some days, he would begin to view concrete reality as his memory—a place to explore idly, without concern, but somewhat pointlessly, aware that his actual existence was elsewhere, that he was, in a way, hiding here, away from where things actually happened, then were stored here, in his memory.
 
Having repeatedly learned from literature, poetry, philosophy, popular culture, his own experiences, most movies he’d seen, especially ones he liked, that it was desirable to “live in the present,” “not dwell on the past,” etc., he mostly viewed these new, mnemonic obstacles as friendly and, sometimes, momentarily believing in their viability as a form of Zen, exciting or at least interesting. Whenever he wanted to access his memory (usually to analyze or calmly replay a troubling or pleasant social interaction) and sensed the impasse, which he almost always did, to some degree, or that his memory was currently missing, as was increasingly the case, he would allow himself to stop wanting, with an ease, not unlike dropping a leaf or stick while outdoors, he hadn’t felt before—and, partly because he’d quickly forget what he’d wanted, without a sensation of loss or worry, only an acknowledgment of a different distribution of consciousness than if he’d assembled and sustained a memory—and passively continue with his ongoing sensory perception of concrete reality.
 

Tao Lin is the author of seven books of fiction and poetry.  Vintage published his third novel, Taipei, in June 2013

Tokyo

Coming soon.

amber beads  glass teapot