On the Books

After driving for an hour, they pick me up and we leave New York.

We arrive at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, which I am yet again surprised to find out goes by The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. TAMoCA versus TACAM versus The Aldrich. It's a preference of syntax, or of the elements of design by symbols. The hieroglyphs of phonetics of reputation.

What most easily comes out of your mouth?

Peter Liversidge (b. 1973, UK) has an exhibit upstairs that sprawls across rooms and time. It has, in ways, not happened; in other ways it will never happen. A few ways have come to fruition, like the bowl of four apples by the front desk where I renew my Artist's Membership. The first four visitors of each day are able to take one of the apples. The artwork is mostly fructose but contains some fiber in the skin. The artwork is mostly red with a small green blemish.

Sixty proposals, from specific to abstract, were composed on a manual Olivetti typewriter by Liversidge, framed, and hung as the primary focal point of his exhibit. The proposals are printed on various colors of paper, some with markings on the glass of the frame, some coated in paint, and one frame that is a mirror in which I take my own photograph in the artwork.

Of the sixty proposals composed for the show, museum director Richard Klein helped select twenty-three proposals to be actualized, including the above apples for visitors. Participation and event are part of the affect, such as working with the local hardware store's employees to write and perform a song about the store; lodging a cannonball into a wall of the Aldrich as a reference to nearby historical actions from the Revolutionary War; and placing twelve RGB (red, green, and blue) light displays in stores, restaurants, and official town buildings to project a Venn diagram of colors on the floor. There is an RGB in the exhibit so you know what to look for when you leave the Museum and proceed to consumerism and tourism in Connecticut.

Liversidge's actualized proposal that I enjoy the most is the reading room setup in the bridge space between two main galleries. It overlooks the main floor below, and the glass windows face out onto the Sculpture Garden's green lawn in the back, spotted with machinery by David Brooks and a suspended section of tree by Virginia Overton.

The reading room contains an assortment of classics, popular contemporary titles, retrospective catalogues, and museum exhibition prints suggested by family and friends. The reading room includes, but is not limited to: Flowers & Questions (Peter Fischli and David Weiss); Camera Solo (Patti Smith); Instant Light: Tarkovsky PolaroidsRosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard); Fifty Modern Buildings That Changed the WorldThe Fountainhead (Ayn Rand); The Origin of Species (Charles Darwin); White Teeth (Zadie Smith); Bowie (Marc Spitz); Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain); Poetics (Aristotle); Writings/Interviews (Richard Serra); Notes from the Underground (Dostoyevsky); Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing (Rytek Kutas); A Crackup at the Race Riots (Harmony Korine); Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jim Morrison (Charles R. Cross); A Dictionary of Ideas (Gustave Flaubert); Either/Or (Søren Kierkegaard); Life (Keith Richards); Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Ludwig Wittgenstein); Typee (Herman Melville); Democracy in America (Alexis de Tocqueville); The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo).

Which is to say nothing of the volumes of Proposals put forth by Liversidge for other museums and institutions, collected and printed separately in bound books per location, plus a heavier collection spanning many decades. Of all the books here I want to read, it is Liversidge's Proposals that are the most satisfying, unexpected, and provocative.

"I propose to bruise all the apples in all the shops in New York."
(Proposal for Printed Matter, Inc.)

I pick up a book, not of proposals, whose title intrigues me. It is a hardcover but with no dust jacket, so the spine reveals little information to me. Brown and worn, it appears to be older, by a publisher I am not familiar with, called Overlook Duckworth. It sounds fake. Their logo is an encircled elephant walking a horizon line, its ears blown back or perhaps wings are sprouting from its head, or both. In the middle of the page, beneath the title that prompted me to pick up the volume, beneath which is the author's name, is my friend's name.

I know who edited and translated this book.

We have been going for walks without mentioning this title, among the many that bear his name.

I snap a photo of the page with his name on it and send it to him.

"I propose that we should walk together."
(Proposal for Richard Klein at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum)

He asks me if I am reading the book, how I like it.

I try to explain that I am not reading the book, but that I like it.

"I propose to give in to your charity."
(Proposal for Sacha Craddock and Graham Gussin at the Bloomberg Space)