TrackingProject

art, culture, politics, democracy

Month: November, 2013

The Ephemera(l) Institution 10

Exhibiting once again that one doesn’t always see what is right before them, it appears that previously unnoticed strange metamorphic episodes are occurring within the walls of the Institute. During my time here as a resident I have observed and pointed out several of these incidents, but staff cannot remember any such occurrences prior to my arrival. Yes, one might jump on the erroneous assumption that I, personally, have had some participation in such changes, but I assure you, dear reader, I sadly hold no such extraordinary powers.

The book, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities by Albertus Seba, was until recently on display in an aisle of the Institute. One day this two-dimensional replica appeared, almost unnoticed in its place.

The book, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities by Albertus Seba, was until recently on display in an aisle of the Institute. One day this two-dimensional replica appeared, almost unnoticed in its place.

What is important about this circumstance, in the context of my objective here, is to be fortunate enough to be able to observe how the ephemera(l) transition of an organization, particularly one with the kind of institutional model previously discussed, may begin its metamorphoses into a pure ephemera(l) state even in the midst of its normal operational mode. Perhaps, to take this analysis a step backward, this transition began at the beginning.

Several volumes of the organization’s set of Encyclopaedia Britannica mysteriously disappeared from its shelf. It is unknown whether the ephemeral marker that now resides there will remain or will undergo further transformation. Perhaps it will one day find its way into the organization’s Ephemera Kabinett.

Several volumes of the organization’s set of Encyclopaedia Britannica mysteriously disappeared from its shelf. It is unknown whether the ephemeral marker that now resides there will remain or will undergo further transformation. Perhaps it will one day find its way into the organization’s Ephemera Kabinett.

The possibility that ephemera(l) thoughts might beget ephemera(l) conditions and situations tends to support the notion that an institution can become itself. That is that, in this case, the adoption of an ephemera(l) method may have led to transformational events that are beyond the control of the organization.

Much to this researcher’s chagrin and dismay, the “Lyft Moustache” coffee cup, previously chronicled in these pages has morphed into a two-dimensional unusable replica of itself. It has been a surprise to this writer, that given his temporary status in this situation, such losses can become so personally painful.

Much to this researcher’s chagrin and dismay, the “Lyft Moustache” coffee cup, previously chronicled in these pages has morphed into a two-dimensional unusable replica of itself. It has been a surprise to this writer, that given his temporary status in this situation, such losses can become so personally painful.

Though the scenarios I am musing about are not a complete surprise, it is with awe that I am witness to the extent that occurrences, in response to a simple organizational preference, may physically and fantastically emerge and evolve.

 

 

 

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The Ephemera(l) Institution 9

Let us first be clear about what I mean by institution. An institution is not an organization; it is a medium. One definition describes an institution as a structure or mechanism of social order that governs behavior and cooperation. Another person characterizes it as a constraint. A constraint devised to shape human interaction. Constraint is an interesting, if not loaded, term in this context. It suggests an almost forceful set of restrictions set up to dictate how the organization operates and is viewed.

The reality, though, is probably not that blatant. If an organization establishes or encodes, even innocently, a particular thematic as a material source within its functioning, this source may begin to dictate any number of activities within and without the organization. It may unwittingly become a basis for organizational decision-making. It may also suggest, if not compel, a focus for how the organization is generally viewed and appraised. Thus, as in the case I have been ruminating on, the institutionalizing of a medium, such as the use of ephemera (or detritus) in its processes, may unconsciously constrain how the organization operates and influence how outsiders see its mission.

My particular interest is not about how the organization does its business, but about how it is viewed during its active time, and more importantly, how its message carries on after its organizational presence is ended. And this, I think, is where how the organization defines and constructs its institutions becomes exceedingly important.

As I have quite naively delved into the processes and machinations of this organization, the Institute, in quest of the elusive ephemeratic impulse, I have been struck by the fact, once again, that, just as with any good art, the viewer may bring the message. In this case I am the viewer. I am, surprisingly, the one who has had to maintain that there lurks within these walls an ephemera(l) influence.

I assumed, when I first walked through the organization’s doors that the issue was evident, and that I was here only to satisfy my own vagaries about the nature of ephemera. But then the problematic of interpretation (ephemeron/detritus) slithered across my innocent path and has effectively obliterated any sense of way through which I once eagerly trod. This is all somehow reminiscent of my hesitance to accept Walter Benjamin’s widely sanctioned interpretation of the term aura in his famous essay. For me the idea of the emanation of an aura has always signified a somewhat ethereal and obtuse way of receiving art.

Similarly, I feel that the notion of ephemera includes a sense of ethereality – that is that there is an unnatural importance laid onto the interpretation of some images, though the visible operations of this organization seem to disabuse one of the assumption that there is here a selective preference. Whether this view is in fact accurate requires further archeology, but regardless of whether there is an auratic influence on the constraints of the organization; it is interesting to observe how the organization uses its institution, its chronicle of sometimes obscure history, to bring attention to the present.

The influence of the Ephemera(l) institution, then, may ultimately be that it can determine, and actually become, a method or even a way of seeing. In the recent past we have seen how an ephemeron can be something that has a very low life term, perhaps with some auratic constituent, and quickly disappears. Or it may have the character of detritus, the intentionally disappeared. In either case it is obvious that representations of these incidents and/or objects have a second life, may evanescently return, and can point us toward something important that we have possibly missed.

The Ephemera(l) Institution 8

Perhaps you have sensed my frustration, almost anger, at finding myself stranded on the platform of a linguistic ghost town train station – without water.  Is it acceptable, even valid, that the meaning of a word, ephemeron in this case, be continually so reconstituted that it becomes effectively nebulous and no longer has defining value? If we were to accept, for example, that ephemera and detritus were synonymous, or practically so, what useful linguistic purpose does that serve?

The difference between these two words, Bucky Fuller, who had his own slippery way with word usage, be damned; as far as I am concerned is that ephemera has a time element, a remembrance value, an almost intangible attraction, whereas detritus just lays there, sometimes casting its noxious stench onto clear thinking, its only reminder being that we wish it to be in the past – not that I have anything against detritus.

Does the institution collect ephemera or detritus? When the institution is no longer extant, will its residue be ephemera(l) or detrital?

It is all suspect, isn’t it? Very subjective. I could just as easily make a case for detritus having remembrance value. Perhaps both words have been overly burnished with the ever suspect auratic glace’.

So, my valued reader, this is left to you. Ephemera(l) institution/detrital institution. It is of little consequence to me. And given that I have spent way more time on this language conundrum than I ever wanted to,  I, personally, am moving on.

 

The Ephemera(l) Institution 7

Matchboxes-in-anotherbox: testimony              2013  Martin Gantman

Matchboxes-in-anotherbox: testimony                  2013 Martin Gantman

In the 1990s the institution produced a work, based on Duchamp’s Boite-en-valise that encapsulates some of the work of the institutional associates within a traveling box. Included within this box are artworks created by each associate that were made on and within small matchboxes. What one will not see within this valise is a matchbox work by one associate, yours truly, as such work was mysteriously, by persons and for reasons unknown, procured from the environs of the institution and was disappeared.

In order to rectify this tragedy, as well as to prompt the nature of ephemera, the author, during the arc of his institutional residence, has created a new work: Matchboxes-in-anotherbox: testimony. This work, to further attest to the ultimate ephemera(l) nature of all things, including detritus, will be interred in the grounds of the institution on the evening of December 7, 2013.

The Ephemera(l) Institution 6

In the institution’s mind any graphic record in history or of human culture is a potential ephemeron.  Describing them loosely as between “a record or daily journal” and recycled goods, the institution convincingly contends that any and all of these ephemeron is grist for helping to convey an asymptotically more accurate portrayal of the story of societal evolution and experience via its culture(s). These particular, though equitably collected, ephemeron (the definition of which I am still half-heartedly striving to come to grips much less accept), come to the institution through diverse and potentially infinite channels and are sifted for their value in contributing to various preselected narratives.

As I am writing, I am from time to time distracted by a coffee cup with a “Lyft” moustache painted on its side. It is sitting beside my computer, is painted a very pale pink and has a small integral pedestal that lifts the cylinder of the cup off of the desk. In the annals of this particular moustache style, previously known as a handlebar, it is known to have been brandished on faces as old as those of Iron Age Celts. I selected this cup from the shelf of the institution because of its simple design as well as, and also in spite of, the iconic image decorating it.

The Ephemera(l) Institution 5

It is time to move on. The notion of what an ephemeron is, the thing that lasts for only a day – the act, the object, the idea – and also, arguably, its representation after its demise, has been viewed in these, what one friend was kindly enough to characterize as musings, and in the studio, may not have been fully addressed, but it is the aspect of the institution that dwells on its ephemera that wants, primarily, to be considered. Through the proceedings of our inquiry a fuller understanding of the nature of ephemera might emerge.

What is the value in cataloging and exhibiting such ephemeral qualities, and perhaps in so doing also creating another layer of ephemera, a second order of the original? Does this institution define ephemera, or do its historical interests define the institution?

The institution did not start out to be this, a repository for the almost-lost past – nor is that its exclusive purview by far. But, somehow, its commingling of the present with the fumes of the past tends to color its persona. Ostensibly, it is a laboratory that focuses on culture – in all of its manifestations, but it is this, the ineffable flavor of its mien that leads one to be suspicious of a bias. Perhaps this quality we are laboriously striving to ascertain is inherent in the demeanor (as in the reek of an unsettled past lingering to collect its relevant opportunity) of the assemblage of its collected objects; the ones that will, trustingly, be selected to point toward a contemporary moment and eventually, through a personal reassembling of perceptual markers, to an alternative observation.

Sometimes there is the feeling of the past trying to reorder its agreement with the present, as if present never actually occurs.

Perhaps in Pablo Neruda’s Ode to the Dictionary there are clues to this issue:

Dictionary, you are not

a grave, a tomb, or a coffin,

neither sepulchre nor mausoleum:

you are preservation,

hidden fire,

field of rubies,

vital continuity

of essence,

language’s granary.