Sunday, September 11, 2005

Annoying Baltimore

In the 17 August issue of the City Paper, Bret McCabe examines Friends and Friends of Friends, an “art book” that is the first publication from an outfit dubbed “Creative Capitalism.” The organizing principle behind the six-by-seven-inch, full-color Friends is that it contains images culled by the Creative Capitalists asking friends to ask their friends to submit work. But the plot thickens as the four-member design and editorial team talk further about the project in McCabe’s piece.

Creative Capitalism
Peter Quinn, Richard Baxstrom, Todd
Meyers, and Gillian Quinn
[courtesy City Paper]

The group explains that the book is about “art as social network,” which is true enough. But credulity is repeatedly strained, beginning with a claim by Peter Quinn, one of the team‘s members:

What blew me away when it all finally started to come together was, Oh my god, this is actually what we intended. This is an uncontrollable aesthetic that is being created in this network of people that never would have worked unless they would have contributed it blindly to us. And that’s the kind of weird thing—the book is about the book.
OK—let’s accept that these folks were successful in recording this “uncontrollable aesthetic.” But, in this case, the book being about the book doesn’t add meaning. What we have here is an artist book, one where the consumer responds to the work as artwork—according to Jason Bottenus, another editor, “[t]here was no, ‘We want you to do work that is within this parameter to get into this book’”—more so than as a book proper. This oligarchic collection is curated as most exhibitions are, plain and simple. (I'm not disputing that this might have merit, mind you.)

But McCabe picks up the ball and runs with it: “It’s only once you start delving into the book and spend time parsing through its images that what it achieves is a subtle act of subversion.” He has difficulty describing what is happening here, other than free association—something that would take place with any artist book, organizing principle or no. And in the process of elevating this “product non-product,” he does the city’s readership a disservice. I often enjoy McCabe’s writing on music (and, indeed, admire many of the artists includied in the pages of Friends and Friends of Friends), but this puffery is of the kind we can do without.



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