|There are a lot of points of entry to the multifaceted world of Mark Bloch, so you will have to decide for yourself where to begin. An artist of the future, Bloch emerged from underground this spring with a one-man show at the Emily Harvey Foundation that was not too difficult to get into. His series titled, Storàge Museums seems to be much about the idea of “storàge,” a term coined by Bloch to relate this work to terms like “collage,” and “assemblage” from the 20th century. The accented a transforms the word into a French pronunciation. The series is comprised of substantially chained and bound boxes, suitcases, and storage trunks each bearing a small, engraved aluminum plaque identifying which museum it is.|
L. Brandon Krall
There are a lot of points of entry to the multifaceted world of Mark Bloch, so you will have to decide for yourself where to begin. An artist of the future, Bloch emerged from underground this spring with a one-man show at the Emily Harvey Foundation that was not too difficult to get into. His series titled, Storàge Museums seems to be much about the idea of “storàge,” a term coined by Bloch to relate this work to terms like “collage,” and “assemblage” from the 20th century. The accented a transforms the word into a French pronunciation. The series is comprised of substantially chained and bound boxes, suitcases, and storage trunks each bearing a small, engraved aluminum plaque identifying which museum it is. The museum inscriptions are tender or disillusioned; poetically informed concretions. This work while not overtly an institutional critique, developed into physical bodies out of the Museum of Good Ideas series, an ephemeral, conceptual piece comprised of index cards inscribed with, you guessed it, good ideas.
Bloch surfs the waves of time-based and object-based works, having also assumed the monikers Panman, and P.A.N. after Post Art Network. Pan-Modernist theory tends to range across many periods and practitioners including the eight masters invoked by easily likeable illustrations that are hung on banners suspended throughout the installation, making a sort of game-board in the space that is visible from the entrance. These ancient 20th-century gamers, Brecht, Johnson, Maciunas, Cage, Christo, Duchamp, Schwitters and Berman, have yielded truths for Bloch as he states them below.
“If it were not for the work of George Brecht, this show would not be called what it is called. Brecht has always struck me as the ultimate 20th Century game-meister. Brecht wrote a book about chance. He valued Surrealist games. He created a shop with Robert Filliou in the south of France between 1965 and 1968 to organize leisure, as a model of work as play, and to parody of the market relations of art. He then wrote a book about it called Games at the Cedilla. He later inscribed into marble and wood a Buddhist phrase, ‘All imagined names and forms are as children’s playthings.’ I love his event scores and I love his chair events and his ‘hand’ homages to other artists. So this entire show is kind of a post-George Brecht work. Works in this show are reminiscent of him such as the three ‘pairs’ of art objects seen here. Pair One is about two conceptual collections of correspondence, one before I got my first computer, a Mac SE20, and one after. Pair Two is two boxes, Box Information Box and Storage Information Storage, done in collaboration with David Litwak, a woodworker, as well as with a few writers about art information. Pair Three are also collaborations. One is collaboration with 19 other artistamp makers around the world. It is the prototype for a series of stamp sheets of stamp sheets. The other is a collaboration with dozens of people I do not know—the mystery sticker-putter-uppers around New York. I carefully peeled off their stickers and collected them for this archive called The Sticker of Stickers. The secret I learned from the playful Mr. Brecht is to be serious.
“Ray Johnson seemed to be the quintessential Post-Modernist New Yorker from the moment he stepped off the bus from Black Mountain College in the 1940s, but it was not until his death in 1995 that I realized that, more than his contemporaries; he was also a Romantic in many ways. The week of his death, I began this drawing/ xerography/ watercolor/ collage of the events leading up to his presumed suicide from jumping off a bridge in Sag Harbor, NY because it was all so confusing to me and I wanted to ‘watch’ it unfold, myself, to contemplate what might have transpired. I used images from the Symbolist, Decadent, and Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood period (around the turn of the previous century) to get a feel for both the physicality of his actions on his last day on earth, January 13, 1995, and the nuances of possible spiritual goings-on in a more ‘romantic’ realm that was popular 100 years before. By 1880, traditional religious painting had tanked. The story of Jesus Christ became literature just like Poe’s The Raven. Angels with ambiguous smiles appeared as apparitions in a soul dimension that worked for me in my conception of Johnson’s final Nothing. So I made this narrative depiction of what it might have looked like when the founder of the New York Correspondence School decided to leap into the void. Thus a secret I learned from the very postmodern Johnson was to be romantic.
“Since I was at most 22 I’d been fond of depicting intellectual ideas intuitively and verbally through visual word diagrams. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the charts and graphic design of George Maciunas in the early 1980s. Even though Fluxus appears in my own chart, and even though I had been aware of the avant garde and even Fluxus since the late 60’s via pop culture references that found their way to me in suburban Ohio thanks to Yoko Ono, the Fugs, and The Soft Machine, I was not privy to Maciunas’s profound graphic skills and innovations that look commonplace today in the Internet age. Of course now there are websites where you can feed in any text and out comes a visual diagram of the most commonly used words included there. The five paste-ups you see here are from a performance I did called Heart and Technology that presented the history of the interdependence of art and technology as I understood it as a young man in Laguna Beach, California in 1980. This is a time-line of a circle-based series of charts spreading out from musical forms at the top and with more space based arts at the bottom, attempting to make sense out of history by creating road maps out of information the way Maciunas did, unbeknownst to me. Maciunas’s word charts were ahead of their time and I include mine here as an homage to him and to put myself on that ‘map’. A secret from George Maciunas: write your own name in concrete.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the home of John Cage in the 1980s to record some of the plumbing there for the soundtrack of a video I made with Rimma and Valeriy Gerlovin called Not Jean Brown. The ‘music of contingency’ that we ‘made’ together is called Sink Sound for Jean Brown. Mr. Cage later sent me, by mail, a copy of a computer program that we had discussed in an interview we did that day, that he used to ‘throw’ the I Ching electronically. It was created with his computer programmer and collaborator Andrew Culver. As an homage to Cage after he died, and in the spirit of Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased DeKooning Drawing, I decided to erase the IBM-compatible floppy disk Cage provided me with. If you listen closely you can still hear the buzzing sound of the magnetic bulk eraser I used to turn the innovative program covered with magnetic information back into a piece of plastic. I have always found it ironic that Cage’s humility and transcendence of the ego turned him into one of the most important and well-known composers of the 20th century. The secret I learned from Cage: don’t be silent.
“After Christo’s partner Jean-Claude’s recent death, I realized that the world could use another artist of ‘enclosures’. Thus does my art form, storàge, which has always owed much to Christo, follow in his footsteps or attempt to walk a mile in his moccasins which, after all, are really just enclosures or wrappings for sensitive feet. The boxes you see here contain art and information that is being kept from you, the viewer. While Christo and Jean-Claude presumably made their enclosures because they are beautiful, I do mine because they are ugly or perhaps to mock the fear that the artist is ugly and reluctant to let you see who he really is. Why do we all keep our true selves hidden under lock and key? Artists have been storing up versions and extensions of themselves for centuries and so I have created storàge, a parody of that type of self-imposed mind control or more accurately, essence control. It is designed to explode the myth of the artist who suffers because that is just a bad marketing campaign and I no longer buy it. A secret from Christo: don’t keep it under wraps.
“Marcel Duchamp said that the artist of the future would go underground. Well let me tell you, I was the artist of the future and the underground is overrated. There are images here of a piece I am doing that is a celebration of his many paradoxes. He claimed to give up art but he kept working in secret. He was hailed as an iconoclast against the art world while he amassed some of the most important collections of art we have today anywhere. His name is bandied about by artists and writers who know little of his work. How many of the clues in my unfinished Object C’ard can they name? None- since the work is still not ready for public dissemination. For the last 25 years, I have created the secret homage to Duchamp called Object C’ard, titled that because 1) it is made mostly of found cardboard and 2) C’ard as in canard or cunard, a.k.a. the Duck Champ. And the ultimate paradox of my own work turns out to be I am unable to show it today for reasons I cannot reveal. Yet, here are some photographs of it. And we got patches to put on your hats and shirts identifying you without a hidden noise. The secret I learned from Duchamp: don’t go underground.
“Kurt Schwitters made little scraps of paper he found into his own art form he called Merz. I do this and call it Pan which evolved out of Postal Art Network but now I can conveniently call what I do fluxpan instead of Fluxus or merzpan instead of Merz or my theories Panmodernism. The works you see here begin with scraps of paper found on the streets of Venice in 2006 during my residency with the Emily Harvey Foundation in Italy. First I made nine abstract portraits of nine Venetians inspired by Lucio Fontana who got to know New York by delving into a particular part of it and making art. I picked up scraps from the Venice streets and made nine boxes, one for each of the nine. Upon returning to the U.S., I took the unused found scraps I still had and I made an additional work, a three-foot square canvas called Everything Right that you see here. I then painstakingly scanned that collage playing with notions of originality and copying in the age of mechanical and digital reproduction by printing it digitally on canvas and silk-screening ‘realistic’ looking pictures of the people I had depicted abstractly with collaged boxes in Venice. Which was the original work and which is now the copy? Like The Sticker of Stickers and The Stampsheet of Stampsheets beside it, what was done by me and what was supplied by others—collaborators. A secret I learned from Schwitters is don’t be original.
“Wallace Berman was one of the first artists to do an artist-made, self-published serial publication and distribute it by mail. Artists had been making little magazines for years on printing presses and what have you but he did Semina in 1955 which looked like an art object that he then mailed to his friends. Each issue looked different. He also used Hebrew letters in his work which I like a lot. My publication, Panmag, has been going since 1980. I publish when I feel like it, in the size and form that I feel like with content I feel like. I send it out in the mail like Berman did and sometimes I include the work of my friends which Berman did more than I do. But Panmag is a work in progress so in the future I may change the format again…if I feel like it. Secret I learned from Berman: don’t do it yourself.”
The Erased John Cage Diskette is an intriguing piece, a framed early flexible diskette had been mailed to Bloch by John Cage in the 80s, which after Cage died Bloch physically erased and framed. The diskette had contained the computer program Cage used to derive I Ching readings electronically. Like all good conceptualists and gamers, Bloch works between the world of thought and objecthood. His productions have included the periodical Panmag (the entire run of which was in the show), collage, drawings, electronics, and a cable TV program. His frenetic energy has produced performance, installations, and happenings, as well as a long correspondence with Ray Johnson, and over three decades of mail art, which he still carries on today.
There are still more avenues to follow in the world of Mark Bloch, so perhaps it will be best for people to just dive in.
Mark Bloch: Secrets of the Ancient 20th Century Gamers
March 18 to April 2, 2010