Monday, December 14, 2009

Found Art

Currently, I'm all aflutter because I just found Fodor's Guide to Washington, DC and Vicinity from 1981.  Just to give you an idea: the pictures are in black and white and the Metro system map only has 3 lines.  The red line runs from Silver Spring to DuPont Circle.  And oh! the first line says: "Washington is a city which belongs to every American, yet it is the most un-American of cities."  Remember when you could say something was un-American without it being a slur?  Wow.  I remember this era, as I also remember when the Friendship Heights Metro and Mazza Gallerie was just a big hole in the ground up near the now-defunct department store Woodies.

I have no clear idea what I'm going to do with this book, but it seems ripe with possibilities.  The truth is, most days, I'm not sure if I'm an artist-type person, or really just a garbage picker.  I'm thrilled by bizarre finds.  Another book on my shelf is The Secretary's Handbook by Sara Augusta Taintor and Kate M. Monro, copyright 1929.  I managed to wrestle a poem out of that one when I was in grad school.  Thumbing through it again today, I've come across gems like "Do not capitalize the word goddess when referring to heathen dieties."  To say the choice of examples are dated understates it. 

Both of these books are fascinating to me from a historical context, the changes in my hometown, the changes of the world of grammar, business, gender roles, etc.  FOUND, however, is a magazine built by people after my own heart: it's random scraps of paper that people find that hint at larger stories.  Doodles, napkins, parts of love letters, parts of hate letters, irate tenants and landlords, car denters, stalkers, you name it.  All that litter blowing along overlaps with other people's stories.  Consider, for instance, all the college love letters (among many other things) stolen out of my car when I was in New Orleans in 1994.  Now maybe they died unread by others on a landfill before they floated away during Hurricane Katrina.  But maybe someone (after hawking my radio and clothes for a small profit) read through them all, cut them up into a collage, made a mobile out of them, created a poem, had a performance art piece where they were all ritually burned, stole lines for their own love letters, or decoupaged them into a table.  I'm definitely not the only garbage picker out there, and I like to think they were recycled and transformed, refashioned into art, however temporary.

And that's just up, the story of Ugly Mobile 1.0 and 2.0 (and possibly pictures, assuming I can find them).   More evidence that just about anything can be art, depending on what you do with it.

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