Five Books

Art rationing: the culture of less

There is talk of rationing in the air. Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs has done the maths and warns that population growth and climate change will affect our future food security. Amongst the green left, there’s a nostalgic enthusiasm for this kind of wartime frugality. A rush of books is digging up techniques of how the wartime generation coped with shortage.

After decades of plenty, we are coming to believe we are overburdened by consumption. I’m sure a lot of the world would find this more than a little ironic, but let’s not knock it. A culture of less would be a good thing.

But I started wondering whether it’s not just food and goods we should be thinking about having less of. What if the culture of less were to mean less culture as well? I remember listening to a talk by director Mike Figgis a couple of years ago in which he likened cultural over-production to global warming. The inventions of photography, then magnetic tape and now digitisation means that all culture is now permanent. Nothing is thrown away. New culture constantly pours into the lake at an ever increasing rate, but the lake is now dammed. “Is there too much culture?” asked Figgis. It was an idea that created a few ripples at the time.

If artists are suggesting we could live with less, should we also be living with less art? What if we had cultural rationing books. You might only be allowed five CDs a year, five books, two exhibitions, four films, one orchestral concert and two gigs. Would that make you choose what you consumed more carefully? What would you cut out? And (though the numbers of artists thrown on the dole queue would be huge) would the experience you took away from each encounter stamp itself a little deeper on your mind?

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

MOCA Catalogue Sale!!!

My favorite part of a museum visit is always the bookstore and a recent visit to see Dan Graham at MOCA was no different. Only this time, we are all the beneficiaries of MOCA’s recent financial woes. They are having a huge sale on MOCA publications. I got the above five books for just over $100, and that was after paying full price for the Dan Graham catalog. I only bought older catalogues that were 50 percent off, but others were available for 25 percent off.

As I’ve heard a few people say, the best part of a MOCA show is always the catalog. Beautiful designs, lush photographs, revelatory essays, smart interviews—it often seems that the show is the catalog. Will this level of catalog production continue in the future? I’m not sure, but for now, you can get a piece of MOCA’s lavish spending over the past 10 years for half off. Unfortunately, I think you have to go in person to get these discounts, but I’ve put Amazon links below. Often, the used book price is about the same.

Here’s what I got:

For $15 (Retail $30):
Cotton Puffs, Q-tips(r), Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha

For $25 (Retail $50):
Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure

For $10 (Retail $40 but it was marked down to $20):
Rodney Graham: A Little Thought

For $17 (Retail $50, but it was marked down to $35):
Zero to Infinity: Art Povera: 1962-1972

And then, the Dan Graham: Beyond catalog, which I paid retail for. (Shoulda waited and bought it for cheaper on Amazon!) I can’t really say enough about this Dan Graham catalog. Not knowing too much about him, the show was a bit mystifying until I got to later mirror and glass work. But this catalog has interviews by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and artist Rodney Graham! A Manga Dan Graham Story! Writings by Dan Graham! Essays by important essay writer people! I now want to go back and stick my nose up close to his work, especially the early stuff.

Go to Eco Art Blog