Notes on The Big Shrug


On repurposing the coffee table art book "The Impressionists":


It was like learning to use any other materiel, like learning how to work with steel or paint or watercolor or sand or rocks. Or paper, for that matter. The very novelty of using a book as raw material, as found object that you are going to rework, was a way of discovering how one goes about learning about materials. Maybe the word is media, learning about a new medium. Naaah, a medium is composed of several things usually; the medium of pen and ink involves using paper of some kind. A new kind of "supply", perhaps, as in "artist's supplies".


The more I think about it, and the more egotistical I wax, the more of a trip it becomes to have hacked up a book; several of them, in fact. By the time I was done, I had dissected Gray's Anatomy, and another medical book called Cranial Nerves; and totally dismembered the Impressionists book. I reused the pages both for their paper and for their images, and even for their text. (Examples of the use of text include the passages from Gray's about Neuromuscular Spindles; and the captions that went with the Impressionists' paintings, most of which were kept "intact" , i.e. on the page undisturbed.) Once or twice, the text was discarded, notably; for example, none of the writing from the Cranial Nerves text was used, except the identifying labels and captions. (My take on the vagus nerve is quite a bit different from theirs, actually, a reflection of my introduction to the vagus nerve as reaching into the sex organs and more or less controlling Orgasm; I took it all from very recent experiments [far more recent than the '73 Gray's I was dissecting, or the Cranial Nerves book which I believe is from the Eighties] which indicate that women whose spinal column has been transected and were told by their MDs that they would never ever have another orgasm, were orgasmic if they only tried, and the elegant experiments by Whipple and Komisaruk in the Nineties demonstrated that it was via the vagus. Viva las vagus.) This was all for a personal letter to my cousin, whose back seems to have gone south for all intents and purposes. The object I made for him, which came to resemble most closely a book, or bound manuscript, was supposed to cure his back. I should check up on him, see how it worked, therapeutically.


I wrote a letter also to my Uncle Larry, incorporating pages from the Impressionists book. Worked okay, I guess; it's now September the 26th, 2002, and I better get out there and mail that sumbitch.


Then I wrote a real magnum opus about the state of mind of Ken Alibek. It's in longhand, obviously, written in the margins of sheets of paper that are all Impressionist portraits of men. By then scanning it and stacking it and turning it into a PDF, I may very well have made art out of it, an artform a little bit beyond just writing. You certainly can't ignore the illustrations. And just like the text (or any text), you have to have a lot of information and knowledge going in; better than ninety percent, some people estimate. So this would include a knowledge of what those pictures actually look like, something I don't even have, never having seen the color originals! What this whole spiel (this File) is finally getting around to saying, is that I ended up with a pile of portraits of men, not entirely by design, not entirely by accident, just by virtue of having worked with my found material, and learning how to work with it. Good example of learning something that can't be taught by the GetSkilz method.


But hey, I discovered the GetSkilz method by diddling around with video, in the first place; and being totally dissatisfied with it (This shit? This could only lead to Hollywood! was my thought, back in the days of Hi8 and decks.) And pretty much peripherally, by taking a liberal view of what my job was, running a computer shop.


Richard Katz

September 2002


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