The students are currently working on a book about our experiences in North Adams! Below (and above) is my contribution. It’ll give you a sneak peek of the sincerity and amazement included in their work. The book, called BEAVER FEVER, launches Thursday 29 November at 10 pm at (where else?) The Beaver.
Here’s my essay:
A Brief Reflection on 100 % True Love, Followed by a Short Piece about Paper Cuts, Magic and Going Places. By Shannon Gerard.
I’m so grateful—overwhelming grateful—that the Carl Wagan Bookmobile has brought me closer to so many wonderful folks. I’ve tried to draw their faces for you, because drawing people’s faces is an act of utter love for me. And I want the students who came with us to North Adams to see how much love can result from the effort it takes to move art forward.
Thank you, ALSO Collective. Thank you, Vanessa and Caroline. Thank you, Graham. Thank you Lukey P. Thank you, Grover. Thank you, Melanie. And thank you, thank you, Nano Publishing class of 2012.
(then some drawings)
(then this essay)
I love to read books. I love to make books. I love to play. Books and Play are two of my most passionate interests. Book objects are playful objects. They make great noises when we open them. They imply performative leaps between their pages. Their pages can cut us. We remember, long after reading books, the relative balance of those pages in our right hands and our left hands. At the ends of dear books, we hold them against us.
Books are a journey and the Carl Wagan is a ramblin’ man.
Carl was born from the central research questions that motivate most of my work: How does the social position of art affect the way in which we value it? In other words, does where we tend to encounter art mediate what it means to us? Can art in fact become a social experience that changes the way we operate in the world?
We have some long-held notions about where to find art most readily—galleries, art school, monographs, catalogues, concert halls, design studios. Most of the students I work with arrive at art school with a set of reasonable expectations about the system—I’m going to give them an assignment. They’re going to try to communicate an idea. I’m going to grade it. Repeat. Through this process, they are going to grow.
But that is not really a human interaction. Surely institutions should offer us more than a set of satisfied expectations. They should give us other people. They should give us permission to try something we would not have otherwise tried. And it should be safe to fail a lot within that context.
People do not want to fail. But I know we want to try. And I know we want to find each other.
Do you know the work of Olafur Eliasson?
He dyed the rivers of Los Angeles, Stockholm, and Toyko green. He suspended a giant sun in the midst of the Tate Modern and made it shine down on visitors like magic. He emphasized that the world is a place we inhabit and influence, not an image we consider on a postcard. So why should art be something we merely look at on the walls?
His excellent 2009 TED Talk poetically illustrates his idea that cities should not just be pictures to us. We should go places. My favourite part of what he says in that talk is this: “Art can actually evaluate the relationship between “What does it mean to be in a picture?” and “What does it mean to be in a space?” and “What is the difference?” The difference is between thinking and doing.”
For many years I worked at the U of T Bookstore and a friend of mine there kept a package of band-aids in her desk for the frequent treatment of paper-cuts, which she called an “occupational hazard.” I just love that.
You gotta get out there. You gotta try. And you gotta get your fingers sliced up a little bit.