The Operating System

RE:CONVERSATIONS :: it's a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD LIB[rary] :: April 4th at ICI Curatorial Hub

Editor’s note: What follows is an experiment of sorts with the curators of MAD LIBrary, where we’ve used a shared google document for a time-unbound/nonlinear conversation on the project’s intentions and its relationship to the shifting curatorial landscape, in particular considering the public/interactive/crowdsourced nature of the creative/media practice made possible here.
This RE:CONVERSATION is just one example of how this series will approach the creation and sustenance of feedback/dialogue loops around temporally ephemeral events and creative efforts. We’ve chosen to leave the instructions, a nod to the modern desire to see the skeleton: this is how we’re making it work, and how you might go about doing similar. ONWARD
Lynne DeSilva-Johnson
Legacy Russell
Stina Puotinen
Sarah Giovanniello
Thursday, April 4
ICI Curatorial Hub
401 Broadway, Suite 1620
New York, NY 10013
LIMITED TIME ONLY (LTO) presents MAD-LIB[rary] at Independent Curators International (ICI), in partnership with the Feminist Press.
The creative collaborative and production team LIMITED TIME ONLY (Legacy Russell, Stina Puotinen, and Sarah Giovanniello) invite you to join an exciting new “choose-your-own-adventure” hosted as part of the Curatorial Hub at Independent Curators International in TribeCa.
The MAD-LIB[rary] will be an opportunity for the public to participate in true Mad Lib fashion in a zany, surreal, Dada-inspired, and perhaps nonsensical assemblage extravaganza. MAD-LIB[rary] invites artists and writers—an explosive combination of luminaries and rising stars—to contribute limited edition material of their choice.
The event will provide attendees from the realms of the art and literary worlds alike an opportunity to curate their own magazine or booklet content, and B-Y-O-creative-vision. Paying homage to the histories of literature, art, book-art, found art, flea markets, and book fairs, MAD-LIB[rary] provides an alternative from the glossy, pre-packaged culture of mass media.
MAD-LIB[rary] is all at once a living archive, a museum, a magazine, a madness—on April 4, get crazy with us!
Bubi Canal
Anne Emond
Amy Beecher
Mark Joshua Epstein and Mark Dzula (Mark y Mark)
Jeffrey Grunthaner
Lucky PDF
Tracy Molis
Jacob Rhodes
Antonio Serna
Ann Hirsch
Cover and poster design by Braulio Amado.
This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Please RSVP to with MAD LIBRARY in the subject field.
Please use the following format:
LDJ : text text text text text [if entering new text]
or if inserting into someone else’s text use italics or another demarcation of voice change if you are “interjecting” in a way that a new paragraph/line breaks the flow. IMPORTANT! please make sure to edit in the initials of the person interrupted.
LR : text text text text text SS: text text text LR : text text text
** of course there is another way to do this, we could all choose a different font, or so forth, and then we wouldn’t need the initials — which is interesting in a whole other way in re: voices vs. name association. feel free to change the rules! you can edit the below and/OR the front matter. FREE FOR ALL!
Functional/administrative folderol:
What I’ve done here is prepared a few questions and other musings in response to / in dialogue with the curatorial announcement of MAD LIBrary. Please respond freely to any and everything. Add new questions. Add quotes. Add images and links! This is an experiment, meant to function very much in the spirit of MAD LIBrary, I think — as well as meant to demonstrate the type of documented, iterative, productive collaborations we are now seeing so much more of both on and offline. It will work best if we continue to return and respond to it.
OK! Enough from me. Play ball!
See below. My answers are in blue. My questions are in red. Thanks for having us!
XOXO— Legacy Russell
(Lynne DeSilva-Johnson) Ahh: good idea. My responses and additions are now in green. Original questions are still in black. Will translate nicely in html 🙂
responses from Stina Puotinen in PURPLE
Sarah Giovaniello’s in Mustard.
LDJ: I’m excited to see MAD LIBrary returning for a second iteration. As you know, Exit Strata takes very seriously the practice and support of surrealist inspired, collaborative meta-mind environments — our print journal, curatorial practice, workshops, salons, and publication process are very much grounded in the careful dowsing for third, fourth, and ultimately group meta-mind ala Burroughs/Gysin. PRINT! Vol. 2 in particular demonstrates this desire, insofar as the concept came out of the collective voice/seeming desire of the submissions and not the other way around.
LR: We’re thrilled to find a like soul in Exit Strata. Let’s hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” You guys are the best.
SP: I like the sound of “meta-mind environments”, sounds like we’re into similar things. Happy to be working with you guys!
SG: We are very excited to bring Mad LIBrary back as well to ICI, and glad you all think so too!
LDJ: It’s no secret that collaborative EVERYTHING has long since been the buzz, so much so that we can with some assurance say that it is this movement/revolution that perhaps more than anything has traditional/venerable institutions quaking/scrambling to catch up and say relevant in the face of a cultural phenomenon that is at its heart anathema to the individualistic/fear-based capitalist models on which they created their structure and function. It’s sometimes almost endearing to watch an old school brand try to understand the logic of twitter — like your parents trying to use hip language. Do you cringe like we did as teenagers, sometimes? But I digress. Collaborative economies/consumption models, print collectives, curating collectives, and crowddriven/community everything – from publishing to local/urban agriculture to housing are becoming more and more the norm. And all of this, of course, is being supported and made viable by the meteoric ascent of crowdfunding (now an even more serious contender in investment roulette since the recent passing of the crowdfunding bill/ JOBS act).
[for more on this check out this terrific article in YES! Magazine: UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP: How cooperatives are leading the way to empowered workers and healthy communities]
SG: Maybe you are also driving at Tom Finkelpearl’s new book ‘What We Made’ which I just started reading and am so into his exploration of social cooperation and art practice?
LDJ: Haven’t read “What We Made,” but I guess the question is…do you agree? and what are your thoughts, if you wish to weigh in, on the role of “collaborative everything” in how culture/art is shifting – in re any of the examples above or other personal/community experiences any of you have had / are having? Something to think about.
LDJ: Last year’s community curated GO! initiative at the Brooklyn Museum is a good example of how this movement is trickling up into our major cultural institutions, which could be seen as a mixed blessing for curators at all stages of their careers. Sort of how reality TV and use of flickr or instagram images have in some places eclipsed the work of skilled writers, artists, and photographers, we certainly see some tendency towards jumping on this bandwagon conceptually in a way that eliminates curation and or that relies on that lack of curation itself as its hook. I’ve seen this garner both incredible/chaotic and terrible/chaotic and just plain bad, or few, results, depending on the intention and approach of the curators/institution/community.
To segue more specifically into MAD LIBrary, I wanted to give you the opportunity / request that you respond to some of the above not only to say WHY MAD LIBrary but perhaps even more WHY MAD LIBrary now? What drove you to create this at this time, and what makes this a time and place in which a curated event like this is important? In reviewing the press release I think it’s an interesting blend between freedom and control — you speak to both the public and attendees from the realms of the art and literary worlds having an opportunity to engage and create material — which is something I’d like to hear more about. How will the experience differ for invited artists and/or writers and/or for the public? How have you used directions and/or materials and/or prepared invited participants to engage that will differentiate this event from another dada or surrealist salon?
LR: It had been an idea that I was toying with for a while. I brought it to the group last spring and, in discussing it, we decided to take it on as one of Limited Time Only’s (LTO) projects. The essence of it is very “LTO”—the fact that these events take place as a pop-up within Independent Curators International’s (ICI) renowned Curatorial Hub, that works are made in limited editions, for a limited time…it really seizes the ephemeral nature of what our collaborative aims for with our events.
SP: Yes, Legacy had brought up the idea of a non traditional arts publication and I remember looking at a few of them together on her stoop. We were talking about the idea of working on one ourselves, and the conversation turned to Mad Libs, and we noodled on it from there. I really liked the idea for a more proactive audience participation within the traditional magazine/zine/journal format, and it seemed like a great fit for what we were/are trying to do with LTO.
SG: Yes that stoop meeting was really generative. I think what attracted me to it the most was this alternative take on book/publishing practice as an active formulation, a process, andiy
d a social site. It really took the idea of “performative” programming, and the mixed up social engagement ideas that we were toying with as a collective, but was totally something I’d never even considered, and had so much potential for going in different directions. Plus, I was excited because it was a way to bring all these artists, artists/friends together and work with them as a different approach to the group show model, as Legacy pitched it to us, and to have them in dialogue with one another.
LR: I’d say that the purpose of this project is to widen the scope of participation and exchange between artists, writers collectors, and a mix of audiences and “publics”, if you will. At our launch the majority of the artists and writers who created work also attended the event, making it possible for the public to interact with them, ask them questions, and engage them in dialogue in a forum that, in its informality, is horizontal and democratic. MAD-LIB[rary]—which gets its name from the fun word-game of Mad-Lib, remember those?—combines the best aspects of an opening, a book-making workshop, a collector’s visit, a studio visit, and an artist’s panel, bringing those elements into the same space, at the same time, in an effort to encourage a more inclusive model of art world antics and participatory engagement. Our artists and writers participate as a means of giving back to the audiences that advance their careers via public support, but majority of which may not be able to afford purchasing works, or may be at the start of their beginning to build collections of their own and are striving to have a better understanding of their own tastes and sense of aesthetics, as well as the creative communities that drive art production. After our launch our artists and writers from the first round said they not only felt really welcomed by our audiences, but many were able to forge new relationships—either between artists and writers themselves, or with gallerists, collectors, and other interested parties that attended the event and wanted to continue to extend their support moving forward. The event requires people to come into contact with one another, and to talk about what they’re seeing and touching, and, as a result, catalyzes new directions, collaborations, and relationships within New York’s creative hub.
LDJ: I’m curious too about the LIBrary aspect: are created volumes left behind or taken by participants? do the materials create stay on site, becoming in essence a library? From where does the word LIBrary derive in this context, does an assemblage of books pre-exist the opening/event in a way that a priori [pays]homage to the histories of literature, art, book-art, found art, flea markets, and book fairs or is this something that will develop as the evening evolves and materials are curated/collected/MADe?
LR: The created volumes are D-I-Y—participants put them together themselves, and take them with them when they’re done, free of charge. We each also keep a set for ourselves; our hope is that these sets become part of a larger, cumulative project at a later date. Additionally, every participating artist gets a full set of editions, which means they are able to add the contents of their MAD-LIB[rary] to their growing collections of texts and prints at home. The “library” speaks to these volumes being archived by ourselves and our audiences alike. It’s cheeky, in some aspect, but also speaks to a very tangible reality, a sort of cumulative building of “texts”, both visual and otherwise.
SG: I think the Library and the mixed up will power that the structure puts in the hands of participants/attendees also speak to liberation, and the freeing from traditional interactions with two dimensional artworks and notions of collection and what that means. Its a choice and ultimately a very personal and intimate dialogue happening between the public and the material, and the history of the book.
LDJ: This both clarifies and leaves me with more questions about the practical/material nature. How are you keeping a set of something DIY that participants are leaving with? Are there duplicating materials on site that are used to create multiple limited editions of the originals created by participants? Can you talk a little more about the materiality / process that is used to create these books? I imagine, though this wasn’t my initial assumption, that ostensibly DIY could refer to anything from physical saddle stich one-off linen hand-drawn volumes to everyone sitting together working on computers/using photoshop/inDesign etc. – and of course neither of these precludes the potential/possibility of duplication, which I hadn’t considered. I guess also it bears asking if you’d be interested in / have considered creating a print series of these and indeed putting them into circulation, whether in extremely limited (or larger) editions. I could easily see this series, accompanied of course by editorial/curatorial notes, having great value as a physical document with the potential to spark/continue the conversation via its print manifestation – very much on the conceptual tip of what we’re doing here, translated via print media. … Not a bad segue into the question below 🙂
255244_268486529922046_739531098_nSP: In terms of what actually happens at the event – we provide a cover for each visitor which has an artist list for all participants in the project, the design for which changes for each event. Artists have been given the task (and materials) to create a 50-75 piece edition of their work for this project — ranging from discrete prints or photos (aka 50 individual pieces) to the same image 50-75 times. To expand the availability and based on the overwhelming response from last time, we asked participants to select 8 works from the 10 or 12 available artist contributions and, dare I say it, but “curate” their own art folio/magazine to take home. Artists and LTO get a full set with images from all participants, but visitors are asked to limit their selection, which necessarily encourages close and repeated looking, but also creates a criteria within which visitors are asked to consider, select, and actively participate, instead of a rapid fire snatch-and-grab situation on their way to the wine table.
LDJ: Lastly, other than here and in other interviews and conversations, what are your plans for documentation/dissemination/sharing of the night’s proceedings and material creations? I think something that this CONVERSATION series and Exit Strata in general is very interested in exploring is generative, lasting documentation of…everything. How can those few hours of the MAD LIBrary continue to have worth and value, via your extended curation, or other means, beyond the event itself? (and did this come into play in the original curatorial intentions?)
LR: We plan to make a scene at September’s P.S.1 Book Fair, so stay tuned for that. And we’re branching out and continuing the conversation by taking the project on the road to collaborate with the fantastic Adam Gildar of Adam Gildar Gallery in Colorado and the Denver-based non-profit, Art-Plant this coming Fall 2013.
SG: I like the possibilities for exploring the lastingness of the project through “word of mouth” or the dissemination via people who’ve come or participated as artists, and am excited to see that network of Madlibers grow as we continue to organize and stage at Book Fair, hopefully and later on in CO. In a nit and grit way, we’ve talked about digitizing the “editions” as a form of lasting documentation but its problematic and we’d want to work with the artists on that more closely if it were to be considered for future.
SP: Yes, fingers crossed about the NY Art Book Fair this fall, and looking to take this show on the road. The nature/format of the event lends itself to many repeated iterations (aka magazine issues/volumes) and within that, seemingly infinite possibilities for combinations/collaborations.

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