Archive for 2010


Please use the comments to contribute to the discussion of this work.  Here’s a bit about what we’ve been thinking about while working on Lichen Books: On the Road.

Rebecca Blakley’s work lives under the radar.  A checked-out library book, or just-purchased pair of jeans is revealed to be a work or art. We were attracted to this project in part because it was the chance to support an artist that not only makes work without a saleable product, but makes work for an unknown audience and without acknowledgment.    I had a college professor who used to talk a lot about the idea of art as a gift.  That the act of creating something and showing it to others was a generous one.  But when an artist works anonymously, never knowing how their work is received, that idea takes on a fuller dimension.

This element of the anonymous and unexpected also posed a concern for us.  Because her work is normally stumbled upon we wondered how the meaning would change when distributed through TPG.  When you see the Present Group stamp on the box the contents are predefined as art.  In the interview, Rebecca’s response to this observation was that in some ways the effect is similar yet reversed.  When one finds a “Lichen Book” in a library, in seeking out a book, they find art.  When you receive this work in the mail expecting art, you find a book.

Rebecca’s work is about the unexpected, about surprise and delight, but it is also a reflection on how we use books to escape. As Sarah Fontaine observes in her essay, “Blakley is complicating this convention with the materiality of her chosen form.”  The physical interaction with the post it notes draws you into the present.  Blakley furthers this effect with her the first person narrative;  the reader and the narrator are in the same present, responding to the same text
It was a joy to come back to “On The Road” after so many years.  And in some ways Rebecca’s story gives enough contrast to the original to make us evaluate our own journeys, years of indecision, and how our culture has changed and not changed at all over the years.

Annotated Links: Rebecca Blakley

Rebecca’s Links

On The Bro’d “Every sentence of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road,  retold for bros.” – A humorous update of On The Road that is surprisingly true to the spirit of the original.

My day-job at this interdisciplinary design studio greatly influenced the way that I thought about architecture, art and creating experiences for an audience/viewer.

McSweeney’s publishes a variety of things that use text in interesting and innovative ways, and have certainly added to the ways that I think about narrative.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski and Superworse – The Novel: A Remix of Superbad: Stories and Pieces by Ben Greenman – Two books that play with text and storytelling in ways that I found particularly compelling.

Rebecca Campbell’s work helped to mold the way that I think about beauty in art.

Marina Abromovic’s work made an indelible impression on me as the first performance/interactive art that captivated my imagination.

Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life – A friend loaned me this book and urged me to read it.  Although I am very wary of self help books generally, and particularly skeptical of ones published in the seventies, this book undeniably influenced my thinking while writing the text to intertwine with On The Road.

Book Interventions and Responses:

Relationships with Library Books by Ingrid Burrington and Brendan Sullivan: “We attempted to explore our physical relationships to library books. We then documented that experience and returned the books, with documentation, to the library.”

After Nature Catalogue for the New Museum: Conceived as an homage to W.G. Sebald, the catalogue re-purposes existing copies of his literary work After Nature by wrapping the original book with the “After Nature” exhibition catalogue, which acts as a book jacket. Twenty-five full-color images of the exhibit are also hand placed throughout the original text. The catalogue features an essay by Massimiliano Gioni and a checklist of works in the exhibition, along with the image plates throughout the book.

Jean Lowe creates sculptural (re)creations of books with subversive titles and imagery

Each of Anton Ginzberg‘s bronze cast post it note sets respond to a different book in the Saint Germaine series.  Seen at NADA at Moscow’s GMG gallery.

How To Really Listen Is Sometimes To Talk

A Review of Lichen Books: On The Road by Rebecca Blakley

“And the landscape will do/ us some strange favor when/ we look back at each other/ anxiously” –Frank O’Hara

How do we listen to each other? Is listening an act of knowing another? Is real, true listening even possible? These are the questions I kept coming back to while reading Lichen Books: On The Road. It’s the story of a girl looking for answers written on post it notes and inserted into Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road. The novel tracks Sal Paradise, a narrator in search of something unnameable, while weaving through a multiplicity of characters constantly traveling and talking to each other. Staying up all night, even, just to talk, in hopes of arriving together at some new understanding of each other that will solve their problems. Rebecca Blakley’s narrator also roams the country in search of another, or a self, or a job, or a decision she can feel certain of. Even when she’s talking to people, it seems as if the landscape or indecision prevents her presence. These characters keep looking for responses from each other that provide any sense of connectedness. The distance of Blakley’s narrator from others in her story indicates, ironically, Blakley’s remarkable ability to listen.

We finish this novel and story feeling like we still don’t know if anyone really hears each other—and there’s a desolate sadness—as large as the dark endless highways that populate this story—in the realization that we might not ever. And yet, Blakley demonstrates considerable trust in our ability to engage with the text, in our ability to listen, by making visible the temporality of our responses through her chosen form—they are just sticky notes, after all, and one could effortlessly discard them, or rearrange them. She’s highlighting the impulse to respond (the desire to conflate one’s story with another’s, to tell one’s own story as an indication of listening), as perhaps the only form of true listening, however flawed. There’s beauty in the humility and faith required to tell a story on slips of paper that we often throw away everyday.

Often in Blakley’s text, I found myself surprised at the quotidian nature of her intrusions—recounting rather plain details of travel that don’t feel especially essential. Retrospectively, those details revealed themselves as an important interaction with, or mirroring of Kerouac’s style—he spends a lot of time getting people from one point to another and in any one moment of the book one could think: is this really necessary to this novel? But that’s the whole point—it’s an accretion process, not a linear building of narrative, any moment is every moment, full of every possible emotion. Any one detail is not important, but instead the heavy and total imprint of their bodily enactment of life. In this way, the novel becomes a kinesthetic experience—I so often felt it bodily, alongside the characters—and it’s an astute and important choice that Blakley interacts with this text in the way she does. It’s as if she’s saying, in our responses to each other, no matter how absurd, there is hope.

While reading her responses, I felt my own presence in a way that was uncomfortable—I wasn’t sure I wanted to be reminded of my self-as-reader in the present moment. Isn’t that partly why we read novels—to escape our bodily experience? Blakley is complicating this convention with the materiality of her chosen form—you must lift her notes off to read the text underneath or interrupt the novel to read her story. And yet I grew to look forward to the notes, because they activated the text in unexpected ways. In a particularly bright moment in the middle of the book, the narrator of Blakley’s story lies down in the salt flats on the same route that Paradise was on a few chapters back, confused as to what to do with her life: “I felt like I had turned into a pile of salt. But it wasn’t a punishment, it was natural. It was where I was supposed to be. It was settled—I would lie in the salt until I knew what to do with my life.” The intrusion serves to build out Kerouac’s work, to emphasize its timelessness, and also contextualize and layer hers. Blakley’s scene recalls the circular nature of Paradise’s journey through the novel, finding himself repeatedly in altered and peripheral experience. Meanwhile underneath her text, Kerouac lyrically comments on the nature of the western landscape: “for the house was in that part of the West where the mountains roll down foothilling to the plain and where in primeval times soft waves must have washed from sea-like Mississippi to make such round and perfect stools for the island-peaks like Evans and Pike and Longs.” Blakley keeps her prose exceptionally flat; she lets Kerouac do the work of lyricism that sets a backdrop of expansive, aerated time, while her story’s similarity to Paradise’s compounds for us the commonality and collective nature of our angst.

Blakley’s experiment provides the sensation of a story being told in rounds—both narrators exploring the same isolation and feeling of irrelevancy in a vast and indifferent landscape—but hitting different notes at different moments, which exposes the vibrant and mysterious urge for storytelling (response) itself. This, in turn exposes the stakes of the first person narration of both—we may always feel confused about our purposes and roam the roads feeling lost, but the urge to make sense of this experience through telling our stories, responding to life, has the capacity to provide a momentary sense of order.

That’s the ultimate success of this intervention—it exposes a natural conflation of those impulses—to know the self and other, and to know a text. The manifestation of those impulses is our responses to each other. Blakley pays Kerouac the high compliment of being his fan and critic; at times she seems to be poking fun at Kerouac’s frenetic lyricism and Paradise’s unconscious privilege through her flat and minimalist prose, at other times she reverently concurs with his insistent portrayal of life as a restless quest after unfulfilled desires.

I think the most we can hope for is, in listening, that we are called to respond. Maybe here, response is the act of love Blakley is exposing. That we’re not in a void, that our words matter to each other. The position of the reader is made more active, because we’re being asked to examine our own stakes in these stories, in a direct physical interaction with sticky papers in a book—we’re asked to find these stories familiar, as something we recognize, as something worth responding to.



Sarah Fontaine lives in the Outer Sunset of San Francisco, California. She co-directs the studios and project space at the Carville Annex, a site for investigating people and place. She seeks higher stakes. Her writing and other experiments can be found in Plaid Review, Reading Conventions and factorycompany.

Interview with Rebecca Blakley

We sat down with TPG16 artist Rebecca Blakley in our home in Oakland, CA on November 12th, 2010.

icon for podpress  Interview with Rebecca Blakley [27:44m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Introduction to Lichen Books: On The Road

In the sixteenth issue of The Present Group, artist Rebecca Blakley sneaks a contemporary coming-of-age tale into “the novel that defined a generation”. “On the Road” is an edition of 70 copies of the classic novel by Jack Kerouac containing a parallel story told by Blakley via Post It notes hand drawn in Times New Roman.

Rebecca Blakley is a native of Santa Barbara, California, who has recently moved to Oakland, after an east coast stint involving Baltimore, Maryland and Brooklyn, New York.  She double majored in art and English literature at University of California, Los Angeles, graduating in 2003.  Although she has exhibited paintings in such venues as Maryland Art Place and the Baltimore Creative Alliance, her recent work has focused on producing art that the viewer encounters in unexpected places.

Infoporn II

The State of the Arts posters were in this short lived show in Chicago: an homage to their love for data visualization, the show highlights a selection of works from around the world in the form of installations, a publication library, interactive projects and infographics.

Looking back, Looking ahead: The Future for The Present Group

The Present Group turns 4!

Our 4 year anniversary celebration has been bittersweet. We are extremely proud and honored to have been enabled by our subscribers over the years to fund 16 artist projects, learn from and work with some amazing artists, and to expose a large group of people to new artists and their ideas. We’ve received a ton of support from people around the world who have been touched by the project itself and the works that we’ve put out. One of our goals in starting our subscription project was to spread the idea of art by subscription, and it encourages us immensely every time we see a new venture pop up around the country. (To see all of the subscription art services we’ve found, check out the “Subscription Art” links on the sidebar.)

The Future, Changes

As with many experimental publications, we’ve reached a point where we must re-evaluate. While the publication is far too exciting to stop, we have decided to cut down our schedule, moving from a quarterly to a tri-annual publication. Our price point will remain the same, giving us a little more flexibility in both the types of projects we choose and the way in which we spread the word about what we’re doing.

We are very excited about this move as it will allow us to develop some much needed infrastructure and pursue other projects, both through TPG and personally. Through The Present Group, we already have 3 major projects and developments planned for next year, and we’re chomping at the bit for 2011 to arrive so we can settle into working on them.

Current subscribers FAQ:

There will be no change to your subscription other than starting in 2011, issues will arrive every 4 months instead of every 3. You will still receive all 4 editions you signed up for.

***Special Offer***

Before this change goes into effect, we want to take a moment to offer you the chance to subscribe, resubscribe, or give the gift of a Present Group subscription for the same low price and still receive four works. All subscriptions received before December 1st will receive four issues. If you resubscribe early, your resubscription will add 4 issues to your queue, no matter when that resubscription goes into effect.


Steve Lambert will be the artist for TPG17

We’re enthused to announce that Steve Lambert will be our seventeenth artist!  Lambert made international news just after the 2008 US election with The New York Times “Special Edition,” a replica of the grey lady announcing the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other good news. He is the founder of the Anti-Advertising Agency, lead developer of Add-Art (a Firefox add-on that replaces online advertising with art) and has collaborated with numerous artists including the Graffiti Research Lab, and the Yes Men.

post its

we’re in post it land over here.  Just found this work and thought I would share.

image by Rachel Robertson, not sure if it’s her work though..

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google" class='title'>LIFE photo archive hosted by Google

Images from Life Magazine going back to 1860′s, hosted by Google

San Francisco Pride: Giants

3 run home run!

World Series Champions

City Hall decked out in orange and black

Don’t forget to Vote!

Americans for the Arts has created some handy tools to grade our representatives and their support of the arts.  Above are the top scorers in the Senate.  Go here to see the House Representatives report card. Support your representatives who support the arts!

And, for Californians, here are the propositions we feel very strongly about:

NO ON 23!

YES ON 25! Let rationality rule the world…

Coming Face To Face With The President" class='title'>Coming Face To Face With The President

Well crafted story about an under-heard point of view.

Follow TPG Issues via RSS

Just a quick nerd note, we added a new RSS feed to the blog and TPG that simply alerts you when a new issue is released.

It’s Here

In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron

A new funding source for the arts – reaping big rewards and funding many projects.  It’s pot.

Art Publishing Now!

Art Publishing Now

Art Publishing Now

is a two-day event dedicated to the investigation and showcasing of art publishing practices in the Bay Area. It includes a day of presentations and critical discussions, an after party, an art publishers fair, library and web archive.




The Library is still seeking submissions!
Deadline October 1st.

The Art Publishing Now Library is a physical and online archive of Art Publishers in the Bay Area. APNL is a self-defined collection; it is open to any project that considers itself an art publisher or a contributor to art publishing in the Bay Area. The library will be installed at Southern Exposure from October to December 2010 and will go on to find a new home in the Bay Area.


Join the Conversation!

THE SUMMIT is on Saturday, October 9, 2010, 11 am – 6 pm
Space is limited so be sure to register to attend!

The 2010 Art Publishing Now Summit invites you to join leading creators of print, online, and experimental publications to reflect on the most urgent issues and exciting possibilities in art publishing today. With topics ranging from “Publish AND Perish” to “West Coast Critical?”, the event will include a series of presentations, conversations, and panels intended to yield insight and encourage innovation in Bay Area art publishing.


Learn about local art publishers!

Sunday, October 10, 2010, 11 am – 6 pm

The Art Publishing Now Fair showcases the breadth and depth of art publishing projects in the Bay Area. The fair hosts Bay Area independent publishing and related projects presenting a diverse range of the best in contemporary art publications ranging from periodicals, websites, editions and more.


Party with us!

Saturday, October 9, 2010, 6-10pm

Join Art Publishing Now Summit and Fair participants for a get together at Southern Exposure. Purchase food from some of SF’s favorite street food vendors including El Tonayense Taco Truck. Drinks and libations by donation from Trumer Brauerei, BridgePort Brewery, and Spoetzl Brewery.

Small Business Jobs Act: What artists and freelancers should know

Yesterday President Obama signed into law HR 5297, the Small Business Jobs Act.  A lot of it has to do with tax cuts for small buisnesses, encouraging investment and entreprenuership, and making it easier and to get small buisness loans: creating new funding for these loans and increasing the maximum loan amount that the SBA doles out.  There are, however, some especially exciting things for small companies, artists, and freelancers in the tax cuts area.  Hello health care deduction and total cell phone deduction.  Bullets taken from the White House Blog:

*A New Deduction of Health Insurance Costs for Self-Employed: The bill allows 2 million self-employed to know that on their taxes for this year, they can get a deduction for the cost of health insurance for themselves and their family members in calculating their self-employment taxes. This provision is estimated to provide over $1.9 billion in tax cuts for these entrepreneurs.

*Tax Relief and Simplification for Cell Phone Deductions: The bill changes rules so that the use of cell phones can be deducted without burdensome extra documentation – making it easier for virtually every small business in America to receive deductions that they are entitled to, beginning on their taxes for this year.

*An Increase in the Deduction for Entrepreneurs’ Start-Up Expenses: The bill temporarily increases the amount of start-up expenditures entrepreneurs can deduct from their taxes for this year from $5,000 to $10,000 (with a phase-out threshold of $60,000 in expenditures), offering an immediate incentive for someone with a new business idea to invest in starting up a new small business today.

*A Five-Year Carryback Of General Business Credits: The bill would allow certain small businesses to “carry back” their general business credits to offset five years of taxes – providing them with a break on their taxes for this year – while also allowing these credits to offset the Alternative Minimum Tax, reducing taxes for these small businesses.

*Limitations on Penalties for Errors in Tax Reporting That Disproportionately Affect Small Business: The bill would change, beginning this year, the penalty for failing to report certain tax transactions from a fixed dollar amount – which was criticized for imposing a disproportionately large penalty on small businesses in certain circumstances – to a percentage of the tax benefits from the transaction.

Notes on Portraiture in the Facebook Age

Dispatches from 01SJ

“Cheek to Cheek” by Bernie Lubell, 1999  at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

“OutRun” by Garnet Hertz,  South Hall and beyond
FYI this is a video game that you play as you drive around the city.  WHAAAT?

“No Matter” by Scott Kildall and Victoria Scott, 2008  at the San Jose Museum of Art
They hired Second Life players to create digital representations of 40 legendary objects (Icarus’s wings, Yellow Submarine, Holy Grail, pot of gold) which they then handcrafted in real life.

Solar Pump charging station, by Sol Design Lab and Bike Zoo, outside South Hall
Why doesn’t this exist everywhere?

“Le Monde des Montagnes” (The World of Mountains), by Camille Scherrer, 2008 at San Jose Museum of Art
The screen was a live image of the book on the table.  As  you turned the pages, new worlds would apppear from and within the pictures on the pages.

from “Mapping Non-Conformity: From the Global Border to the Border Neighborhood” by Teddy Cruz at MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana)

Discussion for Old Tricks for New Monkeys

Please use the comments to discuss your thoughts on the work, the artist, or what the work makes you think about.  Below is a bit of what we’ve thought about while working on this piece.

For the third year in a row, the subscribers choice edition was a textile. Like Maggie Leininger’s “Text/ile” (TPG7), it was an experiment in factory production for an artist used to working with her hands. While this shift from labor intensive singular pieces to a more mechanical approach could be viewed as a loss of the artist’s hand, this season’s critic Jennifer McCabe, Director of the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco, points out “the loss of the original does not signify a bad thing, it opens up progressive possibilities of both process and accessibility.” We couldn’t agree more. The artist multiple is an exercise in exactly that. And after all, that’s what TPG is all about.

We viewed Nava’s urge to mend holes in her canvases, to embroider and make stains beautiful, and to incorporate her old taxes and rejection letters into her work as a way to reclaim control over the ugly parts of life. In the interview she mentioned that she viewed this practice more as a way of “digging out of a hole”, just getting back to normal. But these pieces are much more than they were before their destruction. What was once an everyday tablecloth now shows in a museum. A roll of stained fabric now sells for thousands. It reminds us that what may seem like a struggle just to keep up or to stay afloat can itself be a step forward; the new normal turns out to be much further ahead than we’d ever have thought.

To the new normal,

Oliver and Eleanor

Next Page »

Web hosting that supports artists.


  • TPG21
  • TPG20
  • TPG19
  • TPG18
  • TPG17
  • TPG16
  • TPG15
  • TPG14
  • TPG13
  • TPG12
  • TPG11
  • TPG10
  • TPG9
  • TPG8
  • TPG7
  • TPG6
  • TPG5
  • TPG4
  • TPG3
  • TPG2
  • TPG1

Lego Hello World
I wish all my printers were made of legos.

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google
Images from Life Magazine going back to 1860′s, hosted by Google

Coming Face To Face With The President
Well crafted story about an under-heard point of view.

In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron
A new funding source for the arts – reaping big rewards and funding many projects.  It’s pot.

Notes on Portraiture in the Facebook Age

Celebrity Book Club: A List to End All Lists
Because, well, it’s sortof awesome.

Are "Artists' Statements" Really Necessary?
The pros and cons about that nemesis for most artists.

This to That
You tell it what you’ve got and it’ll tell you what to glue them together with.

Work of art: Online store for buyers, sellers
Not the TV show!  Kelly Lynn Jones from Little Paper Planes is interviewed on her project, gives us a cheat sheet to local affordable art resources.

How to make a Daft Punk helmet in 17 months