After four months of living inside artist lab books and dreaming of malfunctioning printers, I’m finally saying goodbye to the Everything But the Monkey Head project. This fellowship has been such a rewarding experience for me as I learned the ins and outs of what makes this unique institution tick and immersed myself in the creative output of our resident artists.
My main role for this fellowship was to assess the mass of fascinating material generated by each artist participating in the Monkey Project and organize them into a kind of master document. Each artist followed a specific template during their residency for the project–e.g., create a lab book, write two blue board maxims, participate in the finnisage–yet each artist’s output was delightfully different. Within this uniform skeleton structure, the artists built drastically different spaces, relied on unique materials, and asked particular guiding questions to create something wholly theirs. I loved flipping through each artists’ lab book as I scanned them into the computer, marvelling over the intricate pencil drawings in Pam Posey’s, the sumptuous transparent maps of Anna Ayeroff’s, the ghostly faces appearing and reappearing in Greg Cohen’s. Each artist had run wild with their prompts, plunging themselves into new and strange worlds that I felt privileged to travel in, if only for a short time.
Once the mass of created content had been digitally gathered, I went about organizing them into one document, a declaration of the project’s mission as a whole followed by a distillation of each artist’s output. The act of wrestling the expansive results of the project into a book, a necessarily finite thing, posed its own problems. I did my best to make the text a playful object with porous boundaries, a thing I poured love and attention into; I engaged with the concepts posed by the project and the artists themselves, scribbled on the pages, pulled abstruse keywords through the pages using cut outs, and toyed with different materials for each page. I wanted the book to be fun to touch and to look at, and most of all I wanted to honor the work each artist had done by making the book more than just a static collection of scans. I wanted it to be in conversation with the messy and inviting questions we were asking about art and the circular relationship between action and theory.
Flipping through the massive binded book, you can see just how many avenues each artist walked down, how many doors were opened from the simple (yet deeply complicated) guiding question we began with: how do we theorize art’s untheorizable? Each project follows its own logic and creates its own world, and taken together, it becomes dizzyingly apparent just how malleable, dynamic and generative that guiding question was. The role I played in Monkey Head was small, but I’m proud that I got to be a bit player contributing to this interesting project.