I’ve Got Mail

I order so many random books, usually from random independent or used booksellers on Abebooks, that don’t arrive with anything like the robotic precision and up-to-the-minute email notification of Amazon, that I never know what’s come in the mail until I open it. And sometimes I’ve forgotten what I even ordered.
Today’s haul was exceptional, though:
Centerbeam is the 1980 report/documentation for a project that, as far as I can tell, was the largest contemporary public art event ever undertaken on the National Mall: Centerbeam and Icarus, a collaborative experiment/performance organized by MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, under the direction of Otto Piene.
Centerbeam was unveiled at documenta 6 in 1977, and restaged on the Mall in the summer of 1978. It involved video, lasers, giant inflatable sculptures, smoke machines, sound art, a technotopian extravaganza that was apparently a raging success, but also, from the pictures, might have been a hot mess. Not that those are mutually exclusive. Anyway, I thought I’d bought this book a year and a half ago when I first wrote about Centerbeam, but I had not.
The catalogue for the
Musee d’Orsay’s Leon Gimpel exhibition arrived, from Italy, and wow, it’s beautifully produced. The images that get widely reproduced are some of the most arresting, but just a quick look makes me very excited to study Gimpel’s work more closely. The text is only in French, which probably means it won’t get the US distribution presence it deserves. [It looks so easy to buy on Amazon.fr, though.]
And last, whoa, what an incredible surprise: Enclosure 3: Harry Partch? What the hell is this? Experimental composer Philip Blackburn is the last in a series of Partch devotees who labored to publish the visionary composer/ex-hobo’s archive. Most of the Enclosure series is video and audio of performances of Partch’s music, but Enclosure 3 is a dense, daunting, but engrossing facsimile edition of the notes, drawings, clippings, photos, manuscripts, and correspondence Partch kept for himself. It looks utterly fantastic.
I think my version was published in 2005, but the copyright is also from 1997, and there’s only the barest hint at the process of putting the book together. It’s pretty raw. But gorgeous. I’d seen it mentioned on some hip curation webshop, one of those Nieves-type outfits, but when I couldn’t figure out which one it was [turns out it was collectionof.net], I ended up ordering it [much more cheaply] via some Amazon merchant.
Well, my copy arrived, it’s awesome, and it turns out to have come from Squidco, an “improvised, composed experimental music” specialty shop based in, of all places, Wilmington, NC. Who knew, right? Squidco publishes a lot of writing and reviews of experimental music on Squid’s Ear, wow, reaching back to 2003. I had no idea, but now I do, and I’m glad.