Since September 7th Shelf Life has welcomed the trickling-in of the exhibition Poste Restante, curated by Eric Fredericksen, director of Western Bridge. The objects of Poste Restante are large and small, oblong and round; a few are completely flat and one is shaped suspiciously like a sculpture. They lie in their original mailing packaging on two tables inside the Test Site. As Eric writes in the introduction to this show:
A set of artworks is addressed “Poste Restante” to the Henry Art Gallery and delivered via national postal systems. A relic of an archaic system, “poste restante” indicates an instruction to the post office to hold a letter or parcel until its intended recipient — a traveler, perhaps, or a clandestine contact, or a mistress — arrives to claim it. Works are presented as received, in envelopes or parcels. The work waits, held by the museum for a recipient whose identity and location are incompletely known. Information as the the contents is available largely through the forms attached to the parcel, documenting the contents for customs purposes, and the series of addresses and return addresses multiplying on the surface testify to the work’s maker and its itinerary.
The art object remains local, specific, visible only in certain spaces, while operating in far-flung networks of conversation and commerce. Like a letter sent instead of an email. In this project, delivery is deferred. A specific deferral is that of the resolution of ownership, the discovery of the work’s recipient. More generally deferred is the delivery of meaning, a suspension that is necessarily permanent: delivery of meaning is the end of art. So these letters must always arrive and never be delivered.
The participating artists of Poste Restante are Lucy Clout, Martin Creed, Jason Dodge, Allison Hrabluik, Hadley+Maxwell, Aaron Flint Jamison, Sam Lewitt, Heather and Ivan Morison, Avigail Moss, Pamela Rosenkranz, Dexter Sinister (with Christoph Keller), Matt Sheridan Smith, and Oscar Tuazon.
These letters and objects, handled by three national postal systems (to date) and many unknown hands (including those of Homeland Security) have their ties to Shelf Life as the subject matter for an upcoming publication that Eric is currently working on. So how does an exhibition about the immaterial … materialize into a book? Is the ‘unknown recipient’ actually the future reader? (Is a book never quite ‘finished’ until it is read?) Eric will deliver a public talk on this subject (and perhaps the intricacies of dealing with customs forms) inside Shelf Life at 7 pm Friday, September 30th.
Poste Restante c/o Eric Fredericksen
Friday, September 30
Shelf Life is the Henry’s summer ode to BOOKS and READING. From July 1 – October 16th, the Henry has invited book lovers from various fields — independent publishers, librarians, poets, writers, designers, and, most importantly, readers — to share with us what they do and why they love to do it. For a complete list of Shelf Life related programming, please visit this page.