Sunday, June 5, 2011

Do You Know the Way to Cabinetlandia?

I see a curious photo of a filing cabinet built into a little hill. I see it in a New York Times article by Randy Kennedy about bringing students out of the classroom in order to teach them about Land Art. I scour the article for more info and find, "…a desolate patch of New Mexico desert land called Cabinetlandia, owned by the art magazine Cabinet, wedged between an active rail line and screaming traffic on Interstate 10, where there is little more in the way of amenities than a mailbox and a filing-cabinet community 'library' embedded in a concrete-and-soil wall." What is this, exactly? And how do I get there?

The Cabinetlandia website says the library "holds a copy of each Cabinet issue published to date…It also contains a guestbook, a snackbar, and a pair of boots (men's size 10)…" Boots? Protection against scorpions and rattlesnakes. But how did it get there? I'm still baffled and curious.

I keep looking. Matthew Passmore, who instigated the project, is part of the group Rebar. Rebar also started PARK(ing) day, which began in 2005 in San Francisco. They found an empty parking space, fed the meter, rolled out sod, brought in a bench and made a temporary public park in the street. According to the rebargroup website Cabinetlandia was born just after Cabinet magazine "for its Spring 2003 issue on 'Property'…purchased a 1/2 acre of property sight/site unseen for $300 on eBay." You can watch a slideshow of the making of Cabinetlandia, which starts with the rough sketches and concepts. Rolling out nature into culture or building culture in nature makes perfect sense to me.

This treasure hunt has ultimately led me to Cabinet magazine, "A Quarterly of Art and Culture." I went to the magazine's shop but found the latest issue sold out, so I chose a back issue. I read various tables of contents and decided on Issue 47 "Bubbles" Spring 2010. I'm still working my way through it, but thought I'd give you an idea of what it's all about. (Asides: I also recently discovered that Shelley Jackson's "Skin" project, which was just highlighted at the Berkeley Art Museum, was first announced as a facsimile of a fax in Cabinet Issue 11 "Flight" Summer 2003. I worked in a book store with Shelley, once. How did this world get so circular? P.S. Anne Carson contributed to #12, which is listed as still available.)

In Issue 47, here are just a few of the findings.
  • A concise and interesting article called "Buried Alive" by Christopher Turner on the hoarding Collyer brothers, researched from 1930s-1940s articles in the New York Public Library.
  • Photographs taken by Michael Schmelling as he followed Ron Alford and his team, a crisis-management company that works to help hoarders sort through and dispose of their stuff. The photos appear in a book called The Plan. While this may sound romantic to those who like garage sales and flea markets, the photos are stark and rather sad.
  • An illustrated article on folding that begins with the Baroque era and looks at "folding culture," including poems about folds by Mallarmé that were meant to be written on ladies' fans. It also asserts that the terms "valley" and "mountain" folds were first listed in an Italian book in 1639 called Li Tre Trattati by Mattia Giegher. A somewhat related article on the history of origami that also contains mention of the book is here.
  • An article, with photos of the pages, about the ranking of various authors, the numbers awarded by members of the Dada movement.
  • An "Artist Project / Prison Landscapes" by Alyse Emdur. She wrote to men in prison asking them to send her pictures of themselves and/or their family and friends in front of "murals painted by talented inmates of tropical beaches, flowing waterfalls, and mountain vistas [that] are common features in prison visiting rooms across the country." These are fascinating and ironic photos.
  • "Harpo's Bubbles" by Wayne Koestenbaum, an article about Harpo Marx and the when, why, what kind and how he blows bubbles in various Marx Brothers films. In "Bubble #2: The Cocoanuts" Koestenbaum writes, "A bubble is the extent of Harpo's accomplishment, and it is, I believe, monumental" (90). Even though he doesn't speak, Harpo shows us all what he can do.

While each issue has a themed section, other sections are more loosely defined, as listed on their submissions page. The editors write "We are interested in almost any subject matter, as long as your take on it is original and demonstrates how the apparently familiar world around us is in fact artificial, fascinating, and strange." They don't take fiction or poetry. Truth is certainly stranger than (or equal to, in my humble opinion) fiction, as evidenced in this issue. A Cabinet of curiosities, indeed.

never mind my cabinet

After spending more time with the magazine, I decided to subscribe. Jackpot. If you are a subscriber you can have online access to all sold-out issues.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

This post is one of the many reasons I'm glad we're friends. :)