Two and a half years now, I’ve rented a storage space. Four or five times I’ve visited it. Hundreds of pounds weight I’ve culled from it. Trashed, gifted, or sold. A dozen or so suitcases I’ve cargo-hold-enfolded and cabin carried from there to here. What’s left? Documents, mostly. Books, letters, photographs, tax records, artworks, notebooks. Files from a former life, lived in a former place. A string of variables.
Somewhat unhelpfully, over the past two and a half years, various friends have suggested that I “just get rid of it all” because “no one needs things any more.” All information is available online. All archives can and should be made digital. These friends have garages, obviously, and/or parents with basements. Many of these friends have iPads and laptops and cars and plasma screen TVs, which they do not consider to be things. And many of these same friends publicly expressed outrage at the news that CBC has been quietly dismantling its archives of LPs and CDs across Canada – a cultural treasure trove built over decades.
If there’s anything more fetishized than vinyl in the face of the digital homogenization so many aspects of our daily lives are undergoing, it’s hand writing. And very old paper. Websites such as Brain Pickings send out a steady stream of tweets announcing the uncovering of rare and wonderful letters, drawings, chapbooks, notes, lists, maps, and other ephemera and marginalia, most often by long-dead authors, artists, scientists and medieval monks. 30 March 2012 The Guardian ran a review of As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-1980 by Susan Sontag, and 30 March 2012, an article announcing: Angela Carter’s teenage poetry unearthed at old school. The current collective bravado about entrusting the production, dissemination, curation, sharing, and storage of the cultural artifacts our daily lives to digital cloud storage and social networks and the devices these live archives engender seems to be underwritten by a deep seated belief that somebody has all the hard copies in storage somewhere, and that new old things will continue to be discovered.
Archival photo: my Montreal desk, from when it was still okay to have lots of things.
Tomorrow morning I’ll fly to Montreal to sift through what’s left of my once extensive archive of notebooks, letters, postcards, hand-drawn maps, childhood diaries, grade school poetry, high school essays, art school sketchbooks, earliest dot matrix print outs from first stabs and digitally distributed networked fiction, Mac II boot discs, floppies containing the first hypertextual nonlinear narrative I made on the Amiga in – oh who can remember what years these things happened in anymore… my instinct says: BURN EVERYTHING. Because none of us knows what to keep and what to throw away.
Well Mack the finger said to Louie the King
I got forty red white and blue shoe strings
And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
Do you know where I can get ride of these things
And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
And he said yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61.
Bob Dylan, Highway 61
One pallet I’ll ship to England, air cargo. The rest must be dispensed with. To jet or to jettison? Of every variable in the string var=storagespace I will ask this question. Choice items returning the result jettison will be on offer at a garage sale held indoors in the studio space of jake moore and Steve Bates. Friends help friends throw stuff out. Good friends help friends ship, sell, or otherwise find homes for no longer necessary but still functional, useful, even beautiful things.
a garage sale, but in an art studio
6250 Hutchison #404, Montreal
Sunday 15 April 2012
11 AM to 4 PM.
Please come by to say hi. It may be my last chance to see you, you clever and stylish Montreal folk. Leave with books, music, art catalogs, hand-made hand-painted dishes, storage devices such as wooden drawers and a steamer trunk and a rather fine two-door armoire, other furniture such as end tables, office supplies including and inordinate number of manila envelopes and file folders, old school art supplies like charcoal, and actual art in fact. Many of these items will be surrendered for free if you can convince me you will provide good homes for them. Come say hi and leave with art and joy in your heart.