I’m offering this off-the-top-of-my-head idea, which someone else might already have thought of (originality is optional in art – discuss) in the hope of getting the wheels turning in your mind. You don’t have to credit me with the inspiration – or blame me should no one like the idea. I’m just a conduit.
Sculptor Gavin Turk (b. 1967) closed out his time at the Royal College of Art in London by presenting a single work in an otherwise empty studio. The work was a blue and white plaque, such as can be seen on many historic sites in England, making passers-by aware of some luminary or famous work connected to the site. In this case, the plaque noted Turk’s residence in that studio from 1989-1991. The cheeky hubris of announcing that your college studio is worth commemorating caught on, and the work has become one of Turk’s best-known pieces. He later produced a silkscreen on plastic version of the plaque in an edition of 130.
But fame is a worldwide phenomenon, thanks to the Internet, with options for exposure being wider then ever before. The place where a work is created can still be fetishized – did the studio participate in Turk’s work, save as a passive environment? – but what about all the places a work can be seen subsequently? The room in which Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, say, might have some general historical interest (if we knew just where that room was) but on a personal level the impression made on you was elsewhere, perhaps even more than one place. Hardly anyone chooses to let the world know where these things took place. And what about commemorating a place where nothing happened? The room in which you did not write Hamlet?
Let’s call these “uncommemoratives.” There are an abundance of places where uncommemoration can occur:
In this building, in 2001-03, So-and-so failed to establish long-term relationships with women in his peer group
On this site, in 2015, So-and-so did not write the Great American Novel. Or even the Lesser American Novel
Or perhaps, should this seem to negative, just commemorate being:
So-and-so, artist, was.
The advantage is that there is a much larger range of places and events to uncommemorate. Achievement is rare; presence in some form or other is ubiquitous. Thanks to the Internet, the everyday trivialities have been elevated to a new stature. Where could you uncommemorate something from your life? The possibilities aren’t endless, but which ones you choose could say a lot about yourself and the times.