When I was at art school in the mid-1980s one of the projects I never got off the desk was a magazine especially designed to collect never-realised projects. It would have consisted primarily of book reviews, exhibition reviews and obituaries. These would have all been fake: reviews of books that had never been written and exhibitions never staged; obituaries of lives that had never been lived. It would be a way of collecting all those ideas and plans that might be less than fully-baked but don’t deserve to be completely rejected or abandoned to the curatorship of the bottom drawer.
I imagined that the magazine would have made a good home for some of the more incidental ideas that were circulating amongst the group of people I knew. So, for instance, if you came across a particularly odd bit of amateur collecting – say someone who had turned a garden shed into a museum dedicated to all forms of knots and knotting – then you could write a review of a guide book to micro-museums. The guide book wouldn't exist and the micro-museums could also be fictitious (how about a museum of lost keys? Or a museum dedicated to objects with shells stuck on them?). You could cover a lot of ideas in such a magazine: even, or perhaps especially, ideas you found problematic. I imagined writing an obituary about someone who after a traumatic upbringing joined the army and developed a new form of camouflage. He would test out his camouflage by sending camouflaged troops out into the countryside and he would then stand on top of a hill and see if he could spot them: if he could see them then the camouflage didn’t work; if he couldn’t then either the camouflage was working perfectly or the troops hadn’t carried out his instructions. It was an uncertain outcome. After he left the army he became an abstract painter and seemed to be in a permanent state of anxious undecidedness. Needless to say his death was a suicide.
The magazine would have been perfect for all those ideas you have that seem good after a few drinks in the pub, or the sort of ideas that might be suitable for someone with more resources than you had. Of course, because the magazine was itself an unrealised project it could have been an item in such a magazine (if it had existed), or it could wait for the invention of the internet and blogging to find a suitable home.
The other day I came across an old art catalogue from the 1980s (Endgame: Reference and Simulation in Recent Painting and Sculpture – it was an exhibition in Boston, USA in 1986). I must have bought it at about the same time I was imaging a magazine of unrealised projects. Inside is an essay by Thomas Crow. Crow writes about a made-up art critic who provides an effusive critical review of the exhibition by the made-up painter Hank Herron. Herron’s paintings in the 1970s consisted of making exact copies of the work of the abstract painter Frank Stella, a painter who actually existed and is still alive today. Stella made his name as a sort of post-painterly-post-abstract-expressionist-hard-edged-intellectualist painter who was exhibiting from about the end of the 1950s. He was painterly minimalist, who in the 1980s reinvented himself as a painterly maximalist. The made-up critic was claiming that the copies were better than the originals because they critically explored the hollowness of originality and the uncertainty of authenticity. It was a joke – a pastiche, a parody of what would become a world of artworks that cited other artworks. The article by the made-up critic was called ‘The Fake as More’.