Artist: The Little Professor (1971- ), in collaboration with Victoria (1999 - ).
Title: Book Boxes with Cat and Couch.
Materials: Cardboard, books (clothbound and paperback), microfiber, wood, cotton. Also a cat.
This work-in-progress demonstrates the artist's ongoing engagement with the material properties of texts, especially their suitability for experimenting with various three-dimensional forms (see Overread and Essence of Numerous Biographies). Here, we see two significant advances on the artist's previous reinscriptions of the text within the domains of sculpture and architecture. First, the texts themselves have been cannily concealed within anonymous containers, simultaneously undoing the very possibility of encountering the text as text and implying a pun on The Prison-House of Language. In fact, the erasure of these texts from the visual field forces the viewer to reflect on the relationship between signs and their potentially invisible or even disruptive signifiers: the installation's title is a text that promises the existence of other texts, and yet the "books" of the title remain tantalizingly out of reach. Second, inasmuch as the title tempts the viewer to open the boxes, this installation subverts the logics of curated space within the normative art gallery. The prospect of interactivity--the viewer might even wish to rearrange the boxes--disrupts the otherwise hegemonic and hierarchical relationship between untouchable art object and passive viewer.
What significance should we grant to the alliterative "cat" and "couch"? We note, to begin with, that the cat's participation in this project was clearly contingent on its own fickle desires, which rarely coincide with human needs and wishes. As a result, we may conclude that the cat's presence offers subtle metacommentary on the complexities of ascribing authorial intent to any artistic product. The cat's sideways glance, which resists and indeed rejects the demands of the human gaze, further undermines the normative project of scopophilic relations established in the context of the modern art gallery. At the same time, the cat's inability to treat the boxes as anything but a purely utilitarian convenience further calls our attention to the contingency of a text's meaningfulness; here, removed from their original and organized shelf space, books cease to be sites of potential learning, and merely become sites. By contrast, if the cat suggests the uncontrollable free play of signifiers, the couch offers up the present yet semi-occluded promise of cultural stability. Partly concealed by the boxes that threaten to overwhelm it, the couch represents the last-ditch effort of the modern academic to ground interpretation in materiality. Further boxes may erase the couch altogether, thus indicating the threat of pure materiality to academic interpretive gate-keeping.
My "roommate" at my parents' house is Suzy Q, a rescued feral cat.
The missing eartip is a veterinarian's mark, indicating that she has been spayed. Although you can't see it in this photo, she's also missing her tail, which was amputated some time ago because of recurring infections. She's a very small cat, about eight pounds (and, given her understandably endless enthusiasm for eating, may weigh more than that shortly...), and looks much healthier than when I first made her acquaintance.
A new resident chez Mom the Retired School Administrator and Dad the Emeritus Historian of Graeco-Roman Egypt. This is Suzy Q, a feral cat previously resident at CSU Long Beach, who will now be living in her very own deluxe cat enclosure in my parents' back yard. (Suzy Q
is a self-domesticated cat: she likes human beings and insists on being petted.) Right now, she's camped out in a back bedroom. Here she is in her original habitat:
In case you're wondering, this isn't a Manx; her tail was amputated for medical reasons several years ago.
Another one of the friendly feral cats, Gray Brother, has found a home somewhere else. Mom snapped this photograph of him in his CSULB territory, a parking lot:
At this week's department meeting, one of my colleagues bemoaned the lack of animals on this blog. Ergo, it's time for another round of felines.
First, Victoria clearly indicates her opinion of my desire to sit on my--my!--office chair.
There's a nice blue throw on the couch in the living room, put there solely for the comfort of the household felines (well, that and to prevent excess cat fur from accumulating). You can see how well that's working out.
Strictly speaking, it is not a good idea to purchase an office chair upholstered in terry. Not because there's anything wrong with terry, but because certain furry household residents feel the need to occupy the chair at all times--including those times when the local human is trying to work.