Allan Kaprow’s Travelog Reinvented with MOCA

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Books: Diane and Jerome Rothenberg in San Diego, California

The Rothenbergs returned to the original Travelog as inspiration, taking a photograph of a Happening in Germany, Tires, and visited bookshops in the San Diego area. They prompted the sales clerk for a book recommendation based on the photograph – encountering a range of exchanges from helpful and friendly to dismissive and abrupt.

The group chaired by Jerome and Diane Rothenberg were all present at the May 10th presentations, and, because there was some competition for the referential projects, we ended up with Lux et Obscuritas. Our prearranged group consisted of Jerome Rothenberg, Diane Rothenberg, Gail Schneider, David Matlin, , , Coryl Crane, and we were joined by and Sybil Wendler and we met that afternoon and discussed doing a project that would involve groups going out to local lagoons and conducting a photographic exchange with visitors to the lagoons. We agreed to meet at the Rothenberg house the next morning to refine our ideas and proceed on our project.

At 9:00 AM on May 11th we met. Diane Rothenberg had prepared maps for north country with lagoons indicated and these maps are included in the documentation although they were not used. Our group was extremely fortunate to have Steve Fagin, the initiator of the whole project, and Coryl Crane, Allan Kaprow’s widow among our members, and Steve quickly indicated that he thought that the essential element of a service exchange in Travelogue was missing in our plans. It was immediately clear that he was right and we proceeded as a group to test ideas for a project that we could do around a service exchange, and including Allan’s interest in technological and social change. Coryl reminded us that an element of tension was also essential in the exchange.

We decided that we would explore the changing world of book purchase with the hypothesis that we might find differences between individually owned and serviced book stores, chain stores with non-invested employees, public libraries that have a service, but not a monetary exchange, and the internet. We Xeroxed and distributed copies of a photograph from a Kaprow piece of a mountain of tires with human figures against it, and our controlled procedure was to be to go in pairs to a range of book acquisition locations, to show the photograph to a service person and to ask them to choose for us books that they thought appropriate to that image. We were to make explicit that we would purchase the books they recommended, and to that end each person was furnished with $50. We were not to identify the image as an art work, nor to mention Kaprow.

The group was enthusiastic about the project and quickly separated into couples to do the task during the day. The Rothenbergs went to Barnes and Noble, Borders, and the Carlsbad Public Library, Gail Schneider and David Matlin covered several used bookstores on Adams Avenue, but had to wait until Monday because the stores were closed on Sunday; Coryl and Sybil went to an upscale private bookstore in the Flower Hill Mall where the owner immediately identified the photograph as a piece of Allan Kaprow’s; Steve Fagin and Eloisa Haudenschild went to the more upscale chain Warwicks and the bookstore at the Contemporary Museum, and Steve used the computer to do an exploration of the service transformations in on-line book purchase; and Monica went to several chains. We all purchased books.

The next night we met for the final meeting for each group to report on their experiences and to deliver our documentation which, in this instance, was a pile of books and photographs. On the whole, the books suggested tended to cluster around issues of pollution, environmentalism, economic inequality, recycling and tires as a subject. There was several children’s picture books, and since no one had suggested art, there were no art books. No one had had a complete lack of cooperation, but some people got more engaged and some defensive when they felt challenged. We came to no conclusions about any of this, nor could we considering the number of variables for which there was no control. But we were pleased that we had kept the project simple and with the original idea of a service exchange involving some element of tension realized by all participants.

—written by Diane Rothenberg