Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Conversation I Wish I’d Had at the Art Book Fair

Maybe you love the Super Bowl, and that’s fine. But for me, the Super Bowl represents a lot that I don’t like, and I feel about it the way a sixtysomething white man from rural Georgia might feel about the prospect of, oh, hosting a San Francisco-versus-Manhattan game of multienthnic dong-fondle on his front lawn — uncomfortable, superficially repulsed and secretly fascinated. That’s why most Super Bowl Sundays of my adult life have been characterized by strategic counterprogramming. I do what I like but what also feels like a solid candidate for being the antithesis of Super Bowl Sunday.

This year, I selected the L.A. Art Book Fair. But when I left the event space, I carried with me not an expensive, limited-edition art book, but something more valuable: a lesson.

If you’ve never been to an art book fair, know that it’s basically like any trade show, only instead of selling products, the vendors inside are selling the right to look down on others who didn’t have an extra $200 to spend on a bound collection of Xeroxed anuses. I was really looking forward to this event, not only because it seems like fuck-you to the Super Bowl but also because I like art and I wanted to get inspired by someone else’s creativity. I couldn’t. The confines of this book fair didn’t let me enjoy art the way I want, which is on my own. Instead, there’s just a foot-wide folding table separating you from the vendor — or, even more troublingly, the artist — and you have to squeeze to the front of a crowd for the right to flip through the wares while in the presence of the person who’s trying to sell them. For me, that’s a lot of pressure. I have plenty of opinions, but I shy away from telling people “Sorry, I think this is not only too sucky to buy but also too sucky to continue to flip through,” which is exactly what I feel like I’m saying when I close the book, place it back on the table and then smile awkwardly as I slide back into the sea of Fred Armisens and Kimmy Gibblers from whence I came.

This reluctance to actually interact with the book-peddlers has prompted what you’re now about to read.
(Standing at a table at the book fair, Drew flips through one of the books on display.)

Drew: I don’t understand this.

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: It’s a series of original, full-color Sunday Peanuts strips that ran between 1987 and 1992, reproduced with enormous genitals drawn on the characters. In case you need to know, 1992 was the year my psyche broke.

Drew: (pointing at one particular page) So what’s this then?

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: That’s a dick.

Drew: It looks like a tree.

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: It’s playing off the idea of Mother Nature, but maybe the mother is hermaphrodite?

Drew: Why did you give Lucy a dick when all the other female characters have vaginas?

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: (bobbing for no reason) I was tired and dicks take less long to draw.

Drew: Okay. I see its only twelve pages long. Why are you charging so much?

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: (pressing right ear to right shoulder for no reason) I’m a nonprofit.

Drew: How are you a nonprofit?

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: (stares over Drew’s shoulder without speaking)

Drew: I’m not going to buy this.

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: On the back cover I have poetry where I used Google Translate to put news stories about third world atrocities into to their native language and then back into English so that’s poetry now. I called it “Schroeder Pissing on Woodstock. You’re Woodstock.”

Drew: I can’t tell you how much that isn’t an incentive.

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: I also have a series of kids’ mazes. They’re unsolvable. And the whole stack of them come in a sealed mylar bag that if you open it ruins the value of the book. It comes with a pen that’s out of ink.

Drew: That’s not even a book.

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: No, it’s an art book. You’re at an art book fair. I’m raising the price because I don’t like you.

Drew: Okay, well, I’m leaving.

Glasses w/ Statement Hair: Okay, $179 and not a dollar less.

Drew: (runs toward the exit)

Like I said earlier, I did leave the art book fair having learned a lesson: I may not be a Super Bowl Sunday person, but I’m also not an art book fair person. I haven’t figured out what this means yet, but I’m hoping there might exist a third group of people that I’d fit into, one that exists somewhere between the (apparent) poles of “Are you ready for some football?” and “No one ever told me to stop, so now I’m calling it art.” Either that or I just don’t deserve a group, which would be bad news, I suppose, but at least I know where I stand: far away from the art book fair.

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