Jonathan Monk “The Billboard Book Project (Paris)”
Published January 2010
Edition of 40 copies with 20 artist’s proofs all numbered and signed by the artist.
Numbers 1 to 6 are accompanied by the 400 x 300 cm folded billboard poster.
Dimensions: 26,5 x 43 cm.
Hard cover with silkscreened cardboard
210 pages printed in 2 colors
About forty years ago, artists like Robert Morris and Joseph Kosuth were making works explicitly about self-referentiality. In the case of Morris, tautology took the form of objects. In the case of Kosuth, it took the form of words, sentences, and paragraphs. Works about the sound of their own making, or word pieces that spoke of being “self-described and self-defined,” turned language and forms into short circuits and logical conundrums that still inspire today.
The nitty gritty, however, did not play a part.
Yes, work came to be embedded in a metropolitan urban context. Kosuth and Daniel Buren inaugurated the use of billboards. But the work kept a rigorous linguistic, or a completely abstract, base. By the time of Kruger and Gonzalez-Torres, billboards by artists were still vehicles, but always, well, monumental.
Morris showed tautology in performance and in objects where the “I” of the artist, and his utterly naked self, conflate being, saying, making, and doing.
But there was always a level of abstraction to performative and conceptual art which, well, left out you and me.
The ”Billboard Book” book of Jonathan Monk, harks back to other times. It is fabricated from the billboard project announcing its publication, is a great piece of conceptual wizardry. It refers to itself in the natty text that Monk devised, invoking every last piece of technical detail constituting its manufacture.
And then, the object slices up, and becomes a volume, showing, in one neat gesture, how irrelevant taxonomies such as sculpture/painting/book, really are. Daniel Buren and others have chewed on these problems.
But what is so really neat, and now, about Mr. Monk’s piece for Three Star Books, is the human dimension.
In the age of the social network, where you and me can really log right on to anyone else’s site, why should the printer of this billboard book book be left out? And isn’t it nice that the photographer is mentioned too? Not to speak of the dear lady crating the book in its cartons and that the design is by Vier5.
Here, the humility and humor of Monk come brilliantly to the fore. Every last soul involved in the manufacture of this book object has been duly mentioned. Gone is the age when art authorship and art assistants were two separate matters. Monk acts more like a producer in this case, and shows the artistic process for the collaborative endeavor it really is.
Now, for all those old-time Marxists, with their very good intentions, and sometimes lesser capacity to enact them, here is a beautiful lesson in how to be both procreative, and democratic, both deferential to one’s mentors, and yet, generative, all at the same time, and in 1.8 kilograms of highly meaningful paper pulp.