The local art supply store in Santa Fe, New Mexico is called Artisan Santa Fe. Artisan has been around for a very long time, since 1975. In fact, 2020 is its 45th year anniversary.
On the front door it says: “Through these doors pass the finest artists in the world.”
One of the fun parts about walking around the store is passing by the array of pens and markers. Artists started marking up the cabinets while testing out the writing implements and so the store started taping down strips of cash register paper tape to the counter under the pens and so artists started testing out the pens on the strips of paper which are changed now and then when there are so many marks that you can’t see what you are doing anymore.
Our current experiment is to supply Artisan Santa Fe with larger and better quality strips of mark-making test paper to put on the counters near the pens and markers for us to collect into the Archives so that we can capture this communal scribbling, squiggling, doodling and testing by artists which we then hope to document with catalogs such as this one and make the scribbles available for future exhibitions where this kind of material will be of interest to viewers.
All artists have a special and very personal relationship with their tools, materials and implements which are important elements of their creative expression. So, it is no wonder that artists need to try out the feel and quality of their tools to see if they will perform as desired and feel good in their hands. Consequently, something of their genius and humor will be left in the marks they make even when they are not making a work of art and that is what we wish to highlight in these delightful pages.
The images in this book are scans of some of that mark making on the original cash register tape. The strips of paper were removed from the counters and cut down to a size that would fit on a scanner and then scanned at 600 dpi so that we would end up with 4 inch digital squares, hence about double the size of the original markings.
The present book is a collection of communal scribbling by whichever artists happen to be testing out pens and markers on the paper somewhere between the end of December 2019 and the first few days of 2020.
The title of the book: Hello from Santa Fe refers to the fact that the word ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ shows up perhaps a couple of dozen times in the mark making and is clearly the most repeated word in the scribbles presented here. And, since Santa Fe is a tourist town much of the year, it seemed a good title for a book that one might send to friends like a postcard or as a memento to take home from a stay in Santa Fe.
The Ontological Museum Archives (ontologicalmuseum.org) begun in 1994, has an interest in vernacular documents and photographs as well as Fluxus art, asemic writing, visual poetry, mail art, assemblage and collage art. We have built up an impressive underground archive of works in these departments over the last 25 years.
The OM is an artist version of a museum created by Cecil Touchon, himself an artist, for the artist community. The collection is somewhat indiscriminate in that we don’t directly choose what is in the collection. There is no committee. Since the archives are based on inclusion rather than exclusion, we encourage the artists to decide what they would like to contribute or not and how they would like to be represented in the collection through what they contribute. As long as it fits in a briefcase, we’ll accept it.
We approach the idea of a museum as an art project – a grand assemblage of artifacts collected through our interactions with other artists – primarily online – since the beginnings of the internet. We collect for the benefit of the current and future artistic community by inviting contemporary artists to add themselves to the archives through their contributions of works in these categories. We think of it as capturing the contemporary moment, so everything is usually fresh when it comes into the collection without regard of value or importance. This creates a record of whatever is going on at the moment without the work having to go through the gauntlet of the commercial collector market as is typical of museum collections which are mostly driven by collectors and not artists. The archives contain works and correspondence by artists from all over the world and Santa Fe is one of those places that artists from all over the world visit.
The Museum Archives are in Santa Fe but not open to the public except through our catalogs and online presence through ontologicalmuseum.org. This is where we present the growing collection to the global audience.
The pen and marker testing at Artisan Art Supply store fits perfectly into several categories of our collection. A currently vibrant community of artists and poets all over the world that we are keeping an eye on are experimenting with what has been named in recent years Asemic Writing which is working with text-like markings that are abstract, illegible and devoid of semantic content but still reference the ideas of reading, writing and document production. This community developed out of the Abstract Art, Dada, Surrealist, Abstract Expressionist, Situationist, Fluxus, concrete poetry, visual poetry, correspondence art, experimental music notation, automatic writing and other post-literate elements of the art world.
It is in this context of asemic writing that these scribbles are seen as having an interesting voice worthy of recording like the sounds of an orchestra when the musicians are practicing and tuning their instruments before the concert begins.
We would like to thank Paul Bell, one of the co-owners of Artisan who agreed to let us collect these otherwise discarded scribblings and have this book (hopefully a series of books) available at the store. We hope you enjoy our efforts.