Notes and Itineraries 1975 – 2004 (by Kim Levin – New York based artists) offers an alternative model that crosses the borders between art writing and art making. It deals in a very literal sense with time and history, memory and meaning. This longterm project tracks the peregrinations of New York’s exhibition spaces as they shifted from Soho to the East Village and back again and then to Chelsea and elsewhere, and it traces the course of artists who, like Nancy Spero and Jeff Koons, started out in group shows in East Village galleries long before they were household names. It began as a working method for me as a critic whose job required that I cover a lot of ground. It also functioned, in a way, autobiographically, listing the galleries (with addresses) and exhibitions (with dates of shows) in the order in which I intended to see them, as well as noting my appointments, my shopping lists, and my instant reactions to the art. Later it became a two-room installation in a New York gallery, a somewhat perplexing and unexpected artwork that questions the distinctions between the visible, the legible, and the visual.
As for my archive, it fills ten metal filing cabinets, plus twenty cardboard boxes stacked underneath and behind my furniture, and also a dozen shoeboxes containing postcard announcements from exhibitions going back to the 1970s and up to the present: downtown, uptown, out-of-town, and elsewhere. What excuse do I have? Well, for one thing, I had studied Egyptian archaeology and much was made of the importance of primary sources. When I abandoned archaeological studies to write about contemporary art, my Egyptology professor asked: ‘How can you do it?’ ‘How can I do what?’ I replied, uncomprehending. ‘There are no experts, no references, no primary sources’, he said with consternation. And with all the presumptiveness of youthful innocence verging on arrogance, I proclaimed: ‘I will be the primary source for future archaeologists.’ I also admit to a bit of an obsessive streak, and no one ever taught me to throw meaningful things away. The Finnish artist Jussi Kivi collects everything and anything having to do with firefighting. I collect, or rather, accumulate historical art stuff that tends to get thrown away, the byproducts of my work as an art critic. But I do not collect everything, as a true collector would. Great quantities of press releases, announcements, and posters arrive in the mail that are of little interest to me. I recycle those. I save them for someone who has been compiling his own complete and cross-referenced archive of the art scene for the past forty years. Once a month he takes away a couple of shopping bags crammed with art ephemera. It pleases me that they too have been saved from oblivion. Text by Kim Levin