Friday, September 6, 2019

196 / Mark Bloch / USA

I am happy to be participating in the 10 year PANiversary of the celebration of Ray Johnson’s A Book About Death. And to acknowledge that Ray first sent out pages from A Book About Death much earlier—to members of his New York Correspondence School some 56 years ago, in 1963.

Ray Johnson sent me pages from that “book” two different times—once in an envelope on which he mysteriously scrawled “Deathplace.” It contained pages 1,7 and 15. I received it May 11, 1984. He explained to me that he had been sending out two or three pages of the book randomly to people for decades and that no one had received the complete “book.” Then on October 1, 1984, he sent me a copy of page 7 again, not the page but a copy of it, accompanied by an altered version of it.

The original image features a drawing of US congressman (representing both Ohio and New York, by the way, two of my favorite locales, and Ray knew this) Samuel S. Cox, known as “the letter carrier’s friend” because he fought for the rights of postal workers. Cox (about whom Ray said that the S. in his middle name stood for “sucks”) was commemorated by a sculpture in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village of New York City. The drawing in A Book About Death is of the sculpture, not the man, and the sculpture was said to not be a very good likeness to start with. Anyway, that drawing was not drawn by Ray but his alteration of it was. He had added a “ladder” (instead of a “letter”) to commemorate his “Roof Event” in which he played the role of a "ladder carrier.” (I had already jokingly changed his Roof Event to a Food Event and was later in attendance at the event, handing out plastic forks in honor of our correspondence.) I was surprised when he handed me an envelope, mid-performance, with my name on it, his only deviation from walking back and forth with a long ladder over his shoulder on top of a parking garage. Anyway, these are some of the images that come to mind when I think of A Book About Death, now forever fused with the 2009 commemorative event at Emily Harvey Gallery where I met so many wonderful people who later became close friends. Every time someone has had another celebration, it has multiplied exponentially the fun and mayhem, not to mention the network connections. It has been an honor to be involved with this project from the start. I salute you LuAnn, for your creating this new “page” from this Ray Johnson idea of a “book.”

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