- 4 issues of a daily publication
- each issue a single page of 8.5x11" printer paper, printed double-sided on a consumer printer, also released daily as a pdf
- written at and for the Providence Fringe Fest, a festival of theatrical works including plays and dances, August 1-5 2018
GrantsThe idea for this project was Darcie Dennigan's, she's great. And not only did she have the idea but she won a grant-writing contest that paid me to do this! I've never won a grant-writing contest before, but I must've entered a dozen fruitlessly in the past, and there was one other time someone won by writing in on my behalf. I used to get really soreheaded about not getting grants, but now it's casual, I don't take it to heart. A lot of these contest winners just write about a project that's easy to describe and falls well inside of established formats, and that's not my field of interest. It's as simple as that!
I think the only reason I even had a chance at this one is because someone else was jumping through all the hoops and I had almost no input into it. In fact it was the exact same way with the other one I got. The crazy thing to me is that Darcie wrote to the grants people before the deadline to be like "what about this, is this the sort of thing you guys like to hear?" and they wrote back like "actually we'd rather hear this sort of thing". That's mindblowing to me. Darcie is the opposite of vulgar and cynical, but asking "what do you guys usually fall for" before you shoot your shot seems like, very vulgar and very cynical! Is this common???? I guess I'm a romantic.... Anyway we got the money.
OK I would like to dive a little deeper on this because local art grants bullshit has been a massive and periodic motivation hurdle for me over the past couple years. If you also struggle with a feeling of failure based on not getting recognition from establishment art mechanisms, here's my tips:
- Saying "so-and-so won a grant" makes it seem like the grant was awarded based on their work, their ability, or on their "value" as an artist, which is grossly inaccurate. Instead say "so-and-so won a grant-writing contest". This confers an appropriate level of toadyism.
- Recognize that grants are awarded by commitees and are subject to the worst of committee thinking. Judges have to weed out hundreds or even thousands of applicants and as a result, no one really gets "selected", they simply remain after multiple rounds of culling. If the grant is for sculpture and your sculpture has a video aspect to it, someone on the panel is going to say "I really love this but its more of a video thing" and put your application regrettably in the garbage can. I can think of a few people I know that get grants and also produce compelling work, that's possible. But it's not a requirement.
- This one is strictly for my fellow didn't-go-to-schoolers, and does not apply to went-to-schoolers. OK. If you didn't go to art school you're at a disadvantage ONLY in terms of knowing how to talk about your work to grants committees and other arts-adjacent money laundering schemes. But you're at a great advantage in that you don't have massive student loans! If you're comparing yourself to people that went to art school and get grants (or have access to other resources) you have to be fair-- they are tens of thousands of dollars in the hole and they got 500 dollars back for winning a grant-writing contest. You didn't win but you're still up on them! To put it another way- everyone that decides not to go to art school gets an informal $300 unrestricted arts grant every month for 10 years, which is delivered in the form of an absense of art school debt. Compare that to any grant available in the past twenty years in the United States of America and you must concur: it rips.
Digging DeepWorking on this project was fun, although there were moments where I was at the theatre and I was really not having a great time, and I really had to dig deep. "If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all" is what Bambi's mom said and though that's not a credo for all occasions it certainly befits a high-amateur / semi-pro theatre fest, especially one where you're going to see the same people the very next day and the day after that and the day after that. But of course I couldn't say "nothing", the whole point is that I had to say 2 sides a day. That's why there's a lot of atmosphere notes, talking about the infrastructure, the food, etc..
To be honest, some of the plays I liked, some had cool parts, and a small number I hated straight up and down, but overwhelmingly the feeling I got was "this doesn't have to be good". What I mean is that there were times where I looked around and it seemed like I was the only person in the audience that wasn't related to someone on stage-- plays like that have their own merit that's completely removed from any sort of critical review. My notes from a play I didn't enjoy: "the only thing wrong about this is that I'm here".
One of the days was really rough and I didn't like any of the plays at all, so I just decided to make stuff up. Since there are 3 or 4 shows running at the same time, I figured it'd be impossible to see them all and so therefore no one would ever know that I was fabricating details. But check this out-- the next day I was talking to one of Roommate Ellen's friends and told them I made stuff up, and they said "well, I'm in an improv thing later today, I'll work in some of the stuff you made up". So it was only a lie for a day, not bad!
PrintingA big part of the reason I said yes to Darcie about doing this project was that I had been investigating new ways of printing zines and had recently got a new printer because it was fast and could do full duplex (printing on both sides of the paper). I figured this was a good way to put it to the test. Well geez, it worked great.
The printer I have is a Brother HL-2270 DW, I love it. It looks fine and it's way cheaper than making photocopies. It's slower than a photocopier but if you factor in the time it takes to get from your house to Staples and back, it's crazy fast. People in small press publishing stopped prioritizing making things inexpensive, but if you're still stapled to that particular cross, I strongly recommend any cheap black and white printer that can do full duplex and has decent reviews.
NameThis was my third go at making a newspaper-- the first was called New Parisian (1 issue) and the second was called Mothers News (41 issues). Mothers News was close enough to New Parisian that on the first issue I felt like it was fair to say "Previously New Parisian". And then that became a riff I'd return to, and every issue I'd list a few (made up) names that the newspaper was "Previously". Oftentimes it was a riff on some other publication, or some reference to an item or theme in that issue. I pulled "Rolling Egg" from this list of previouslys. Naming things can be such a pain in the ass, one that quite honestly tanked more than one project in the past. I was very happy to avoid a fatal boondoggle this time.
Only one person IDed the original reference-- congratulations to O Horvath of Baltimore MD for stomaching the disappointment of recognition at, indeed, a Howard the Duck reference. NB: I hate Howard the Duck, this is not an endorsement!!!! I just liked the name. Please, no one send me links to a Howard the Duck thinkpiece, just save your energy. For a good Steve Gerber comic read Omega the Unknown, or Man-Thing. For a good duck comic with horrible undertones read Carl Barks or Dane Martin. For a stupid movie I hate, and maybe the comics are good but it's too late because I already saw the movie unfortunately... Howard the Duck. If you want to see a cartoon duck with big boobs go to deviantart dot com.
"Roll on, you egg, roll on"Sometimes when I make something I check online to see if anyone's talking about me, which is a terrible habit. For Rolling Egg I didn't have time to even think about it until much later, and I looked on twitter. No one was really tweeting about it except for the fest organizers (which is fine / no problem), but I got a few results in Chinese that I couldn't make sense of, they were all in Chinese, with the only English being "rolling egg". So I looked up "rolling egg Chinese slang" and got this:
Pretty incredible!!! "Egg" is in a lot of Mandarin swears, either as a synonym for testicles or, more commonly, to mean offspring. The canonical egg in this situation is the river turtle egg, for reasons too elaborate to get into here, but I think it's because the river turtle's head looks like a little weiner??? The way you'd say "rolling egg" is maybe better translated as "roll away, you turtle egg [you penis product]". But the closest direct translation seems to be just "rolling egg". There's a strong negative connotation-- unlike in English where you can say "I'm just going to fuck off for a while", I don't think there's a fun way to say "I'm just going to roll like an egg". That's more my mood but it's not available in this particular idiom. Anyway it could've been a lot worse! I'll leave links at the bottom if you want to read more about Mandarin swears.
Later I got a great chance to use this meaning of "rolling egg", when someone left a jokey insult on an old instagram post:
I looked up "#戴绿帽子" and it means "green hat", which is an insult in China, which I didn't know when I wrote "#greenhat"--
It's just a coincidence that the post is about Rolling Egg... Also it's from before I named it, and the comment was left 20 weeks later, after I was done. Otherwise I wouldn't have had the ammo at the ready. For reasons of their own, this person was just going around writing the insult version of "green hat" on every post that used the unseasoned, merely descriptive version. It's incredible that I had a rebuff right there in my pocket! I forget if the green of the hat is also a turtle thing... Roll on, egg, roll on.
Got the pic a few weeks later:
This painting was one of six that Tom made on a residency in Minneapolis MN, making paintings at night and still clocking in to his remote desk job during the day. The other paintings he made are about (or in his words, "have the callsign"): picnic, chainmail, dumplings, pumpkin, and Dracula. The residency ended with a show at the White Page gallery, called "Thinking About".
I feel like it makes perfect sense that Tom would select a moment in the text where two systems collide- one rigid and one bouncing. We rarely talk directly about paintings but that seems like a common motif in many of his endeavors in this field.
I reached out to Tom for some thoughts:
not a lot to add as this is a pretty self-explanatory painting idea, with the rare quality of arriving fully-formed in mind from the text, where "all I did was paint it" = that band of likely-illegible white on the bottom right is the literal quote from rolling egg it's made after, included literally on the painting because 1. at the time I was sort of thinking of it as like "an illustration plate" (as in e.g. like the arthur rackham dickens plates or whatever, the line the painting is illustrating is always underneath... I'm sure you know what I'm talking abt) 2. I was forcing myself "out of the comfort zone" by putting english language text onto one for the first time in a while (which I'd intentionally hard-stopped doing several years before), and 3. it was made in residency in minneapolis around my new friends thinking abt my old friends, and I kinda just wanted to rep the set as explicitly/loudly as possible, using the words directly felt like a powerful invocation at the time.
sorta unique too in that it's as close to a collaboration as I think I've got in paint, which if that's interesting to any of either of our collectors, they should get in touch, as I still have this one stored.
Follow-Up TalkThe grants people wanted me to do a follow-up talk on like, things I learned, or what my impact was, and their suggestion was that I do this on the last day of the festival, at the after-party. Really bad idea, honestly. When did this get invented, this whole arts non-profit impact score thinking? I'm guessing it's like a post-Mapplethorpe culture war thing???? Anyways it's for bozos. I said yes with the intent to dodge, but they withheld $200 from the funding as a hedge against me absconding, the scoundrels. So I changed my energy to "let's make it my idea" (pro tip) and months later I gave a talk, nominally about Rolling Egg but actually about the idea of shitzines, the cheap or free psychedelic periodicals of yore. To be honest I was happy I did it.
The talk was held at the RISD Library in connection with the opening of their zine collection. I admit, I started out in a bad mood because I got there early but got trapped in the stairwell on the way up, and for a sec it seemed like I'd have to spend the night there. Then when I finally got out and got to the room there there was a huge snack platter with tons of cold cuts and I was like a), you told me there was no money in the budget for me so who bought all these cold cuts, and b), I don't even eat cold cuts. But you know what, I'm a professional. So I just focused my chi and did the talk, and once I got going I really had a lot of fun. Great crowd. I got a watergate of it, I'll post the link below.
I was proud of this font choice, this Dooley-esque scribble with piss line, and that I remembered to put the year on the flyer. I was not proud that I misspelled "January". I wonder if that's why I got caught in an endless doorway on the way in??
Links / Misc
- I posted this a few weeks back but they could use some help, it's an emergency fund for RI dancers and sex workers- [gofundme]
- queer + trans mutual aid pvd [linktree]
- more about egg imagery in Chinese profanity via Language Log: [link]. Also wikipedia has a helpful entry on the subject: [wikipedia]
- the "new information" about Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs, alluded to in the chat with Tom above, is that it appears this concept was lifted from the Blackfoot people, who Maslow visited in 1938. more info here: [link]
- Tom's website is here, it's really a great website: [link]. You can commission a painting from him if you like, or just poke around.
- OK finally here's the recoding of my talk. This was recorded on my phone, and I was talking with no mic in a medium sized room. The first draft of this reportback was that the sound was too gnarly to post, but I think that was just the memory of the sensation of hearing my voice on tape and being like "why do I sound so weird". I listened to it again and I think the sound sounds fine and also I think my voice is kind of like my hairstyle, my name, and my face-- it changes slightly every time I wake up. There are parts of the talk where I refer to images of zines I like, which are projected on a screen. But it's actually inconsequential what those images are-- the listener is free to invent any array of lines on a page. The recording is 48 minutes long, yikes, with about half of that being a Q + A which was honestly fun. It goes Rolling Egg ⟶ shitzines have I loved ⟶ Q + A. After a while the Q + A turns into me talking about Mothers News and then it ends on a positively effervescent note where I'm talking about Cathy from the post office. Thank you to Ariel Bordeaux for hosting me, and thank you to the inimitable Mickey Zacchilli for sitting right up front for this and putting me immediately at ease! [mp3, 77.7mb, 0:45:50]
- this is not relevant to the topic at hand but Flan wrote a great one the other day about Purple Rain for her blog about movies about music (Flan Flips For Flicks). It's really really good and nice, you should check it out if you like this writing (that you are currently reading) at all! [blogspot]
- These Rolling Egg back issues were already posted to the castle library, if you want to mess around in there and read other stuff you are more than welcome, it's right here: [library]. Please note: the library is becoming far too vast to keep the candles burning all the time, day and night. So as a cost-saving effort, all library patrons will be asked to simply turn the lights on for themselves when they arrive. Don't worry about turning them off-- the ghoul that lives in the library and licks the hot wax and lamp oil (Dean) will blow the lights out when you leave. He loves to do it, and it doesn't hurt anyone, so please just let him. Dean will not turn the lights on for you though, that's not his job.
Wow this post is long! Sorry about that. I hit reminisce mode and it was hard to curtail. Thanks for reading! If you're not getting these posts in you email and you'd like to be, you can sign up on the substack here: [substack]. If you really like this sort of thing and want to kick down a little money towards the upkeep of the castle, I set up a nice like temple / donation zone with a large bell that really rings, here: [link]. It's ok to ring the bell without donating, it's still good luck! --------- end new writing --------------------------------------------->