Cauleen Smith, Covid Manifesto #5, 2020.

chance encounters for a third try: attempting a house party on the moon

Portable Gray, Vol. 4, No. 1: Another Idea exhibition catalog, pp. 183—185
Spring 2021

Excerpt by Zachary Cahill and Mike Schuh

An obvious question that surely is on the lips of our readers as they pick up our Spring 2021 issue. The short answer is nothing—we are still the experimental arts and ideas publication that we have been since day one. The longer answer is: we wanted to be true to our founding ethos of weirdness, playing with the form of the journal itself. In the case of this particular issue, it meant switching publishing genres altogether. So that instead of holding a thematically conceived journal that features work from in and around the Gray Center that you may be used to, you now hold in your hand an exhibition catalogue for a project conceived and organized by Mike Schuh and myself.

As things shuttered in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak and work moved online, our friend and colleague David J. Levin (founding director of the Gray Center, UChicago Professor, and current Senior Advisor to the Provost for the Arts) asked people in the arts for ideas that would keep the arts present and integral to university life. We, like many in the arts, had quickly grown weary of the rush to translate art to the internet that was occurring at that moment (and still is). So we proposed another idea . . . an exhibition built around something like the Duchampian notion of anti-retinal art, or conceptual art, or more precisely actual conceptual art as opposed to the glut of virtuality that was taking over our lives.

For two months in the summer of 2020, we staged an online exhibition. It appeared on June 1st and vanished after July 31st. A two-month run is what we proposed to the artists, not an exhibition that would linger on our website in perpetuity. This was our promise to all the artists along with a catalogue that would come after the exhibition was closed. The responses to our invitation were extraordinary if not damn heroic. The works proposed were inventive and ambitious, many of which staked out new territory for the artists themselves. The list of artists comprises University of Chicago faculty, Gray Center Fellows, folks we had worked with before, and some artists whom we had never met but felt would have an affinity for the project. It was a remarkable outpouring by the artists to try to make the lives of people in quarantine just a little more bearable, a little less virtual.

If the impetus for the exhibition was a conceptual redress to virtuality imposed by the pandemic, the reality was a profound instance of actual artistic generosity. This issue of Portable Gray then is the exhibition catalogue for Another Idea: an actual conceptual art exhibition and a document from a moment in which, when much else in society seemed to fail, art did not.

This issue is dedicated to all the artists with our deep gratitude.

Read more here.

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