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Due Process

Hitting And Missing With Creative Capitalismís New Art Book

FOR SALE: (from left) Sam Sebren, Richard Baxstrom, and Raili Hamila fill out the Notebook opening.

By J. Bowers | Posted 7/12/2006

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"The book was a celebration of the opening, which was a celebration of the book," says Peter Quinn, one of the masterminds behind publishing/performance art/music collective Creative Capitalism, in a circuitous attempt to explain Notebook, the groupís most recent project. "We wanted to present the book in a deconstructed form."

To that end, the Notebook projectís Current Space debut transformed the gallery into a factory of sorts, as volunteers wearing Creative Capitalismís screen-printed "uniforms" hand-stamped copies of the book on a table that was microphoned for sound, creating an impromptu percussive piece. Additional volunteers soaped and washed the spaceís front windows, and Raili Hamila, violist for Quinnís band Lo Moda, accompanied the workers. Pages from Notebook adorned the walls, along with larger, made-to-order prints of some of the drawings featured in the book, and co-curator Michael Benevento set up a video display in the back room to show short films.

A slim, perfect-bound volume of collected doodles, drawings, and notations gleaned from more than 100 contributors, Notebook comes packaged with a DVD of short films that echo the off-the-cuff, DIY sentiment of the printed material. The content was gathered through an open call for entries on the groupís web site and through the same grass-roots social networking that powered Creative Capitalismís first publishing venture, 2005ís Friends and Friends of Friends ("Getting Friendly, Arts & Entertainment, Aug. 17, 2005). According to Quinn, spontaneity was the Notebook projectís only stipulation.

"Surprisingly, a lot of people didnít know what to send us, because it was so open-ended," Quinn says, surveying the drawings still tacked to Currentís walls. "The pieces that didnít make the cut were the ones where people were trying to make art."

Still, off-the-cuff work by artists does form the core of Notebookís content. Graphic designer (and occasional City Paper contributor) Bruce Willen, Artscape coordinator Gary Kachadorian, musician (and erstwhile City Paper contributor) Lexie Mountain, and artists Andrew Liang, Jackie Milad, Spoon Popkin, John Ellsberry (a City Paper contributing photographer), and Laure Drogoul are just a few of the local notables who donated their doodles to Creative Capitalismís cause. Despite a decidedly Baltimore-Washington focus, the book includes sketches from Scotland, Singapore, and other far-flung locales.

"The idea was that thereís this worldwide underground of people creating things," says Quinn, who describes the project as a "process exercise." "The success of it was based solely on whether people participated or not."

As a "process exercise," Notebook is pretty impressive--in the vein of Found Magazine or PostSecret, the brown kraft-paper-bound book looks great on a coffee table, and it feels designed to be flipped through, rather than read in one sitting. Some works really stand out, such as Ellsberryís sketch of Condoleezza Rice, and San Francisco contributor John Brumitís tongue-in-cheek religious ad campaign for (apparently fictitious) Jemís Crisp candy bars. Others are forgotten in the flip of a page, as ephemeral as their creatorsí hastily scribbled thoughts.

The accompanying DVD is similarly hit-or-miss. The equivalent of having an on-demand short film festival in your living room, the disc features 22 black-and-white animations and live-action shorts that are half worthwhile, half bizarre self-indulgence, and very occasionally embody both extremes at once.

Laure Drogoul and Paul Baroodyís puzzling and more than a little disturbing "HAL 9000" finds Drogoul sliding across a stage on blocks of concrete, steaming up a space helmet as she quotes lines from 2001: A Space Odyssey and performs the iconic song "Daisy Bell," accompanied by Baroody on keyboard. Itís hard to know what to think, but the overall effect is undeniably creepy.

The DVDís two standout pieces are equally bizarre. Baltimore DIY film collective Sike Trikeís on-the-fly, all in-camera-edited aesthetic fits perfectly with Notebookís overarching conceit, and "Y2K Movie," its juvenile Lord of the Flies take on four Baltimore hipstersí efforts to survive Y2K (inspired by viewing Leonard Nimoyís Y2K Family Survival Guide, natch) is laugh-out-loud idiocy, and a nice break from the intentionally "arty" vibe that permeates much of the work on the DVD. Similarly, Anne Evertonís "A Historically Personal Account of the Sterility of Artistic Institutions" plays like a cross between Tarzan and Nell, as a naked, hooting, mud-covered woman runs howling through the forest and into a stone monument, coating the shiny marble walls with her muddy handprints. This is funnier than it sounds.

Creative Capitalismís upcoming "product-not-product" efforts include planned fall CD releases by Lo Moda and Ponytail, and an "anthropology text" by CC co-founder and Johns Hopkins University anthropology Ph.D. candidate Todd Meyers with help from Richard Baxstrom, a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at JHU. There are also a couple of art shows in the works, facilitating an exchange of work between artists in Baltimore and Washington, and hopefully examining the artistic differences between the two cities. Across the board, though, Creative Capitalism hopes to continue to mine the unseen network of social connections that unites Baltimoreís art and music scene--and all of the groupís projects thus far.

"Itís sort of about the cross-pollination of aesthetics," Quinn says to describe Creative Capitalismís overall gestalt. "Itís sort of like . . . if there was a caste system in the art world, these projects managed to escape that."

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