Linder Report
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Incident No.37: Joan Linder
Junk Mail Drawings

‘I savor this total oblivion into which I have fallen.’ Jean-Paul Sarte, Nausia

Joan Linder’s deft installation of eyeball-bending junk mail drawings has provoked many indignant responses from passers-by. One relevant comment was from a pedestrian who spent some time sizing the work up immediately after its installation: Upon realizing that this was no mere collection of throwaway mail, but an artwork comprised of many dozens of careful renderings, the comment that seems to speak for many of the doubters on the block was, ‘why would anyone want to do that?’

Knots: In addition to being connected to a wider, abstract network of territories, as a production, the site of IR contributes tangible responses to its immediate place in the world. Though bridging these facets of culture landscape, Linder’s mail is not kindred to the philosophical position of surrounding olde Hudson River Valley landscape painting traditions. Nor is she adopting the more recent historical strategies of duplication aligned with the synthetic ethos of Pop Art replicants. She is not really aligned, in this installation, with familiar approaches to seeing and capture. She is not challenging authenticity in the track of the counterfeiter, yet a strength of this work relies on a momentary collapse of distinctions between ‘the real’ and its counterpart, the hyper-real.
The individual drawings each have their moment (in the rendering) of celebrity, before being completed and tossed upon the pile to become (in its new life as an artwork) something more objectified and part of the landmass. The narrative that one can construct out of the collected and presented kindling is arbitrary.

Linder’s hand betrays the presence of a painfully absurd, but temporary love of the material when it is up close. The drawings tell of obsession-compulsion, which is more about the nature and ritual of the act than the meaning of the task result. Though the artist may speak of this cumulative, lived landscape, it seems that the commitment to the act is the thing. The design aesthetics and details of this matter are irrelevant, and additional works will grow and vary with the acquisition and representation of more junk, but the effect will be the same with any additions or modifications that happen in this body of work. Junk Mail, an expression that injects temporary identity into an impersonal marketplace by momentarily hijacking and reanimating dead media, is an oddly quiet performance of noise. This work is a concerted, well-articulated, self-aware piece of evidence of what it is to stand at the entrance to a tunnel of noise so massive that your eyelids peel back and blood pours from your ears...but then, like climbing off the cyclone, you get back in line for another go. The repetition of an act over enough time can lead to a surprising capacity for acclimation, a development of normalcy. The nausea of tidal waste has been confronted, endured, and inverted into something inquisitive, prolific and morbidly hopeful.

Junkmail is unwanted, one-sided communication, often best for burning. But the scatter here also includes little parts of one’s more transactive life slipping into the overall category of mail pile-up: an employment check, an intentional FedEx parcel, cemetery correspondence. The periodic items of value within the collection of postal residue are much like these works on paper altogether: Though at first glance the drawings are convincing decoys, they quickly become clearly understood as drawings rather than poor counterfeit. And as drawings, the watermark, the photocopy, the UPC code, the postal cancellation stamp, all begin to melt into an idiosyncratic, lively cartoon of the boring side of the world.