Like the overcommitting fool that The Gang all knows I am, I have agreed to serve as Co-Director for the AIGA 's Best of New England (BoNE) Show this June. Besides having a list of directives that spans over the next eight months and at least a 3" binder's width worth of paper, one of the immediate main goals is doing the Creative and Judging "asks."
Basically, this task requires my co-Director (coincidentally, A Classic Girl, who sometimes comments around here) and I to contact well-known local designers/design firms and "ask" them if they'd be interested in doing the show's collateral materials pro bono. Oh yeah, we also have to ring up certified "design celebrities" and
beg ask them if we can fly them to Boston in early March for the judging weekend.
After over a month+ of making lists, checking spreadsheets, attending meetings, and pretty much procrastinating in any way possible, this morning I tackled my Judging Call List. Like a gawky AV club boy asking the homecoming queen to Prom, I put on a facade of confidence and called Michael Beirut, Bruce Mau, and Pat Samata. I had to leave messages for all three (could they have been screening? Ha ha.) Beirut called back almost immediately. Of course, by this time I had already gone out for
a strong liquid lunch, so my co-worker had the thrill of taking the message. She mentioned that she had recently read one of his articles recently and that it was funny.
"Funny like peculiar?" he replied.
I've asked others for all kinds of odd things throughout my life, mostly unwanted (free) stuff, curbside salvage and, in a recent weird incident, postpartum mesh briefs. Some people want soap remnants, some locks of celebrity's hair, and some will even beg for Fish of the World posters. But I've found that the most interesting thing about asking for anything is not whether the recipient agrees or not…but how he or she reacts to the question itself.
Jonathan Safran Foer, in a project that seems so, well, HIM, is asking writers for the next page on which they would have written something. The whole to-do is officially called The Empty Page Project, and started with a blank page from Isaac Bashevis Singer's belongings that a friend passed on to JSF. (See, haters? Keeping other people's garbage CAN turn into something great!)
If I may:
"Richard Powers was the first to respond. 'The favor is indeed strange,' he wrote, 'but wonderful. The more I think about it, the more resonance it gets: a museum of pure potential, the unfilled page!' He sent along the next sheet from the yellow legal pad on which he writes...
I received a piece of paper from Susan Sontag. It was slightly smaller than the standard 8 1/2" x 11", and her name was printed across the top – for archival purposes, I imagined. John Barth sent me an empty page. It was classic three-hole style with the red strip up the margin...His note: 'Yours takes the prize for odd requests and quite intrigues me.'
A sheet of empty graph paper came from Paul Auster, which evoked his style. An absolutely gorgeous mathematician's log from Helen DeWitt, accompanied by advice to the young writer about getting to know one's typesetter. A page ripped from David Grossman's notebook – small, worn even in its newness, somehow strong...A clean white page from Arthur Miller, no accompanying note. Paper from Zadie Smith, Victor Pelevin, David Foster Wallace ('You are a weird bird JSF'), Peter Carey, John Updike…"
Collectors, weird birds? Why, I couldn't have chosen a better descriptor myself.