Just the Fax

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Image: Peter Coffin, Untitled, 2009

A sign at the entrance to “FAX” tells viewers that the exhibition was organized by The Drawing Center and that its subsequent tour will be managed by Independent Curators International. A show of artists’ faxes could be exceptionally travel-friendly—just call the artists and ask them to send their work again. But iCI plans to do it the hard way: The original faxes will be taken down and transported to the next venue, along with the three-ring binders full of faxes displayed on a desk in the gallery’s simulated curatorial office. That decision could be chalked up to the art world’s reverence of scarcity, or it could be seen as a sign of heightened attention to the medium. All of the pages bear the machine’s signature, a line at the top that identifies their dates and origins, which bolsters the idea that each work is a specific act of communication between the participating artists and curator João Ribas.

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Image: Warren Neidich, Detail from "Some cursory comments on the nature of my diagrammatic drawing"

The expendability of the medium encouraged playful responses. Sam Owen flipped and exceeded the standard 8”x11” sheet of paper in his letter to Ribas, which he wrote out by hand in big, chunky letters on a few dozen sheets of paper, enough to cover several square feet of the gallery’s back corner. Olav Westphalen sent cartoonish instructions for setting a fax machine aflame: draw a fire on the cover page, extend its rising column on the second page, then set it on a loop it so that the receiving machine keeps working until it overheats and starts spewing real smoke. Amanda Ross-Ho took a more philosophical approach. She printed out photographs of products for sale at online marketplaces, emphasized their new paper bodies by adhering them to tax forms and other bureaucratic documents with thick, bandage-like tape, and then passed them through the fax machine to turn them back into signs floating on a flat plane. On Thursday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m., Warren Neidich will give a performative lecture in which he will put on a blindfold and describe his fax that hangs in the gallery while touching it, bringing ideas about transmission and tangibility that “FAX” raises to life.