Who’s in a Name?
Artist’s book, performative events, painting, 2013–
Book: 144 pages, cloth-bound in silk
Printed in a first edition of 500 copies
Read Liz Kotz’ essay, A Name of a Name
MoCA, Los Angeles: May 18, 2013
See Event Program
LAXART, Los Angeles: July 13, 2013
See Event Program
Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles: March 15, 2017
See Event Program
John/Jack/David, 2012, oil on canvas
Commissioned painting by Srijon Chowdhury
Who’s in a Name? began with an intervention in a public project by artist John Baldessari. In January 2011, Baldessari launched Your Name in Lights on the façade of the Australian Museum in Sydney. Leading up to the launch of his project and during its three-week duration, viewers were invited to register their names on a dedicated website. They were then informed when their names would be illuminated on a nearly 100-foot L.E.D. screen; the website presented a 24/7 streaming image of registered names coming in and out of view every fifteen seconds. When Silton first learned about Baldessari’s project just prior to its launch, she solicited artist friends and colleagues—primarily Los Angeles-based—to instead each register the name of an artist who had committed suicide. These names she culled from a Wikipedia site devoted to the archiving of artists and others who had ended their lives. Fifty-nine artists (including herself) responded with willingness to participate.
Silton randomly assigned names from the Wikipedia archive to all participating artists. The suicidees represented are cross-generational, cross-cultural, and primarily non-iconic. Each artist was instructed to inform Silton when the registered name was scheduled to “go up in lights.”
The project is a response to the culture of celebrity that Baldessari’s project invokes. Silton’s interest lies in complicating the texts that seem to constitute a “life,” even beyond the life itself. She chose to highlight artists who committed suicide in part to honor their legacy, and in part to counter the stigma attached to suicide. This othering projected onto suicide is perhaps a strange twin to the look-at-me-ness of seeing one’s name in the distanced context of the glittering marquee and identifying with the name as oneself.
To further complicate the textuality of these names—and the art historical framing of artists and their work—Silton then gathered a group of eleven primarily LA-based or LA-educated young art historians/writers to rewrite 200-word bios of all of the artists, living and non-living.
The publication brings together 118 bios, plates of the 59 suicidees’ illuminated names—which Silton collected over the course of Baldessari’s project during its first presentation in Australia—and an essay by noted art historian Liz Kotz (Words To Be Looked At, MIT Press 2007).
PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: Suzanne Adelman, Lisa Anne Auerbach, S.A. Bachman, Judie Bamber, Laurel Beckman, Lynne Berman, Kaucyila Brooke, David Burns, Kristin Calabrese, Joshua Callaghan, Rebecca Campbell, Anthony Carfello, Carolyn Castaño, Young Chung, Marcus Civin, Ginny Cook, Eileen Cowin, Robert Crouch, Mara De Luca, Ken Ehrlich, Robert Fontenot, Micol Hebron, Annetta Kapon, Farrah Karapetian, Dawn Kasper, Sant Khalsa, Alex Klein, David Lamelas, Eve Luckring, Audrey Mandelbaum, Yong Soon Min, Brian Moss, Amitis Motevalli, Sandeep Mukherjee, Hillary Mushkin, Meena Nanji, Pat O’Neill, Adam Overton, Taisha Paggett, Sheila Pinkel, Job Piston, Nancy Popp, Yvonne Rainer, Rachelle Rojany, Connie Samaras, Joe Santarromana, Margie Schnibbe, Kim Schoen, Betsy Lin Seder, Susan Silton, Alex Slade, Jen Smith, T. Kim-Trang Tran, Carrie Ungerman, Stephen van Dyck, Matias Viegener, Austin Young, Jody Zellen, Bari Ziperstein. WRITERS/BIOGRAPHERS: Cole Akers, Andrew Berardini, Bridget Cooks, Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer, Jason Hill, Yael Lipschutz, Stacie Martinez, Kavior Moon, Susanna Newbury, Corrina Peipon, Virginia Solomon.
Who’s in a Name? takes the form primarily of an artist’s book, but it also includes equally considered performative events intended to engage the creative communities that the project addresses. In Los Angeles, where the project launched in 2013, Silton conceived two standing-room only events at MOCA and at LAXART, which focused on art-and text-based practice, respectively. At MOCA, twenty-six of the project’s participating artists responded in various (public) forms to the contents of the project; these included newly-conceived spoken-word pieces, anecdotal reflections, and brief presentations about, or comparisons with, the artist whose name they had registered. At LAXART, five art historians/writers (Jonathan Griffin, Natilee Harren, Michael Ned Holte, Liz Kotz, Karen Tongson) presented 10-minute papers about a range of related subjects. Interstitially, several of the book’s biographers read entries they had been commissioned to write about non-living artists. As a final performative gesture, artist David Lamelas delivered a reading of some of the writings of Jack Goldstein, the artist whose name he had registered for the project; these were read against the backdrop of a painting Silton commissioned from Srijon Chowdhury of the screen capture of Goldstein’s illuminated name.
In 2017, as a participating artist in the exhibition Ours is a City of Writers curated by Suzanne Hudson, Simon Leung, and James Nisbet at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Silton extended the project by inviting the project’s original biographers and other Los Angeles-based writers to present new or previously conceived works related to themes resonant with Who’s in a Name? These works—by writers Ramón García, Amy Gerstler, Natalie J. Graham, Raquel Gutiérrez, Douglas Kearney, Kavior Moon, Susanna Newbury, Hannah Sanghee Park, David Shook, Virginia Solomon, and Terry Wolverton—were presented at a public reading held on March 15, 2017.