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INTERVIEW with Mobilivre collective member Courtney Dailey 4-08
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INTERVIEW with Mobilivre collective member Courtney Dailey 4-08
"Drive Slowly, Appear Quickly" image from the Mobilivre website -- http://www.mobilivre.org/
projet MOBILIVRE-BOOKMOBILE project
[this is a rough transcript written while the video of this interview was playing... It is unreviewed by the interviewee]
Courtney Dailey did a presentation on the projet Mobilivre Bookmobile project on April 20th, 2008 at University of South Florida for the critical writing seminar. She was selected by the Mobilivre collective to come to Tampa from Philadelphia to represent their project. Her talk was recorded on videotape by Daniel Moore. This is a rough transcription of the first part of her talk on April 19, 2008.
Courtney first showed a two minute video which explains the project. Some aspects: Touring is the main source of funding for the bookmobile. Each venue is asked to contribute on a sliding scale. A panel of experts from various fields select the
from submissions to a nationwide call. Visitors are often excited to make
and zines, inspired by the exhibition. “They make their own stories, and tell their own pictures.”
In her talk, Courtney covered: 1. history of project; 2. structure of the project.
In 1999, a bunch of school friends in Montreal made a show. Many of them were making
, although there was no bookmaking program at the school. We curated a shows called “Bound:
Make Better Friends.” It was an open call, anyone could be in it. The rest of the show was activities – film screenings, bookbinding workshops, speakers.
A year after we all graduated, a core group of four people started working on the next incarnation of the project. I was in Philadelphia, as was another. Two others were in Montreal.
Our first show was in 2000, in a slipshod fake trailer we built in the gallery of Space 1026. [In the second part of her talk, Courtney discussed Space 1026, the well-known Philadelphia artists’ studio cooperative and exhibitionary collaborative.]
This was a way to get funding for the project. We chose “Drive slowly, appear quickly” as a motto. It was an Airstream slogan from the '50s.
We started with this old school aesthetic of the Airstream itself, using the old image of the cyclist pulling the Airstream. We toured from 2000 to 2006. We toured in the spring, from March to June, because no one wants to be in an Airstream in July and August.
We had tour guides who would show what was in the trailer. 70 or 80 people over 5 years did that. The minimum time someone had to commit to in order to go on the tour was 2 weeks.
We have been to at least 200 venues in 70 different cities during those years. We'd do regional
tours, and also cross-country tours, which were really crazy. The total length of our trailer and van was 52 feet. We have photos of our setup next to semi-truck trailers, and it's not that much shorter.
Our project was guided by our personal histories, and the DIY punk community. We have learned by doing. If we had known how much of a big thing it was, we probably wouldn't have done it. It was that naivete that let us execute the project rather than be overwhelmed. It made us go beyond what we knew to understand how networks could be created. We thought both arts and zine culture were pretty insular in their culture, and we wanted to bring them to a larger audience. The DIY aspect of the project was about skill-sharing, teaching people how to make the things that were in the trailer. We were breaking down the dichotomy between the artist as the maker and the viewer as the consumer.
We decided not to get money from corporate sponsors, only from granting agencies and from people, who gave us 5 or 10 dollars over the course of the project. We broke the project down by task, year by year. People would take different parts of it: “I'm going to bottomline the tour this year,” or getting the trailer ready, or doing the open call this year.
It was a bilingual project, since the collective was based in both Montreal and Philadelphia. [Montreal is a predominantly French-speaking city in Quebec.] The bones of the project was the call for submissions, which we put across any networks we could think of – art places, libraries, activist centers. We sent out posters, silkscreened so they'd be a little more precious and would not be thrown away. A lot of it was word of mouth. People sent the
and a jury selected the
. The jury would meet alternate years in Philadelphia and Montreal.
The jury was people active in
arts and independent media. It included people from Indymedia, and the National Library of Canada – a nice mishmash. We tried to balance it demographically, by age and race and so forth.
The trailer could hold 300 books, and each year it was different. We
the tour at the same time as the jury met. For each local place we went to, we had a contact there, and that person was responsible for making their own event to coincide with our appearance. Then there would be a connection to the people who were there. We were concerned that the people concerned with books arts and the survival of independent media would be there.
Our tours really varied... The first year we had no money, People literally lost weight. We had an old van which would not work constantly. It was a very bare bones operation.
To anchor the tour, we made sure one of the main collective members was always on the tour. Tour guides were really essential to us.
The whole thing was volunteer run, but after the first year we established a $20 food allowance every day.
We would go to really disparate places, one day a farmer's market, a gallery, a museum. We would give workshops on bookbinding. Those are usually really expensive. We did ours for cost of materials. We would give artists' talks and do web stuff. We would also sell “merch” – t-shirts, patches, and such -- which also helped fund our project.
People who came to our workshops would become excited about sharing their work with us the next year, so it became a cyclical thing.
We were always having benefits, making posters and t-shirts all the time. There was kind of a nonstop frenzy about it, but the tour was the most public part of the project.
We came away with a bunch of different learnings. Were we to do it again, we'd be more aggressive about seeing to it that people get paid for it. It takes away the stresss of doing this large project and also getting your own work done. We also would have been excited to be the jury. It helped to separate our project from the jury, because we didn't have to deal with friends who didn't get in. You notice trends from year to year…
We loved the idea of activating the audience, and facilitating their production, and looking forward to what could come in the future. It was exciting to us when people who had never made anything before actually made a
or made their own magazine. Those moments were really amazing. We were also excited by sharing things that people had never heard of. People would ask, "What's a zein?" [meaning “zine,” a diminutive of “magazine”].
Question (Andy Nigon) -- What kind of audience were you getting? Were you getting more artsy people, were you getting old ladies, or what?
CD -- It would depend on where you were. If you were in front of a museum, you'd get museum goers unless the museum was in a very public place. It depended on the location and the outreach. We relied really heavily on the local hosts to do publicity blasts, getting posters out
we sent a lot of information out ahead of time, to really help them to do that. There were places where people were really curious.
Or not. I remember being in Williamsburg [in Brooklyn, N.Y.], with people walking by and paying no attention – “I'm too cool for this” – even though there was a trailer in the middle of Williamsburg, which is really weird. [Ed. note: The bookstore on Bedford Ave. which hosted the Mobilivre later closed; Godard notwithstanding, the fashionables don’t tend to be readers.]
There was one stop in rural Alabama. We had met someone at the Rural Studio there [the innovative architectural project of the late Samuel Mockbee]. We had lunch with five people, and were open for one hour, our shortest stop ever. It was a really small town. There were two people from the Rural Studio, a woman who had been the administrative assistant to the senator from Alabama who had gotten the first funding for bookmobiles passed in the 1950s. It was totally random that she was there. There was a scrabble champion, and a family making wedding invitations. Also a woman who had just gotten out of jail for civil disobedience for protesting a nuclear reactor – a totally random group of people.
There are so many places in this country – we would never have gone to York, Alabama. It just made me more excited about what kinds of pockets there are off the beaten path.
Question (Alan Moore) – Cultural institutions are concentrated in metropolitan areas. The idea that culture arises from the whole country, including tiny pockets, this hasn't penetrated the mentality of the people who administer cultural institutions.
CD – The year before last I went to Frieze in London,
in Miami, and the Armory in New York. It’s really the same circuit of stuff.
I thought I'd tell you some good stories. I went to a talk by a guy from the band Fugazy in D.C., and he talked about the things that they said “no” to.
[Ed. quote: “Taste is made of a thousand distastes”; Paul Valery quoted in G. Agamben, The Man Without Content, 1999.]
I think about that when I think about the corporate offers we received.... We were asked by Virgin Mobile [cellular phone company] to sponsor the tour. We would have a big ad on the back of the trailer. They said, “We’ll pay for all the stuff.” This was when we first started, before Virgin Mobile was cool. They ended up sponsoring another art tour in an Airstream trailer organized by a bunch of people form L.A.
MTV wanted to do a show about the Mobilivre on tour. That was another thing we said “no” to. Maybe if people only have access to MTV, that might be good for them. But then it would be surrounded by all this corporate media. So we felt that wasn't really the place for us.
We had amazing stops along the way. Culture Club Collaborative in Minneapolis was one. They run out of the Y[MCA] in downtown Minneapolis. People don't really hang out downtown after working hours. The CCC has artists come and do residencies with their drop-ins, many of them homeless people. They've had artists do video projects, sculpture projects, teach people how to weld, etc.. It’s an expansive idea of what an artists' residency should be. We went and thought it was really interesting to see people doing art with people who wouldn't have access to that kind of stuff. We went there sometimes three and four times on a tour, circling back, because we liked them so much.
We went to another space that was for young women who trade sex for money. [Brief discussion of the traveling Sex Workers Art Show.] We did workshops with
in Chicago for parents with kids. We went to the library in Salt Lake City – a newly renovated Moshe Safdie building. He designed the National Gallery of Canada. Mormons are really into education, so libraries are really important there. It has a cafe, a bookstore, a comic bokstore, and a huge teen lounge with beanbag chairs. They have a zine library where you can check them out. It was started by a 19 year old girl who had started working as a volunteer at the library. Now you can have your zine bought by the library, 7 copies for all the branches. People were roller skating in the library. It was so active, the best library I have ever been to
Question (Daniel Moore) – What was the most successful part of your project? How did this project affect your future process as an artist and organizer of events?
CD – I think the success was that it actually existed and we sustained it for so long and we were able to connect wth so many people and it felt exciting. It was important because it was about the survival of independent media. Also it makes people smile. People were, “You just came here, it's free, I can just look?” People are not used to the generosity of that kind of experience which is exciting.
Daniel explains our thing... – which is blogged at
PU -- it's good
f: Courtney Dailey rough ts
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