Behind the 8-ball: Don Celender

One of the questions I asked Rirkrit Tiravanija in last month's 8-ball Q&A, a feature in the Walker Art Center magazine, was both a rip-off of and an homage to the late conceptual artist Don Celender. An art professor at Macalester College in St. Paul for four decades, Celender (like Rirkrit, only perhaps moreso) had a pronounced trickster streak: he created Artball trading cards that featured pre-Photoshop photocollages of Picasso, Dubuffet, Jasper Johns, and others in baseball-star poses; surveyed artists, military officers, and soap opera actors on art-related issues; made snowglobes with tiny artwork replicas inside and art-shaped animal crackers; and proposed to General Motors that they make a line of cars using the dimensions of Ralph "Unsafe at Any Speed" Nader's body.

Celender died in March at age 73, and as Macalester painting professor Christine Willcox later told me, colleagues read from his book Mortal Remains (published by Intermedia Arts) at his memorial service. He'd asked some 400 artists and writers what they wished to have done with their earthly remains when they died, what possessions should accompany them into the next world, and how they want their grave to be marked. John Coplans said he wanted his ashed reduced to powder and packed "somewhat like drug dealers do with grams of coke," and Mike Kelley said he wanted his ashes either distributed in Bryce Canyon to the blaring of the MC5 or his body left somewhere "so the state is stuck with the cost of dealing with it." Most memorable was New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, who said she wanted her body compacted into the shape and volume of a bouillion cube (if you have trouble with the how-to part, check with the military, she suggests) then buried in the ground beneath a small tombstone marked with a Minnesota-appropriate epitaph, "Don't mind me." Rirkrit's reply is less overt, suggesting perhaps a spectacular death or a quiet fading away: "I hope there is nothing left behind."

[Cross-post from the Walker Art Center's Off-Center blog.]

1 comment:

The Center for Improved Living said...

ha! I just came across this being a new fan of don celender. Before I knew of his death questions, I asked a similiar question through a new project I am working on - http://thecenterforimprovedliving.blogspot.com/2007/05/action-017.html