Arthur Rimbaud in Liberty City is a multimedia homage and appropriation of David Wojnarowicz’ Arthur Rimbaud in New York. The project comprises a set of 35 mm slides, framed photographs, and a printed catalog published by Concrete Press featuring forty-eight digital images.
Arthur Rimbaud in Liberty City is a replay and not a mere re-enactment of Wojnarowicz’ project. The word re-enactment is inextricably connected to a normalized, prescriptive view of art history in which it denotes a lower quality copy of a lost “original”. “Replay” alludes instead to the aesthetics of visual media. According to the Oxford Dictionary, replay means “playing again of a section of a recording, especially so as to be able to watch an incident more closely”. Re-enactments are often motivated by nostalgia. A replay, on the contrary, does not communicate a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, a period or place. If anything, a replay is an attempt to retrieve, and simultaneously rewrite, the past. Svetlana Boym (2001) distinguishes between two forms of nostalgia: the “restorative” desire to perfectly recreate past experience and the “reflective” consideration of something which has since passed. If a re-enactment has restorative ambitions, a replay has reflective goals. To replay an art performance is to animate an archive, that is, is to recontextualize and rearrange a set of documents (records). To replay is to present an occurrence that closely follows the pattern or trajectory of a previous event or situation without striving for its complete reproduction. A replay is a repeat with variation. Not just a “playback”, but a “playforward”. In other words, a replay does not only deal with the past but also with imagined futures, unrealized situations, and possible worlds. Above all, a replay makes no claim to authenticity: it fully embraces unoriginality and uncreativity. Finally, the practice of replay is not limited to the performance itself, but to its documentation as well. This book is no exception.
In 2004, critic and curator Andrew Roth edited David Wojnarowicz, RIMBAUD IN NEW YORK. The book was published by PPP Editions in an edition of one thousand. Roth completed the project originally started by Wojnarowicz himself. In 1990, the painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, and activist “selected twenty-five negatives and produced a portfolio of 8 x 10 inch prints in a proposed edition of three. He only realized one complete set; the individual prints were sold separately and traded infrequently in the market.” While working on the project, Roth discovered additional material, including several negatives in his archive at the Fales Library at New York University, which were developed and subsequently printed. The updated portfolio featured forty-four black and white photographs as opposed to the original twenty-five selected by Wojnarowicz. Roth’s publication featured the front of Rimbaud's mask on the cover and the inside part of the mask on the back cover, with no text on either side.
COLL.EO has replicated the design of the front jacket, developed from a screenshot of the modded Grand Theft Auto IV. However, this catalog features a different pagination style. The photographs in David Wojnarowicz, RIMBAUD IN NEW YORK are presented in a portrait-oriented format: the vertical images are shown as full bleeds on one side of a double-spread page and the horizontals spanning the gutter and bleeding off either the left or right side, leaving a bold white margin. In COLL.EO's version, the photographs are presented in landscape format. Moreover, the book size is 7 x 7 inch, similarly to the previous catalog for Grand Theft Vito (2014).
Published in an edition of 99, its release coincided with the online exhibition COLL.EO, Arthur Rimbaud in Liberty City, which took place at Concrete Gallery in March 2015, a digital space where art can be experienced and remembered - or ignored and forgotten - all day, all night.