As part of our ongoing partnership with KQED.org, today we bring you a reflection on Moment to Moment, a collaboration between San Francisco’s THE THING Quarterly and Levi’s. Author Roula Seikaly explores the art historical precedent for the project and questions the relationship between artistic endeavors and corporate sponsorship. She notes, “the THING/Levi’s Made & Crafted union is troublesome, if only because the partnership defies the critique posited by [artists] whose work interrogated pervasive consumer culture.” The article was originally published on September 17, 2013.
If you’ve boarded a train at the Castro Muni station since mid-July or spent time near the intersection of Market and Sixteenth Streets, you may have noticed the large text panels and billboard installations currently on view and wondered what you were looking at. Well, wonder no more. San Francisco–based artists Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan have temporarily intervened in our daily comings and goings with Moment to Moment, the latest installment in the ongoing project THE THING Quarterly, on view first in San Francisco and later in New York City, London, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. (Though the San Francisco exhibition was scheduled to be up from July 22 to August 18, as of this writing it was still on view in the Castro Muni station, though how long it will remain is anyone’s guess. Companies that own public ad space will often wait until the next campaign is ready before swapping out the old one.)
What is THE THING Quarterly? Broadly described, it is a publication…with a twist. Each iteration of THE THING is conceived of and executed by different collaborators. Since its inception in 2009, an impressive roster of artists and writers have contributed, including Miranda July, Allora & Calzadilla, Dave Eggers, Tauba Auerbach, and the annoyingly ubiquitous James Franco. Each project produces a useful object, such as Eggers’s readable shower curtain, July’s forlornly notated window shade, and a switchblade Franco commissioned to honor the memory of friend and fellow actor Brad Renfro. Through subscriptions and sales of these unique items, Herschend and Rogan have established both a sustainable business model for small arts institutions and thrown a wrench into our thinking about the form and lifespan of a publication. For Moment to Moment, Herschend and Rogan drew from the work of conceptual artist Dan Graham. Graham was inspired by the musings of the nineteenth-century French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, who considered the book as a performative, collective experience. Between 1966 and 1968, Graham co-opted commercial advertising space in publications as wildly different as Harper’s Bazaar and The New York Review of Sex. In each instance, he drew attention to text-based work and proposed that publications, conservative or radical, were ideal locations for intervention.