Sandy Walker: Project 1970
The first curated project for the Archive was conceived and executed by alumnus Sandy Walker in 1970. Working in a mode very much connected to an era that saw the development of conceptual and process art, Walker sent an open ended letter to a number of friends, asking them, in essence, to comment on their own era and thus complete the work of art. The parts of Walker's project form a clear mirror of a heady time in history. Today, the project has the duel function of work of art and time capsule.
Please read Walker's own thoughts on the project reprinted in the letter below. A selection of the project can be viewed on the left side. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.
May 21, 2007
I waited a few extra days to send this to you so that I might have a chance to add a cover letter for you with some explanation of the project, much of which I believe you already know.
I have enclosed here a somewhat random sample of the pages of the project. These color copies are reduced only enough to fit on the standard letter sized paper and so are a bit smaller than the original.
I conceived this project on April 29, 1970, during a period in our history that I won't reconstruct here except to sat that the Viet Nam War rang in my ears every day. I had personally graduated from Columbia with an MFA in 1968 amidst the well-known events there and then got a free pass out of the draft because of my age. The voice of Richard Nixon, the protests that I participated in with anger and guilt and hope, and my dreams of very real social change were constantly on my mind. With all that and more in the background I conceived of this project as a conceptual/process work of art, a work that was very much a part of the art of the time as I understood it- not really a piece that broke new grounds conceptually or visually as much as added to it.
What I conceived of was a three-part two dimensional display of three integrated parts: first the notes I made (mostly on unified size and paper), secondly the envelopes, and thirdly the responses, whose formats would again be mostly unified by their similarity of origination with my questionnaire. I thought this would be a visually interesting work, one of themes and variations with a grid as a structure that would lead directly to the content which would be communicated by a combination of my input (handwriting, ideas, physical quirks), the accidents that took place (postmarks, tears and smudges, etc.) and the individual responses (the collaborations of the people I mailed to).
I was living in San Francisco's Mission District with my then wife, Sally Bowie, when the project began. She is the Sal so prominently mentioned. She was a drug counselor at clinics in SF and at a time was also carrying mail for the USPS. We had been married for more than a year. During the project's first year I moved from San Francisco to Wyoming to Washington DC. Some of the people in the project were my friends and classmates in the MFA program at Columbia. I would particularly point to Tom Hall, who ws a close friend and an inspiration for the project. I mentioned rereading his MFA thesis on the first page.
As you know, I do not regard this as a finished project. The heart is here in these pages that I now have. It has an interesting form as of now and could be exhibited as I conceived at the present moment. It rests in a folder and has never been exhibited.
If you read through, you will see that I encountered unexpected issues while trying to respect my respondents. I conceived of a trip in the early 70's to se each person and to have them edit as they wished. I never did that.
I read this project aloud to a group in the early 1990's. I have discussed with a filmmaker friend his filming me reading it and then us going in search of those who participated to film them and their memory or lack of it of the project, and so forth.
I have shown the project to very few people. It has remained with me all these years.
I still think this project is fertile ground, an interesting living document of the particular time (a time hard to conceive of now without the help of art like this) as well as a beautiful object.
As you know I have other ideas for this project and am hoping you might join me in working on it, but more on that later…when and if the time is right.
Let me know what your reaction is and what you might need from me next.
Do you plan to come back this way soon?