The printed version of Frag…ment (On Authorship) was accompanied by a postcard with an image by Erica Baum from the series Frick (1998).
Who is the author? Where does a story start? Can an image become a co-author? Does it matter? For the series Frick Erica Baum became a detective poet in the photo archive of Western Art within the Art Reference Library at the Frick Museum in New York. Her photos show details of the backs of catalogue pages where librarians scribbled and typed cross-referencing notes about the content of the prints. Picture a two-sided card catalogue that corresponds to the black and white photograph of a painting. One side we never see—the regular catalogue entry. The side we do see has lists of subjects comprising the contents of relating to the subject of the painting, so that the librarians can put the cards into multiple categories for the art historians—who may need to find something under flowers, for example. Baum’s image becomes a text, which when read in sequence grows from one-worded notes into an image-triggering poem. Yes, these poems are found. Yes, they are not written by the artist. But the artist becomes the author through the framing of the notes, composing them in an image gravitating towards a meaning and towards a second (inner) image. As a viewer, the words—once bound to an image by an art historian looking at the printed painting—are bound back to an image: rendered more abstract as the actual source-serving image is not made visible. The scientific observations were not meant to be a poem, but reveal a poetic side through Baum’s lens.
Copyright image © Erica Baum.