What experiment?

Kent, Ohio
Rubber stamped manila envelope, paper scrap, pencil, and tape.

Cognitive Art. This is one example of a type of multiple I created and distributed--mostly by hand, sometimes by mail--starting in Kent, Ohio, around 1980. I often called these objects "handouts" or "games." I used small little "coin envelopes" to distribute laminated pins and then began using them to package up other "games" and objects--including The New Wave Psychology Newsletter. The title of the piece was rubber-stamped on the front of the envelope, the date was often rubber stamped on the back, and either a "Soft Tech" sticker or piece of tape was used to fasten the envelope flap.

3.5 x 2.25-inch envelope with rubber stamped title

contents of envelope

strip of paper from someone's psychology research at Kent State, rubber stamped "FOUND ART," and a pencil

back of envelope
rubber-stamped date and black tape

Performance Scenario: I walk up to someone (mostly friends and acquaintances) and hand him or her this envelope (or I produce the envelope in the course of a normal conversation). He or she takes the envelope, opens it, unfolds the paper strip and reads "I hearby give my permission to be audio taped during the course of this experiment." There are various ways that the recipient can interpret this situation The recipient of this envelope, for example, may now consider that I am actually conducting or about to conduct some sort of formal official psychology experiment on him or her (I was, in fact, a graduate student in the Psychology Department through which many such experiments were routinely conducted) and I am soliciting his or her signature and permission to audio tape our interaction. This would likely raise several or more questions: "What experiment?" "Has the experiment already started?" Another possible interpretation of the situation for someone who knows me and has experienced one of these handouts before, would be that this is another one of my "games," that there is no experiment, and that this handout and the question, "What experiment?" are basically non-sequiturs challenging him or her for a creative response.

The recipient got to keep the envelope and contents (sometimes this had to be explained) and was now faced with another decision: "What do I do with this? Show it to someone else? Throw it away? Keep it (temporarily? permanently?)? If I keep it, where do I keep it...and with what other objects of mine does it belong (e.g., in the dresser drawer with my cufflinks and necktie clasps? On on the living room table with some of the other toys and conversation pieces I keep there?)?"

© 2005 Allen Bukoff