Thursday, November 3, 2016

Instant Coffe | Feeling So Much Yet Doing So Little

The Western Front has just released a new book on the Toronto/Vancouver collective Instant Coffee, which includes a text I wrote about the group almost a decade ago. The title, Feeling So Much Yet Doing So Little, can be downloaded as a free e-pub or PDF, here:

The section[s] of my text pertaining to multiples is below.

"A crudely collaged sign emphatically launched their endeavour, declaring “Sorry We’re Open”. Constructed from two store-bought Open and Closed signs, the piece looked like it was made with a kitchen knife and some scotch tape, but it somehow brilliantly managed to convey the quasi-sincerity of the collective and its intentions to behave as a business.

A used 1974 Holiday Cruiser trailer retrofitted with low-fi discotheque equipment became the headquarters. Economically designed as studio, presentation centre and party central, the mobile venue would hijack other art openings, simultaneously exploiting the built-in audience of a recognized institution and proposing an alternate way of working.


Almost as though the intention were to franchise them, other Urban Disco Trailers soon followed. When I worked at Art Metropole Jinhan Ko pitched them as a multiple. There were four of them now, and four is a multiple, he reasoned. The number eventually grew to five, though one of them has subsequently been crushed into a cube, but not before being loaded up with solicited items from other artists to serve as a time capsule of sorts.

Other multiples were created at the time, as though to fill the need of having product. Many of these early objects were simply items furnished with the Instant Coffee logo, similar to some of the 60’s Fluxus multiples such as Flux Corsage (boxed seeds), Flux snakes (boxed spaghetti) and Flux Holes (boxed straws). A drinking flask with the phrase Instant Coffee stenciled onto it managed to transcend the banality of the gesture and become something else altogether. Their swag came in the form of flags, posters, pylons, patches, stickers and magnets. These items represent an exercise in branding, to be sure, but also served as a way one could buy into the Instant Coffee lifestyle. Later projects such as the Suitcase Radios, Disco-Danglers and Cooler Speakers moved away from the straight-ahead marketing and further emphasized this way-of-life."

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