Monday, July 18, 2005

Gonna Be Somebody

Here's an art project that I've wanted to put together for a few months now. For the moment, I'm calling it Gonna Be Somebody, but I really don't quite know why I'd call it anything.

Business cards serve a practical purpose, acting as a physical reminder that no Microsoft Outlook contact file will ever duplicate. However, in this little piece, I wanted to explore another aspect of business cards.

For many people (myself included), the act of obtaining or constructing a business card legitimizes and authorizes one's activity. In the eyes on many, business cards make us somebody in much the same way that being in the phonebook made Steve Martin somebody in The Jerk.

Though the fetish (healthy or not) of business cards extends far beyond the shores of the US, I think that a part of the biz card cult in America is based on our childhood fascination with baseball cards. Whether they were commons or All-Stars, the players on the TV or the radio were made more real to me because I had captured them in paperboard. I was always unnerved when a player was traded midseason — suddenly, his card was inaccurate (an error only to be corrected by the Traded set that would come out at the end of the season).

Those players became somebodies by becoming baseball cards. We become somebodies by becoming business cards.

Each of the business cards in the piece tells a story for me:

  • My brother-in-law from his internet bubble job. Someday, he'll be a part of making the New Best Thing. This zany company has become part of his foundation in a great way.

  • The Governor of Hawaii — half-business card, half monument

  • A couple's card — as if their union didn't exist without being distributed on paper.

  • A handful of homemade business cards. The shame of a monochromatic business card is eclipsed by the shame of not having a business card at all.

  • Several Vice Presidents of Marketing from ill-fated businesses or dying industries. These people had to polish the turd.

  • Business cards from people who, in the same conversation in which they handed me their card, told me that they were quitting their jobs

  • An oversized business card from a person who was striking out on his own after being laid off from a Silicon Valley company.

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