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Why is Art Like an Alligator?

An interrogation by Burning Books

Towards the end of 2020 Matthew and Jerry of Axle Contemporary became fascinated with Google Forms and JotForm, and other online form and survey software. They were using a form to collect photo release permissions, but soon realized that the possibilities were much more expansive that that. Had they discovered an emerging online new-media artform that nobody else had noticed? They put together a “survey” that began as an earnest ten-year evaluation of the organization, but soon degraded into the ridiculous. They sent out the link and many people responded. It was beautiful, silly, meaningful, and joyous.


Now for Axle Contemporary’s contribution to CURRENTS 2021, we have a new online-new-media “survey,” sprung forth from the minds of Burning Books (Michael Sumner and Melody Sumner Carnahan). We are honored and proud to present this collaboration from the artists who pioneered the survey as artform with their 1979 book The Form: 1970-1979,. During 1978 and 1979 Melody Sumner Carnahan sent out over 100 copies of the blank form with a brief note to friends, family, and artists she admired. Nearly everyone responded without knowing what, if anything, would be done with the completed forms. The result was this unique book containing 100 of the filled-out forms. Learn more about The Form: 1970-1979 here: .


WHY IS ART LIKE AN ALLIGATOR? An Interrogation by Burning Books is live from June 18 through June 27. Survey results will be released later in the year.


BURNING BOOKS is an artist-run organization dedicated to the production and publication of literature, music, and art. Founded by writer/editor Melody Sumner Carnahan and artist/designer Michael Sumner in Oakland, California, in 1979, the Burning Books imprint has produced 33 books, often with collaborators including John Cage, Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, Robert Ashley, Steina, Woody Vasulka, Madeline Gins, Theater Grottesco. In 1989 Burning Books moved to New Mexico where the founders continue to produce in obsolete delivery systems: books, posters, pamphlets, postcards, and discs. Burning Books has participated in several Axle Contemporary exhibitions over the years, including Priority Mail, Art’s Birthday, and Economologies.


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