Century Schoolbook

Andrew Finlay Stewart

2011, 67:44 minutes, B&W, English

TAPECODE 1061.01

Century Schoolbook is a video work which presents the first names of all 12183 graduates of OCAD listed in the OCAD Alumni Directory 2001. This information is presented over the course of a 67 minute end-credit-like sequence. It raises questions about the use of the first name as both a very superficial representation of who we are for the purposes of communication, and as something very personal and deeply protected.

The OCAD Alumni Directory itself ceased to be published after 2006, likely because of the rising popularity of online social networks and the growing fear of identity theft. I was told by the school's archivist that if they were to give me more names of graduates and I wished to include their full names, I would have to collect a letter of release from each and every one, including replies from the estates of those no longer alive. But is a name such a dangerous thing to be public? Our name is usually chosen for us, often before we are born, and yet it becomes our most direct representation of ourselves to the world. Names are shared as a form of introduction, and used in innumerable consciously public ways. But a name is still very personal, and apparently the sole property of the person who wears it.

Each of these names is scrolled at such a speed that each is visible on screen for ten seconds, slow enough to read all of the names. By presenting only the first names of all of the graduates, it causes the viewer to question whether these are people they might know, or know of. Michael Snow, or Michael Martchenko might be artists known by any given viewer, but as they are listed as Michael and Michael, they are indistinguishable from any of the other 166 Michaels (1.36% of all graduates) on the list. Others like Rirkrit Tiravanija have first names unique to the time period and place covered by this data, so may be identified as specific individuals.

Note: This piece should always be shown as a looping installation. Ideally it should be shown on a monitor, but it may also be a projection. It music always be looping, however, and so would not work as a one-time screening.

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