In late January, 2018, I traveled to Kent State University to visit a research project by Lindsey James, a graduate student pursuing an MILS (Masters in Information and Library Science) who has since graduated. Her MILS thesis examined the life of artist’s books as small-scale, DIY culture in the context of consumerism, digital culture, and global capitalism. When she came across my artist’s book DIY, or How to Kill Yourself Anywhere in the World for Under $399, she not only saw it as a signal example of her topic but also wondered if the designed obsolescence of IKEA products had rendered the implied performance of the book moot. Not long after, she got in touch with me about whether she might try to reenact it as part of her master’s thesis. I was delighted.
When Kent State unfortunately turned down Lindsey’s thesis funding request, I offered to fund her research myself, with the understanding that she would share whatever information she gathered as well as be able to use it however she wanted. The sculptural installation, however, would be hers for life.
It was not lost on Lindsey that she was constructing a burial object at Kent State University, the site of Robert Smithson’s “Partially Buried Woodshed” (1969). Nor was it lost on her that she was making a coffin on the same campus where four people were killed protesting the Vietnam War, four deaths and a war that were both integrally linked to the life blood of multinational corporations like IKEA, whose then nascent business models required access to cheap Southeast Asian labor. Nor was it lost on Lindsey that Ingvar Kamrad, IKEA’s founder and a former Nazi, died the week that her completed DIY project was on view.
Sometimes serendipity is everything.
DIY, Or How To Kill Yourself Anywhere in the World for Under $399 (UPDATED), 2018
IKEA products, vinyl lettering, fresh flowers
produced in cooperation with the Kent State University School of Art
DIY, Or How To Kill Yourself Anywhere in the World for Under $399, 2002
offset ink on paper, 120 pages
published by Imschoot Uitgevers, Ghent