Friday, December 19, 2008

Thinking of Tibor

Some New Yorkers remember Andy Kaufman’s famous after-concert party when he invited the entire Carnegie Hall audience for milk and cookies. Well, I have not been there. But I do remember Tibor Kalman’ s equally remarkable supermarket party, ten years ago, when his long-awaited book arrived from the publisher. (Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist, Booth-Clibborn, 1998)

The invite featured milk bottles in a refrigerated deli case - you could expect anything from Tibor. Arriving at the given address, I did not expect, however, to find a local Gristede’s as a party locale. Everything in the supermarket was left untouched; they only turned off the overhead lights. The place was eerily illuminated by concealed shelf lighting in the aisles. (Every supermarket has this kind of lighting – yet I have never noticed it before.) A jazz band was playing somewhere; people sipped champagne, looking at the shelves with attention worthy of a museum show.

Towards the end, Laurene and I looked for Tibor, to offer our thanks and congratulations. “Did you get a souvenir?” he asked. I did not understand. Already in wheelchair, he turned around and picked a random can from the shelf. “June peas, they are the best”, he said with satisfaction, and signed the can.

I still have this can, ten years later. Here it is.
Blogger felix sockwell said...

great.. up until he had the nerve to sign a fucking can. what kind of arrogant pricks sign cans and gives them to friends? -felix

December 19, 2008 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is why I love Tibor. I'm in the middle of reading the book again for the third time right now, actually.

December 19, 2008 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger wynn dan said...

Felix - I think you are the arrogant prick. Tibor, rest in peace.

December 22, 2008 at 12:21 AM  
Blogger Nonnu said...

I think the signing of the can is Brillant... a sort of "who cares? why don't you party?"

December 23, 2008 at 5:43 AM  
Blogger RWordplay said...

It' odd to think that this was ten years ago and that Tibor is now among the pantheon of the departed greats including Charles and Ray Eames and even, if you think about it, Henry Dreyfuss, and Raymond Loewy. I think it's a lovely memory and one that showed that Tibor understood the meaning and value of spectacle. The signing of the can, inspired by Marcel and Duchamp and, of course, Picasso, who famously drew an outline on the dust on a friend's car and signed it. But it also reminds me of of something Walter Benjamin wrote three decades before Warhol, The context was the danger, to Benjamin's mind, of photography that had neither a a political nor a scientific application: “In it is unmasked the posture of a photography that can endow any soup can with cosmic significance but cannot grasp a single one of the human connections in which it exists…”

December 27, 2008 at 6:33 PM  

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