1stfans Twitter Art Feed Artist for April 2009: Jonathan Lethem

When we announced Mary Temple for the 1stfans Twitter Art Feed in February, one of the things that Shelley mentioned was our collaboration with the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. If we can find a way to feature artists whose work has been or will be seen elsewhere in different forms, then we’re providing a way for more people to access this work. That’s part of the reason we are happy to collaborate with THE THING and Brooklyn-based writer Jonathan Lethem. THE THING is an object based quarterly publication that was created and is edited by two visual artists.   For each issue, a different writer, artist or filmmaker is invited conceive of an everyday object that somehow incorporates text.  This object is then reproduced and sent to the subscribers.  All issues are a kept secret until they arrive.


When Jonn and Will at THE THING mentioned that Jonathan Lethem was going to do Issue 7 in in May, we knew it would be great to try to get Jonathan to do the Twitter Art Feed for April as a way for fans of his work so see him in two different formats back-to-back, all in anticipation of his new novel, Chronic City, which comes out in the Fall. Jonn and Will said something striking that inadvertently convinced me that we should try to get him on the Twitter Art Feed: “We both felt like much of Jonathan’s work dealt with objects…or in some case the language felt like an object itself.” Since we’re using the Twitter Art Feed as a way for artists to explore ideas about language, artistic production, and other new concepts, Shelley and I saw no reason that a writer couldn’t be on the feed, and Eugenie Tsai, our John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, agreed.


Jonathan Lethem lives in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn is the setting for two of his novels: Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn.  Shelley caught up on his work recently during a layover in the Sydney airport.

After that, it was just a matter of seeing what Jonathan wanted to do on the feed. When we spoke on the phone, it became clear to me why he agreed to collaborate with us. Here’s Jonathan, in his own words:

“For the last few years (and in another sense, for my entire life), I’ve been concerned with fictions that among other things present human encounters with “impossible objects”, a description that encompasses instances as diverse as Henry James’ The Golden Bowl, Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama and Dr. Seuss’s On Beyond Zebra. I’ve finished a novel, to be published in October, called Chronic City, in which the object in question is called a “chaldron.” During the years of this book’s writing I found myself by chance repeatedly drawn into collaborations with a series of other artists or art-presenters (see: Jennifer Palladino, Matthew Ritchie, and THE THING) and in each case I used it to further the foolish postulate that “chaldrons” were a part of the world outside the novel, an error shared by my book’s characters. On the 1stfans Twitter Art Feed you’ll overhear tweets from a group of deluded aspirants to chaldron-ownership, as they debate strategies for winning a chaldron in an on-line auction.”

You can look for Jonathan’s tweets on the 1stfans Twitter Art Feed for the entire month of April, and then if you’re interested you can subscribe to THE THING at www.thethingquarterly.com to see Jonathan’s issue in late May.

The 1stfans Twitter Art Feed is no longer a benefit of 1stfans membership, but the original feed in its entirety has been archived on the Brooklyn Museum website.