1000 Journals at SFMOMA

November 20, 2008

Back in elementary school, our class did a memorable experiment where we released dozens of helium-filled balloons into the sky, intending to send them far and wide across the globe. We’d attached postcards to the balloons in hopes that they’d be found and returned from distant lands which we’d locate and mark on our classroom map. Although few (if any) postcards made it back, the project was unforgettable simply for the thrill of casting those balloons to the unknown, allowing our imaginations and expectations to soar with them.

1000 Journals Project creator Someguy surely felt that same thrill when launching a thousand blank books into the world a few years back. But he did the balloons one better. By providing thoroughly democratic, participatory forums that travel hand-to-hand, Someguy brought scores of international collaborators into play. Twice better: he offers a website for participants to scan and upload their contributions to, allowing all to track and view books in circulation — whether or not the actual books ever make it back into Someguy’s hands.

Journals 988 and 805 on display.

Journals 988 and 805 on display.

Fortunately, a number of books did make it back to him, some of which are now on view at the 1000 Journals Project exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Living up to the project’s tag line “This is an experiment and you are part of it,” the books are displayed for handling and still have blank pages for visitors to add to; pens and pencils are provided. Scans of over 800 contributions are showcased on the gallery walls along with contributors’ quotes and anecdotes about their journal experiences. Among my favorites:

From Journal 323: 

I left the journal on top of a Croatian mountain (Tuhobic) on July 30. I hope that someone who cares will find it…

Update: I visited Tuhobic exactly one year later. The journal was still there. Mountaineers were using it as a sign-in book. So I took it with me and now it is somewhere in Zagreb.

— Zagreb, Croatia

'Scottsdale, AZ / 2004 / 120 degrees' by anonymous contributor to Journal 988.

'Scottsdale, AZ / 2004 / 120 degrees' by anonymous contributor to Journal 988.

Another nice aspect of the 1000 Journals Project are the books’ covers. While the insides are issued blank, the covers are anything but. Someguy embellished each set of 10 journals with unique front and back designs created by himself and various invited artists, effectively announcing the journals’ creative purpose. My design appears on copy numbers 901-910 as seen on this site’s Projects/Exhibitions category as well as on the 1000 Journals site which showcases the complete array of cover contributions.

'Everlasting Madness by Greg, age 15' from Journal 550.

'Everlasting Madness by Greg, age 15' from Journal 550.

If you’re as intrigued by this project as I am, you’ll also want to pick up the 1000 Journals compilations book and check out the documentary film screenings at SFMOMA and elsewhere. The exhibition runs alongside SFMOMA’s The Art of Participation show on the second floor through April 5, 2009. 

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