A few years ago, my friend Carrie S. and I were discussing a collaborative project. As our project developed, the discussion turned to how we might sign the piece—with our names or an official sounding name? It turned out we were both intrigued by those artists who use a name other than their own.
We contemplated what that might mean and came to the conclusion that a name that sounds like you are part of an entity gives you immediate credibility and marketability but most of all it can create an aura of intrigue. Heightening the viewer’s curiosity is always a good thing. One local example that we like is Office Supplies Incorporated (current).
So, entity names conjure credibility, intrigue, and disguise but can also create an image larger than life. Imagine mail artist Ray Johnson, the one man behind The New York School of Correspondance (1950s-1995). Johnson operated the so called ‘school’ out of his home, probably in pyjamas half of the time, perhaps other times drinking scotch…who knows. But the question that surfaces for me is whether Johnson received recognition for his mail art activities in part because they were conducted under an entity name? The Whitney Museum of American Art later organized an exhibition showcasing Johnson’s correspondence and using his entity name as the title.
Entity names also function as containers for ideas. Yet another example is The N.E. Thing Co. (1966-78). This registered corporation was made up of husband and wife team Iain and Ingrid Baxter and it was “a vehicle through which to investigate artistic, domestic, and corporate systems in relation to everyday life.”
I am intrigued by the assumptions that we make when we hear an official name as it relates to artistic activities, and the misconceptions we conjure, and how this affects our attitudes or behaviour. For this reason, I created the moniker The Prohibitive Genus Collective to conduct and present a number of my projects. I came up with the name through a brainstorming session and liked the possibility of puzzlement and intrigue that this name could create.
The projects contained under The Prohibitive Genus Collective, are concerned with social issues and all have a public component to them: installed in public spaces or performed in public spaces.
Lastly, Genus is not a mispelling. Genus is a term used in biology and is defined in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as:
“a principal taxonomic category that ranks above species and below family, and is denoted by a capitalized Latin name, e.g., Leo.
• (in philosophical and general use) a class of things that have common characteristics and that can be divided into subordinate kinds.”
Founder & current member