Mailing DADA to Flint

It’s the end of January and this afternoon, for $17.27 from a Brooklyn shop, I sent the book off to Flint. Should be there Thursday. Next up, horseshoes and pumpkin seeds. 

Tags: dada flint mail

Flint Owl Letter

On December 18, 1871, W.L. Bancroft sent the president of the Flint Library Association a box containing a folio edition of “Birds of American” by naturalist and painter John James Audubon. This set of hand-coloured life-size prints is still in the collection of the Flint Public Library today. The wonderfully verbose letter of donation from Bancroft concludes with wishes for the library’s future to be “as harmonious the notes of the sweetest in his songster list of nature’s melodists.”
With the goal of writing a 
letter of donation to Kay Schwartz, current Director of the Flint Public Library, Bancroft’s note acts both as guiding dove and cumbersome albatross. How can on compete with “songster list of nature’s melodist?” I’ll be lucky to escape without typos.  

Here is the note I’m sending with the donation of the 2006  DADA exhibition catalogue.
Dear Kay Schwartz, 
Director of the Flint Public Library
My name is Michael Sarff and I am an artist living in Brooklyn, New York. In the early 90’s I attended school outside of Detroit. On the weekends during that time, I liked to clear my mind by driving around Pontiac and Flint.  For some reason, I found it calming.

At the beginning of this year, I started a project called Flint MI  x10. Over the next 12 months, I would like to produce and install 10 artworks remotely in the city of Flint. The works are built in collaboration with the people in the city. You can find out more on the project and look at the ongoing documentation at
I would  like to begin the Flint MI x10 project with this work.
"Give the Flint Public Library a signed hardcover copy of the National Gallery of Art’s 2006  DADA exhibition catalogue. “
It would be an honor if you would accept the donation of this book to the general lending practices of the Flint Public Library. As someone who had little access to artworks growing up, books and magazines gave me a first experience with and information on art. It is my hope that in the donation of this catalogue on DADA, an art movement that impacted the way I understand art and the world, the gift of information and access is passed on.
If the donation is accepted, it would be wonderful if someone at the library could contact me when the catalogue is available on the shelves. In some initial contact with members of the Flint arts community, I understand they would like to check the catalogue out when available and hold some public readings / performances with this text.
In W.L. Bancroft’s 1871 donation letter to the Flint Library Association of the folio edition of John James Audubon’s “Birds of American”, he closes with wishes for the library’s future to be “as harmonious the notes of the sweetest in his songster list of nature’s melodists.”  I would like to end by echoing this wish for the Library, the City and the people of Flint.
My Best Regaurds,

Michael Sarff of MTAA

So, this is the letter I will place in the box with the book next week and mail off to Flint. I hope to post some pictures of the box and of mailing it out. After that, I guess the work is in the hands of the city. 

On Dada and The Public Library of Flint

With the need for x10 to depart from somewhere, let’s start with #2
#2 Give the Flint Public Library a signed hardcover copy of National Gallery of Art’s 2006  DADA exhibition catalogue.

Let us start 161 years ago in America in what will become the city of Flint. On March 22, 1851 a group of women, concerned about the lack of cultural and educational opportunities in their community, met at the home of Maria Smith Stockton. As a result of the meeting, the group adopted a constitution written by Sophia Gotee Jenney that established the Ladies Library Association.


Let us now move the clock forward 65 years from that meeting in Flint and look over to Europe on the brink of WW1. In Switzerland we see the opening of the Cabaret Voltaire, the spiritual birthplace of the art movement DADA.

Cabaret Voltaire - Under this name a group of young artists and writers has been formed whose aim is to create a centre for artistic entertainment. The idea of the cabaret will be that guest artists will come and give musical performances and readings at the daily meetings. The young artists of Zurich, whatever their orientation, are invited to come along with suggestions and contributions of all kinds. -Zurich, February 2, 1916



Now, move forward in time again. Move 95 years later and West to America. In a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York in the Fall or 2011. I’m sitting at my laptop writing down 10 artworks that I would like to build in Flint. I want to start by sending a gift to Flint. This gift should be able to be held and brought home by anyone in the city. The gift can be a book. It should be  a ridiculously large book.

Move forward in time to now. Now for me is 5:51 pm on New Year’s Eve 2012. This will be the past for you. Looking up from laptop, I see my DADA exhibition catalogue.

Now backwards in time a few years and a few miles West to the Museum of Modern Art. I’m wondering around the DADA show. So much stuff. So much text. It’s hard for me to focus on anything but the fact I’m wandering around a museum. Works come in out of focus. I’m happy when I recognize an artwork without reading the text. I might be with my ex-girl friend. She loved to wander around museums with me. I can’t remember. I do remember covertly filming Duchamp’s optic disk. If I find the video buried on some old external hard drive, you will see it below. If not, it is also lost. 

Forward in time and back to a public Library in Flint. In a few weeks, someone will read an email explaining that a person in Brooklyn would like to donate a book about European art movement. Maybe the email says the book is part of an art project called Flint, MI x10. Maybe not. Some people get turned off by that stuff. They think it’s a con or something.

Not sure. Let’s stop for now and write that email in 2012.