I wish I was Ray Johnson but I can’t be because he’s dead

Book Launch and Discussion
November 14, 2020
5-6:30pm EST

To celebrate the publication of I wish I was Ray Johnson but I can’t be because he’s dead, artist Emily P. Dunne will be joined by archivist Diana Bowers-Smith, and artist Aaron Krach to discuss the history of mail art, the work of Ray Johnson, and Dunne’s posthumous relationship with the artist that inspired the content of the publication.

Live on Zoom and Youtube. Please email rsvp@printedmatter.org.

In 2018, six years into Dunne’s mail art practice, she began receiving mysterious envelopes delivered to her apartment, addressed to Ray Johnson. The first of these letters was a brochure from a company selling burial insurance: the letters continued in a similarly morbid vein. Given the mysterious circumstances of Johnson’s own suicide, these hauntings were especially poignant. After amassing dozens of these mailers, they suddenly and mysteriously stopped arriving. In an attempt to contact Ray Johnson again, Dunne began attempting light mail fraud. She assiduously filled out hundreds of (expired) business reply mail cards with her apartment address and the name Ray Johnson in an attempt to assume his name again (at least in the eyes of the USPS).

I wish I was Ray Johnson but I can’t be because he’s dead is a semi-autobiographical mail art book by Emily Peterson Dunne. The book consists of collages created collaboratively in the mail between Dunne and participating artists, which include friends, artists and creators Dunne admires (Including punk musician Richard Hell).

Emily P. Dunne is an artist, archivist, and librarian based in Queens, New York. She works with found materials and has a particular interest in their individual histories. Dunne returns life to lost items and found photographs by creating collages or objects that embrace their mysterious pasts. She creates collaborative collages through the mail, with pieces continually evolving, creating an ephemeral and potentially ever-changing artwork. Her work is grounded in a collaborative ethos and an interrogation of the solidity of both authorship and ownership. Dunne has been working with collage and mail art since 2012, when she established a group titled “The Queens CorrespondAnce School.” Deliberately misspelled, the group apes the New York Correspondence school of Ray Johnson.

Diana Bowers-Smith is an archivist and art historian. She was previously the archivist for the Ray Johnson Estate and remains a devoted fan of Johnson’s work. Currently, she is an archivist at the newly formed Center for Brooklyn History at Brooklyn Public Library, which combines the Brooklyn Historical Society with the library’s Brooklyn Collection.

Aaron Krach was born in Michigan, grew up in Los Angeles, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY. He works with words and pictures, people, text, rocks, vodka, printmaking, porn, and plants to create installations and experiences, sculptures and books. Aaron has made paintings with a frog, collected stones with soldiers in Afghanistan, and made sculptures with flea market shoppers in Tblisi, Georgia.

  1. Aaron Krach
    Almost Everything (Dark Pools) [Deluxe]
    New York, NY: A. Krach
  2. Emily Dunne
    I wish I was Ray Johnson but I can’t be because he’s dead
    New York, NY: Emily P. Dunne, 2020
  3. Ray Johnson and Soren Agenoux
    The Sinking Bear, A Newsletter
    New York, NY: Boo-Hooray and Division Leap, 2013
  4. Diane Di Prima and Ray Johnson
    Floating Bear
    New York, NY: Floating Bear, 1969
    Out of stock
  5. Margaret Rizzio
    From Here to There
    Camden, ME: M. Rizzio
  6. Misaki Kawai
    Steamy Buns
    Taipei, Taiwan: nos:books, 2020
    Out of stock
  7. Aaron Krach and Invisible-Exports
    Greenwich Village Book Desecration League, Vol. 1
    New York, NY: Invisible-Exports and A. Krach, 2015
    Out of stock
  8. Laura Zurowski
    Mis.Steps: Our Missed Connections with Pittsburgh’s City Steps
    Pittsburgh, PA: L. Zurowski, 2020
  9. Maxim Cormier and Fan Xuechen
    n-site [1]
    Beijing, China: da大 in print, 2020
    Out of stock
  10. David Stairs
    Portland, Oregon: English Language Press, 2008 & 1992
    size unknown
    Out of stock
  11. Christopher Kardambikis
    Oyster Boat
    Florida: Small Craft Advisory Press, 2019
  12. Elizabeth Duffy
    Enclosure Exposure
    New York, NY: E. Duffy & Purgatory Pie Press, 2008
  13. Darin Klein
    Box of Books, Vol. X (special edition), 2017
    Los Angeles/New York, CA/NY: Bullhorn Press and Printed Matter Inc., 2017
  14. Martin La Roche Contreras
    KCH (Kings County Hospital)
    Brooklyn, New York: Good Neighbour, 2018
  15. Helen Douglas
    In Mexico
    Yarrow, Scotland: Weproductions, 2014
  16. Hsian Jung Chen
    Food Pose
    Taipei, Taiwan: nos:books, 2016
  17. Cecilia Mandrile and Lina Meruane
    Latitude [Spanish]
    Bristol, UK: Centre for Fine Print Research and Impact Press, 2017
  18. Haejin Park
    Chicago, IL: Perfectly Acceptable Press, 2018
  19. Faye Coral Johnson and Mike Redmond
    Bubbling Pitch
    Paris, France: Editions FP&CF, 2020
    Out of stock
  20. Lu Shan
    Chang Sha, China: 3books, 2020
    Out of stock
  21. Helen Douglas and Telfer Stokes
    Yarrow, Scotland: Weproductions, 1977
    edition size unknown
    Out of stock
  22. Takako Masuki
    Asian Lunchbox
    Osaka, Japan: ASIAN_FOOD_DESIGN, 2019
    Out of stock
  23. William Wilson, Ray Johnson, Ray Johnson and Bill Wilson and Elizabeth Zuba, editor
    Ray Johnson and William S. Wilson: Frog Pond Splash
    Siglio Press, 2020
  24. Tammy Nguyen, Aerica Shimizu Banks, Joseph Siry and Tess Elliot
    Martha’s Quarterly
    NY, New York: Passenger Pigeon Press, 2020
  25. William Wilson, Ray Johnson, Ray Johnson and Bill Wilson and Elizabeth Zuba, editor
    Ray Johnson and William S. Wilson: Frog Pond Splash
    Siglio Press, 2020