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According to Abbie Hoffman, along with the numerous rejections he received from US publishing houses after sending out his original manuscript was a comment from an editor who wrote that he wouldn’t even let his own child read it!- such was the shock with it was initially received; his now famous Steal this book, latterly published in 1971, is a hippy survival manual which gives practical advice ranging from free food and housing through guerrilla broadcasting, demonstrations and the law, via ‘joint’ rolling techniques (probably a dated term now?), how to shop-lift and virtually everything else to destroy the capitalist system and bring forth a free society. It became so popular in the 70s that Hoffman was quoted as saying "It's embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the Best Seller's List."
Abbie Hoffman is one of names that appears many times in this collection of Gavin Wade’s writings, ‘upcycle this book: 26 texts by Gavin Wade & friends’; others include R. Buckminster Fuller and El Lissitzky. Wade’s title is of course a direct reference to Hoffman’s and he shares many of those Hippie ideals, albeit his are slightly milder, and very much focused on the art world within which he works. Wade is an artist/curator and Director of Eastside Projects in Birmingham, the gallery and project space he established in 2008. Like Bucky Fuller and El Lissitzky, Gavin Wade is something of what is commonly termed a polymath, and with Abbie Hoffman, all four can be included in the ‘group’ agents of change.
upcycle this book collects texts from the mid-2000s and most elaborate on Wade’s conceptual structure for Eastside Projects. One of his founding principles was to up-end the now accepted gallery format, the ‘white-cube’, not the Jay Jopling owned London and Hong Kong gallery, rather the now traditionally held notion of the ‘impassive’ white gallery space, a ‘neutral’ volume within which art is displayed. Drawing on El Lissitzky’s Abstract Cabinet (1926-28) Eastside Projects has taken a much more inclusive approach to what is the ‘output’ of a ‘gallery’. Eastside Projects’ exhibitions involve the collaboration of all the staff, and Wade sees the functioning of the ‘art’ as very much a part of Eastside Projects, and more, that the way Eastside functions informs the art, and that this output in turn informs, the immediate environment.
upcycle is comprised of interviews with Gavin Wade, notably by Paul O’Neill, but also with James Langdon and Abake, it also includes some witty Q&As with those who have inspired him, conjured up in Wade’s imagination, and these fictions appear dotted throughout the texts. There are poetic demands to the government and Birmingham City Council asking for more investment along with a vision as to how art and culture can improve society and numerous haiku-like texts and rengas – termed 'Twenga' after appearing across twitter. The book is lovingly illustrated, though I know this is the ‘wrong’ term, with Wade’s drawings, ‘A – Z-Type Display Units’ a kind of multifunctioning drawing of display/structure/letters reminiscent of stages platforms, or even, gallows.