Souvenir Catalog by Rudy Lemcke

After the Picturing AIDS show, I was invited by 2 artists who live in the East Bay to do a retrospective of my work in an alternative space that they were creating in their home.

They invited 3 Bay Area artists (who have been around for a long time) to do the first set of shows—retrospectives. The project was their way of creating a critique of institutional practice—commenting on how local artists are represented (or not represented) by major art institutions in the Bay Area—and posed the question: what art is exhibited—becomes a part of public collections—and thus, public memory, and what art is left out. What gets remembered? Who gets remembered?

Shed in Oakland

The only restriction was that the exhibition would take place in a 10 x 12’ shed in their backyard. They did plan to fix up the space before the exhibition. And I actually loved the idea.

So I spent the summer of ’08 thinking and organizing a mini-retrospective of my work for this site.

Souvenir project image

I decided to organize the work around a set of objects that carried certain feeling-tones, objects with associations of times and places of my art making—Souvenirs. They would be contained in an old valise that I have carried around since my philosophy school days. This collection would be connected to an image archive that would be available on the web.

I gave myself 10 objects, 10 web pages, and 120 images to work with. I had a lot more to work with, but this was the game that I set for the project.

Here are some images of my studio and the prep work for the Souvenir show.

Rudy Lemcke Studio






Working on Souvenir project

Unfortunately, the exhibition didn’t happen. It’s a long and complicated story and I don’t regret working on the project because it made me look back at the work in a different light—to think about organizing my history in a different way.

Although the exhibition was conceived for a physical location, the part of the work that people will see is the web component that still exists. Even though my work uses technology and the digital world of circulation and distribution as a critical element, I believe that art is ultimately corporeal (of the body) and always grounded in the physical, the personal and the local.

Souvenir Images by Rudy Lemcke

I’m not going to take you through the entire online archive. You can check this out on my website if you’d like; but I’m going to show the main pages and take you through a thread of thoughts.

Souvenir annotations

Each of the image cells has embedded footnotes. So you can look at the work more closely if you’d like.

drawing on bar coaster

As I said, each page is a cluster of work created loosely around a certain feeling or memory–it is generally chronological but not exclusively.

This is an image of a drawing that I made in Belgium on a bar coaster in 1975. I was working out some ideas about language philosophy and about whether all reality could be reduced to a simple equation governed by a set of definable rules. This is a dilemma that the philosopher Wittgenstein works through in his writing and work and that I was very interested in at the time.

Another drawing from this series. 1975 or 76. A little bit more evolved.

man at bar drawing

This was a proposal for an installation at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans based on this idea. 1977

Preliminary Drawing for installation at CAC N.O. late 70s

This is a picture of the final piece. In the Silent Space of Memory. 1977

Silent Space of Memory by Rudy Lemcke 1978

In this next section I was working out this idea of creating installations based on performance notations and conceptual music notations in the late 70s and early to mid 80s

Are You Sleeping sculpture

I showed you some of these pieces earlier on.

Image from Souvenir


Page 3

Souvenir 3 Snowflake
Then AIDS came along in the mid 80s and caused a tear in my life and the queer community that we are still dealing with. This section and the next section deal with my work around AIDS.

Images from Souvenir


Page 4

Chalk image from Souvenir

The Chalk souvenir represents writing, recording, lessons being taught, immediacy and at the same time erasure, forgetfulness and the traces of memory.

Images from Souvenir


Page 5

Puppet image from Souvenir project by


In the mid nineties I went back to school at the San Francisco State University Multi-media center and got a degree in Internet technology. The first interactive piece that I made was called The Uninvited and used puppets like this one that I made from twigs and leaves from Golden Gate Park as the figures in an interactive narrative about “abjection” — that which is thrown out, unwanted, left behind.

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The original piece was a shadow play done in Flash. It was interactive and the puppets served as buttons that were linked to different parts of the story. I later converted it to play as a linear digital video piece so that I could show it in a film festival.

This page shows a cluster of digital videos done in early 2001

Images from Souvenir Project by Rudy Lemcke

This piece is another piece from that period called, Caress (After Roland Barthes)

As you will see it’s made up of fragments of text that requires the reader to assemble its meaning.

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Page 6
Present image from Souvenir project
I continued to work in video and put together 2 collections of videos that I screened during 2003 and 2004. One show was called The Forgetfulness of Being. This souvenir is an image from one of the videos.

Page 6. These are more screen shots from videos.

Images from Souvenir project

This souvenir is a shot some rocks I collected in Utah while making a video called Road to the Spiral Jetty, shot on a trip to visit Robert Smithson’s famous earthwork. In the video you never see the Spiral Jetty, only the road.

Rocks from the Spiral Jetty

Page 7 More video work.

Images from Souvenir Project

Page 8

Superman image from Souvenir Project

In 2005, during the Katrina Disaster, I kept a video diary for one month. This was pre-YouTube and video was really just starting to become possible on the web for the first time in any satisfying way. I saw the potential for making a type of hybrid narrative using both text and video on the web. This was the precursor to my current work, The Search for Life in Distant Galaxies.

Page 8. These are some of the images from the September Video Blog.

Images from Souvenir project

I’m leaving out a lot of work and sort of quickly moving through these years but I want to try to show a path through all of this.

…a path that brings us to the future.

Page 9

Crystal Ball image from Souvenir Project

Page 9. These are scenes from the City of the Future

Images from Souvenir Project

Where do the Buffalo Roam? This final souvenir is an image of some Buffalo on a postcard I found in a thrift shop.

Images of buffalo from Souvenir Project

I ended Souvenir here where I started this process.

Images from Souvenir Project


Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |