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Meditation 7.21
Forum for Contemporary Art
St. Louis, Missouri, January 24-March 15, 1997

"Soon you will have forgotten the world and soon the world will have forgotten you."

To hand someone your business card is to say, "remember me." What more incongruous building block could one find to construct the above quotation from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius regarding the ultimate futility of human endeavor? Meditation 7.21 consists of more than 9000 one-of-a-kind business cards collected from the United States and abroad during the past few years. Earnestly reflected in these cards are the worldly accomplishments and aspirations of those they represent. In them one can find the facts of our existence: name, occupation, title, address, phone-fax-e-mail, nickname, motto, logo, etc. In them one can read the details of our busy lives--things bought and sold, services rendered, claims and guarantees made. And in their color, texture, type style and layout one can even find a record of our far-ranging aesthetic sensibilities.

The endless combinations of information and design result in the seemingly impossible. Like fingerprints, no two business cards are alike. Given the same standard format, each card somehow becomes a unique, pocket-sized self-portrait. Gathered together on an enormous bulletin board, they form a mosaic of human enterprise both awesome and, when seen in the light of Aurelius' stark reminder, absurd. Yet despite the overriding presence of the Roman emperor's irrefutable reflection, Meditation 7.21 should not necessarily be construed as pessimistic or despairing. Like life itself, this paper microcosm is subject to multiple interpretations. Yes, there is something inherently sad and pathetic about all of our busy, earthly effort in the face of certain death. But there is also something heartwarming, noble, and beautiful about it. The presence of so much confetti signals a celebration, albeit a bittersweet one.