I've finished a couple of short audio pieces that I like a lot but I cannot for the life of me title them, which now has me obsessively thinking about titling in general. I like definitive titles like I Love America and America Loves me by Joseph Beuys or Zin Taylor's Once The Universe Ends There Will Be Only You and I And Everything We Know, but never use them myself. I also like the way Martin Creed numbers each of his works, which is why I'm desperately waiting for his long-delayed catalogue raisonee. When you number everything you can't later disown it.
One of the reasons I wasn't fully satisfied with the Truck Show is that none of the three new works in the exhibition had titles until a few days before. One of them was perfunctory and fine, but the other two were pretty weak.
I find that a good title usually comes first or not at all. That's mostly been my experience as a curator, too. The first show I organized was called Solo Exhibition (A Group Show) which involved about 20 artists contributing work on the theme of masturbation. The title just occurred to me one day as being funny, and I went with it, and my friend James and I recruited Brad Philips, Will Munro, Jinhan Ko, Paul Couillard, Kika Thorne and many others to contribute work about self-satisfaction.
The title came first for Infinity Etc (though some of the pairings preceded it). The first show I did for Mercer Union I liked a lot (and was probably the best received exhibition I've put together) but has the terrible title of 0.0001 Per Cent Volume. To acknowledge my distaste for the title I never type it the same way twice. I actually have no idea how many zeros are actually intended to be in the title. It came about last minute thru an email exchange between myself and Jenifer Papararo (who was then the Director of Programming, I took over for her a year later after she moved to Vancouver). We started jockeying joke titles back and forth in the hopes that something would make itself obvious. Many of the jokes were quite telling about our interests, actually. The show was mostly invisible, referencing the history of empty galleries (Robert Barry, Ray Johnson, Yves Klein, Martin Creed, Art and Language) and nothing works such as Tom Friedman's cursed plinth, John Cage's silent 4'33", Rauschenberg's White Paintings, etc. etc. I proposed the title Gallery Closed for Installation, and Jenifer shot back with Available for Wedding, Bar Mitzvah's, Parties.
The title of my own work that I like the best also relates to the history of the empty gallery. The work is a power bar with 6 anti-rodent sound devices plugged into it. It was included in a show called Room Tone, in which all of the works emitted a quiet drone (sounding not unlike the sound of mice, actually). The title, however, repositions the work as a piece that is essentially the exhibition of a gallery space free of mice, rats and insects. Titled Nothing (for Robert Barry), it also pokes fun at the popular sixties convention of dedication in titles.
Super Infinity, made in collaboration with Roula, came together immediately and simultaneously - title and premise. Double Negative Parenthetical Qualifier simply and coldly describes the piece (like an Ed Ruscha book such as Nine Swimmg Pools did), but somehow adds quite a bit, for me.
Untitled (for William Tager) came much later but added considerable dimension to the work. A forthcoming book about the venue where it was exhibited allowed me three pages to illustrate the work or present an artists' project. I opted to tell the story of Tager, who is currently in prison for murder, who might have beaten Dan Rather while screaming "What's the Frequency Kenneth" and who believes he is from another planet and time. He and I share the belief that sounds are being beamed into our skulls without our permission.
Fifteen Minute Fame obviously follows from the pun of it's name, though ended up having some other nice references, including that the original song was one of the first to play with sped up and slowed down vocals. Pop Quiz is pretty straight forwawrd, but precise.
Belly Buttons Need Love Too, one of the earliest works I made and still identify with, is a video made by concentrating on only the navels in pornography. The (mostly bouncing) belly buttons were refilmed from commercial porn with the camera held practically flush to the television screen. Clocking in at nearly an hour, the piece is made up of clips generally no longer than a few seconds (the navel is frequently obscured in porn). For the soundtrack I put live guitar cables into the belly buttons of friends and lovers and multi-tracked the resulting hums, cracks and pops. The cover graphic and title come from a shirt I had as a kid.