Ben Kinmont’s On Becoming Something Else: Making editioned artworks

There are many ways in which things are in flux. Sometimes you’re conscious of the change and it is purposeful: you plant a garden, then water and tend it, and after some weeks, vegetables grow. Other times the change is more elusive. And if it involves you, you might not even realize that it has occurred until you look back at where you were before.

Inspired by these ruminations, the artist, publisher, and antiquarian bookseller Ben Kinmont created an activity for students as part of SFMOMA’s ongoing Open Studio initiative. The initiative aims to connect high school teachers and students with the ideas and inspirations of leading contemporary artists.

The Activity

The multiples project On becoming something else asks students to consider the different ways in which they are in a state of becoming. What were they like when they were younger? How have they changed while in school? What have they become, and how could they represent that change in an object, text, or image?

Each student produces a work that represents their thoughts and experiences about becoming something else. The piece can be autobiographical, biographical, or about the idea in general. They then reproduce this piece in a number equal to the number of people in the class (including teachers).

Next, the students make or acquire the same number of matching boxes. Shoeboxes or cardboard boxes can be used. Each student places a copy of their work and a single, collectively authored certificate of authenticity into each box. The certificates will all be the same: they’ll indicate the edition size (meaning, the total number of sets of copies) and list each of the works contained in each box. The list should have each student’s name, the title they’ve given their work, and a brief description or caption.

When the assignment is finished, each student receives one of the identical boxes containing a set of everyone’s artworks and a certificate.

In Action at Galileo High School

In 2013, Kinmont carried out the project in person (with teacher Myrna Maroun) with twelfth-grade AP English students at San Francisco’s Galileo High School as part of a unit on Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. The results were publicly exhibited as part of a larger project by Kinmont. As an owner of the boxed edition, he incorporated the students’ work into his archive.

See selected student works in the slideshow here, with the students’ comments as captions:

  • Paper cutout of a gray shark on a blue background with text reading, "On becoming something else...I am still becoming something else"

    Amy Cai: Keep Swimming. Shark-shaped cardstock tucked into construction paper. 4 x 9 in. To be displayed flat on a table.

  • Four quadrants each containing one-fourth of a girl's face at different ages

    Jackie Chan: Who Am I? Photographic composite. 4 x 6 in. photo paper.

  • Plastic eyeball wrapped in translucent white fabric hanging off a dowel on a wooden board

    Emily Chen: Marriage of Sight. Sculpture of a colored ping-pong ball eyeball under a sheer white polyester veil. 2 x 9 in. To be hung from a platform.

  • Watercolor painting of a deer's head tied with pink yarn

    Iris Cheung: My Creations. Packet of five pictures, 4 x 6 in. Scanned copies of my painting printed onto 8.5 x 11 in paper pasted with Elmer’s Rubber Cement onto 4 x 6 in index cards tied together using pink string. To be displayed untied with cards spread out covering a 20 x 6 in. area.

  • Colored letters of a poem against a black background form a yellow sphere surrounded by red flames on a blue background

    Eric Chu: Typographic Ouroboros. Image. 8.5 x 11 in. Digitally rendered using Adobe Photoshop CS3 and printed on 96 lb bright, premium multipurpose Xerox white paper at 72 ppi using Canon MG5200 inkjet printer. To be displayed horizontally on vertical surface.

  • Two photographs of stairs, one taken from above and one from below, are stacked vertically and separated by text

    Phillip Diep: Perception. Two pictures. 8 x 6 in. total. Composed of two photos, 4 x 6 in., stacked vertically and attached to each other. Photo paper. To be displayed on a vertical surface.

  • "A Blondie's Treat" appear in black letters on a white label over wrapping paper with a pink candy bag hanging below

    Emily Hoang: A Blondie’s Treat. Photo book. 6 x 7 in. book. 4 x 6 in. bag. Eight pages of white paper with pictures, text, and Daiso gift wrapping paper. Plastic pink gift bag tied with gold colored wire from Daiso. Garden Brand Chinese chocolate wafers with snack size Kit-Kat bars inside bag. To be displayed on flat surface and opened to “Family Dinner Diaries” page with Dinner 1 and 2 spread out with gift bag on top of the book on the next page. Total dimensions 22 x 8 in.

  • Horizontal drawing of anime-style figures performing a variety of everyday and superhuman activities

    Lauren Lai: White. Image. 8.5 x 33 in. Drawn with Dixon No. 2 / HB pencils, a BIC mechanical pencil 0.5 mm, and Tombow Mono J wooden pencils: 2B, 3B, and 4B. Colored with Mitsubishi NO. 880 color pencils and inked with a PILOT G-2 .07mm black pen. Copied by a HP Photosmart 7515 printer onto three 8.5 x 11 in. sheets of white paper. Put together with scotch tape. To be displayed on a vertical surface, with the whole image facing the viewer.

  • A blue balloon is tied to a tack on a wood suface with a short piece of white string

    Justin Lee: Static Change. Balloon. 9.5 in. diameter. Blue latex balloon pumped 13 times with Avenir shop pump, spray painted with white Rustoleum Spray Paint. To be displayed lying on a horizontal surface.

  • Five versions of a pencil drawing of a figure standing at the entrance to a cave-like space

    Jenny Li: Perspective. Grayscale compilation of five photos taken with Samsung Phone. Two 8.5 x 11 in. pages edited via Microsoft Word and printed on paper of unknown origins using HP PSC 1315 Printer. To be displayed vertically, page 1 above page 2.

  • A round white paper clock with black hands and numbers hangs from a wooden partition

    Michelle Linh: 11:11. Image. 7.75 in. diameter. Circular clock piece using Paint and printed on Staples copy paper using HP Deskjet F4280 All-in-One printer. To be displayed on a leveled surface by hanging the piece on a string.

  • Typed poem printed on white paper with four lines underlined in red pencil

    Dylan Lo: Five Minutes. Flash poem composed electronically on Microsoft Word. 8.5 by 11 in. paper. Font is Courier New. To be displayed vertically.

  • Ten hand drawings on white paper tacked to a wooden board

    Kenneth Lum: Transition. A 10-page packet of drawings that were scanned then printed out. 8.5 x 11 in. To be displayed against the back wall and separated picture by picture. 3 x 3 in. with the last drawing in the middle on the bottom row.

  • An assortment of handmade black and white paper dominoes with irregular dots

    Kayla Marcopulos: Adaptation. 9.25 x 6.5 in. Five white 1.25 x 3 in. index cards taped on the edge of one side of a half sheet of white 11 x 8.5 in. paper. Five black 1.25 x 3 in. construction.

Download This Activity

PDF | Word Document

Open Studio is a continuation of the project Mark Bradford initiated at the J. Paul Getty Museum.


Ben Kinmont

Ben Kinmont

Ben Kinmont’s work centers on real-time exchanges such as meals, conversations, and gestures. In 1996 he began his publishing project, Antinomian Press, which focuses on ephemera and archival material, often distributed for free. Kinmont also has an ongoing antiquarian bookselling business, begun in 1998, that specializes in books and manuscripts about domestic economies and food.

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