39 • John Rininger

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Xerolage 39

 

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from the introduction by Stephen Perkins

John Rininger, mail & stamp artist, magazine publisher, and networker died unexpectedly at 45 from a seizure in his apartment in Chicago on November 11th, 2006. The works in this posthumous issue of Xerolage have been taken from a number of different sources, and they can only offer a faint trace of his work, his concerns, and the many passions that animated his idiosyncratic personality. I can't say I ever understood John, he was a complex man, and yet one sensed a sharp intelligence, an intense curiosity about the world, and I responded to that, and I'm richer for knowing him.

My first contact with John was through the mail in the form of envelopes filled with his photocopy collages, his artists' periodicals & books, and anything else that was at hand at the moment he sealed the package. The thing I noticed straight away was his total engagement with the photocopy process, its technical capabilities and the incredible freedom in the way he remixed images, texts, and the variety of both. Out of this curiosity and fixation with the photocopy machine poured a continuous series of completely individual and wonderfully weird & intense publications that were all part of a long-running publishing project that originated as a collaboration with Dominique Johns from the mid to late '80s, and then continued by himself up to the present under the name Catalyst Komics. In between John collaborated with a number of other editors/artists notably with Tom Long & Gene White on the four issues of Even Paranoiacs Can Have Enemies, other collaborators included Brad Goins & Andrew Oleksiuk.

John's fascination with the photocopy machine led him to work for Kinko's in the late 1980s in DeKalb as well as the last few years of his life in Chicago. He was thus a part of an unheralded elite of photocopy artists who combined their artistic interests with a means of earning a livelihood, as well as securing their employer's unwitting sponsorship for their work.

Although none are reproduced here, John's artists' stamps were another of his continuing activities. Produced under the Rausch Post imprint these are beautifully crafted digital works that shared the unique qualities that were also found in his collages. What distinguishes the stamps from his photocopy work is a more restrained style and the fact that they were in color.

As I write this, I have on my desk the last 5 issues of Catalyst Komics (#804-808). There's an overwhelming theme of water in the images that John used for these publications, indeed it's no coincidence that his last email address was water805@covad.net. In one of these issues (#807) he connects the entire 12-page booklet with the sentence "we enter the circle at night and are consumed by fire." This Latin palindrome (In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimur Igni) also happens to be the title of Guy Debord's sixth and final film. In Debord's notes for this film he writes that "the entire film...is based on the theme of water...evoking the evanescence of everything...as a metaphor for the flowing of time." Debord continues his commentary on In Girum remarking that, "Secondarily, there is the theme of fire; of momentary brilliance — revolution, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, youth, love, negation in the night, the Devil, battles..." this second theme is also proudly claimed by John in his biographical text (see back inside cover) in which he writes that in the Haymarket Centennial Miracle Mile Run of May 1986 in Chicago he "led the attack on the IBM Building 401 N. Mich." I have no doubt that John was referencing the title of this exemplary situationist film, paying homage to a hero, and savoring a text that resonated with his own struggles.

It's neither ironic, nor surprising that John should be exploring such profound subject matter so close to the end of his life, for a persistent theme throughout his later work was his search to achieve what he called a "purity of heart". This quest led him to focus on the difficult, and oftentimes painful, questions of our existence. As I conclude this introduction I'm looking at a work of John's from 2004 — it's a postcard-sized photographic montage that combines a profile of his face with eyes closed and an image of a blustery seascape, beneath this is a phrase that appears in a number of his works that reads "the heart is mostly made of water."

 

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