Every Monday during the entirety of 2017 and 2019, the artist Morgan Bassichis, known for their comical performances rooted in musical theatre, wrote themselves a to-do list. Scribbled with a thick, red pen on envelopes, flyers, book pages, and other miscellaneous scraps of paper (as well as, on several occasions, on their phone), Bassichis’s notes speak to the use of humor as a way of coping in times of political crisis. These to-do lists have now been compiled in a visually striking artist book titled The Odd Years, published by Wendy’s Subway.
The artist’s to-do items range from hilarious resolutions such as “Find Out If Stealing from Dean & Deluca Is Activism” and “Don’t Make Kristen Stewart the Enemy,” to more urgently political messages, like “Ban the Military” and “Abolish President’s Day but Also Presidents.” The lists provide a wonderful glimpse into Bassichis’s investment in both humor and activism as intrinsic parts of their daily life. A necessary reminder that the two aren’t mutually exclusive is manifested in amusing chores such as “Replace the Government with Chia Seeds” and “Turn the Police State into a delicious tahini dressing.”
Taking a more serious note on April 17, 2017, Bassichis’s to-do list reads: “Abolish the idea of war, the idea of prison, the idea of police, the idea of America, the idea of citizens, the idea of checkpoint, the need to know what will come after.” Reading this statement today, it seems to hold a prophetic quality.
While many of us have only recently awoken to the corruptions of power prevalent in our society, Bassichis is a seasoned political organizer. During a virtual event organized in conjunction with the book release, they were able to raise over $2000 in only an hour, to contribute to housing for Lady O, a New-York-based abolitionist and freedom fighter. The event was also a testament to the intimate queer community Bassichis has built around themselves, with artists such as Tourmaline and Jibz Cameron (aka Dynasty Handbag) expressing their love and support for the performer.
The book is haunted by the legacy of beloved art historian Douglas Crimp, whose commitment to cultural activism was unwavering. Three days after Crimp’s death in 2019, Bassichis’s list includes only one item: “Keep Learning From Douglas,” penned down on a page from Crimp’s 1988 AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism publication. At the end of the book, Bassichis has also provided the reader with an index, which reveals that “Abolition,” “Gay Pride,” and “Slogans” are the most recurring terms in these lists.
The Odd Years is a visual, poetic diary that is perhaps best read as an endurance piece, demonstrating a certain stamina necessary to wake up every Monday morning and assert a series of tasks. More than traditional “to-do’s,” Bassichis’s lists are ingredients for how to stay organized during the tumultuous times of Donald Trump’s presidency, how to care about community while also practicing self-care, and most of all: how to maintain a sense of humor.
2017 and 2019 were odd years indeed. I cannot wait to see what Morgan Bassichis does with 2020.