For the past several years Martin Brief has investigated the ways that language, thought, and information relate to contemporary culture and the creation of self. Drawing from early conceptual art practices, Zen Buddhism, information overload and data collection practices he makes beautiful, spare, laborious works on paper. Using the contents of various information streams including The New York Times, Artforum, and Amazon.com as source material he describes how information functions, shapes and reflects contemporary thought and belief. These sources are part of a foundation of contemporary culture, but they are also part of an ever-growing field of information noise that begins with a never-ending internal dialogue and continues through to the all-pervasive blogoshpere. Central to his recent work is the linguistic dependence embedded in this diverse range of information streams and the tension between this reliance on language and it’s inherent limitations.
This series is comprised of ten drawings, each representing a single issue of Artforum from September 2007 to Summer 2008. Each drawing is made by writing every name that appears in the corresponding issue of the magazine. The number of names in each issue ranges from approximately 2,500 to 4,500 names. The names are transcribed, by hand, slightly larger or smaller to fit in a 10.5 square inch format, the exact size of Artforum.
Success is an in depth and logical attempt to define the ineffable concept of success. This drawing is comprised entirely of definitions. It begins with the definition of the word "success" and is followed by the definition for each of the words in that definition and so on. Each word is defined one time (unless it was used in a new context) and the process continues until no new words remain to define. In the end this “complete” definition includes 4,999 entry words and 5,811 definitions. In this drawing the language can be read but will not yield any greater understanding of what the word means.