Work Wanted: Keith Wong

An artist advertising art in the yellow pages as an artwork turns out not to be a light matter.

Keith Wong An Artist Statement on a Work 2005, 23 x 2.4 cm newsprint.

Buried amongst the volume of advertisements and listings filling the Melbourne Yellow Pages, an artwork is discreetly at play. Located under the existing category of 'Artist', this embedded text-based work, which appears as an advertisement, is composed around a central statement. Listed by its title Y.Pages 2006, it simply reads: WORK DELIVERED AND MADE TO MEASURE.

This statement conveys that the advertisement, bound to its form – the phonebook – constitutes the actual work of art. Furthermore, in quoting from the surrounding vernacular of advertisements, the intent is to be seen and read in relation to other workers and, in the context of production, to be located within the sphere of all other trades and professions which occupy this yellow space.

In spite of the obscurity that underscores this statement – of professing to deliver and measure – the advertisement, which also provides my contact details, did elicit a call. A man rang, requiring a mural to be painted onto a large glass wall that he had just constructed as a feature of his newly refurbished house. I listened intently to this man's request. However to our mutual disappointment, I was unable to assist as it lay beyond my area of expertise and skill. In a final attempt to deliver, I tried outsourcing the job, but this too failed, resulting in zero work.

Here, Y.Pages 2006 was exposed to its own functioning as I responded to the call and faced the perplexities that surround ways of qualifying 'the artist.' How to meet this seemingly unqualified definition of a 'qualified artist'? The myriad questions and expectations surrounding competences and categorisations of an artistic practice – made all too distinct when confronted with that simple but numbing question of 'what do you do?'

A year later, the work reappeared – now titled and located as Y.P 2007. This change was necessary due to issues of legality – I was told by the Yellow Pages legal team that the initials of 'Y.PG' was infringing upon their trademark rights.

My new work-related statement, a critical adjustment planned from the outset, also received unexpected attention in its quest to be printed. This time I was questioned about the statement's meaning NOT AFRAID TO TAKE ON LIGHT-WEIGHT WORK. The Yellow Pages consultant, as unknowing art-critic, labelled the central statement of Y.P 2007 rather vague, oblique and downright confusing.

Asked to rewrite the text, I politely refused, justifying and convincing them that I had deeply considered the statement's phrasing for my $2000 advertisement. This is quite true, with every word having to count in this public investment of mine, which principally generates only symbolic returns.

I must wait each year to place an advertisement, to state something new. In these statements the term 'WORK' will always be repeated in an effort to allow the discourse on work to slowly build. To gradually expand with time, as time is the sustaining and restraining force of this work. Because many statements have already been written, but these cannot be printed until the time comes. Through this the work is sustained; sustained by its own imminence. Thus, over the years, the phonebooks will amass and with such continuity it would seem that the work of an artist is never done.

Keith Wong