— A few years ago, on a trip back to Cleveland, I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time. I found it fun enough, lots of memorabilia, film clips, old records, of course, and the now familiar story of R’n’R, told again in the basically familiar way. On a subsequent trip I was looking around an antique store in Mid-Ohio and saw, laying in a back room, a 78rpm Little Richard record that I not only had had a 45rpm of when it came out, but had also just seen in a vitrine at the Hall of Fame. I bought it for a dollar. Afterwards I wondered what other great artifacts from this familiar history, now over 50 years long, clearly as old as I was and seemingly as distant as Atlantis, could be lying around. What I found was more than I could have imagined.

Over a period of about 3 years of searching in flea markets, junk stores and antique malls for these leftover materials from the era, in an effort to try and construct a random history for myself of what R’n’R was, how it came to be and what became of it, I amassed over 4,000 records, mostly 78rpms, with a sampling of 45s. Some of the early 78s dated back to just after the turn of the century and to the popularization of recorded sound.

With the advent of sites like eBay and with enough time and money, anyone can conceivably construct a collection and a history on just about any subject. You may not be able to get all of it, or the extremely rare of the very rare, but it would seem you could come pretty close. What I was interested in, however, was closer to the idea of an archeological dig, where the removing of layers of whatever kind of sediment slowly reveals an unfolding story, artifact by artifact, of a history and a culture that was not visible before. And by roaming the miles of aisles in antique malls, flea markets, etc. looking for something quite specific, the unseen has more of a chance to appear and the story can begin to tell itself in a more personal way. The way a collection can be arranged so as to make a history visible is a subject I love and have explored in other works.

A database of Allen Ruppersberg’s records from the last three years.
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Allen Ruppersberg was born in 1944, in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives and works in New York and Santa Monica, California. Ruppersberg is a conceptual artist whose work includes paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures,installations, and books. He is recognized as a seminal practitioner of installation art, having produced such influential works as AL’S CAFE (1969), AL’S GRAND HOTEL (1971), and THE NOVEL THAT WRITES ITSELF (1978). Since the late 1960s, his work has been the subject of more than 80 solo exhibitions and nearly 200 group exhibitions.