A performative reading given at the Headlands Center for the Arts on February 13, 2011, adapted from a story included in the Brooklyn Arts Press collection, The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales.

The Taco Group is a story that congealed like cooked ground beef, in the fridge, overnight. As an artist who builds books from recycled materials, I’m interested in the narratives that form from detritus. My writing process is sometimes similar. Objects collect in little piles that imply stories, whether gathered in my head or pooled in cooling fat in a ceramic bowl.

The Taco Group formed in this way: a couple of business cards I’d saved (one for a company that referred to itself as a Group, the other from a man I met in a sauna who asked for help building a virtual city), a book of baby names (the androgynous, melodramatic ones that are now popular), a shredded Styrofoam cup I passed on the street (peeled and cut in a way that resembled the Eye of Horus), the tangible comfort I feel when I see a taco buffet (it’s been too long).

Out of this pile rises a group of women living in a post-functional city, an elite kept alive by an artificial surplus. They plan a utopia, their actions corporate but domestic, esoteric but mundane. Intrigue ensues. Before I know it, I’m confronted again with a pile of objects: I paint and layer and lacquer paper. I make taco fixings by gluing and dicing transparencies, by molding polymer clay. I dig through castoffs to piece together the dreams of Taco’s streets. I design and print the Taco Group’s progress report, an implied manifesto, tragic and firm. And here we are again, back at the business cards.

My hope is that the audience of this performative reading will feel their way around like I did, that their experience, too, is textured, digestive, circular, the initial ice blue spark remaining, the one that springs into being when I sift through the scraps I use to construct my artist’s books.

Matt Runkle