Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Thomas Lélu | I have no idea what I’m doing out of bed




Thomas Lélu
I have no idea what I’m doing out of bed
Paris, France: RVB Books, 2023
160 pp., 11.2 x 16.7 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown


"In October 2022, after a period dedicated to collage and image manipulation, Thomas Lélu decided to return to his origins, and began a series of sentences that he simply wrote down in a notebook with a ballpoint pen. From then on, he began a daily exercise of writing a minimum of 5 sentences in sketchbooks. A total of over 500 sentences to date. Sometimes funny or witty, often caustic and provocative, they invite the reader to reflect on our times and its excesses."
- publisher’s statement

I have no idea what I’m doing out of bed is available from Printed Matter, here



Lucy Lippard | Stuff




Lucy Lippard
Stuff: Instead of a Memoir
New York City, USA: New Village Press, 2023
144 pp., 20.3 x 20.3 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown


Lucy Lippard will be signing copies of her new autobiography tomorrow between 3 and 4pm at Printed Matter in New York (231 11th Avenue). 




Monday, July 15, 2024

Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond






[Sal Hamerman & Javier Rivero Ramos, editors]
Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond
Princeton, USA: Princeton University Press, 2024
176 pp., 17.8 x 25.4 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown


Published in February of this year, this impressive volume accompanies an exhibition of the same name, which is billed as the largest retrospective of Ulises Carrión's work in the US, fittingly held in a library, not a museum. Bookworks and Beyond examines Carrión's life and work through the lens of the Artist Book. 


More broadly, it makes the case that Carrión’s practice involved a series of cultural strategies and the creation of networks that were foundational to his work: the artist as editor, publisher, fabricator, distributor, gallerist, bookseller, theorist, archivist and organizer. 


Ulises Carrión was born in San Andres Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico in 1941. He studied philosophy and literature at the National University of Mexico, before receiving a grant to continue his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. From there he went to the Goethe Institute in Achenmühle, Germany, and then to the University of Leeds, where he obtained a postgraduate degree with a dissertation on William Shakespeare titled Judas' Kiss and Shakespeare's "Henry VIII"


In 1972, he definitively settled in Amsterdam, a progressive and cosmopolitan city where he could live as an openly gay man. He co-founded (with Raúl Marroquín) the In-Out Center, the first independent artist-run centre in the city. Here he used a mimeograph machine to self-publish several artists' books under the imprint of In-Out Productions. The venue also hosted his first solo exhibition, Texts and Other Texts, in June of 1973. 


The In-Out Center closed in 1974 and the following year Carrión opened Other Books and So, possibly the first centre dedicated to Artists’ Publications in Europe (Art Metropole in Toronto opened a year prior and Printed Matter in New York City a year after, in 1976). 


In a short period of time, Other Books and So became “a key meeting point for practitioners engaged in mail art, artists’ books, and experimental writing and performance.” The basement bookstore/gallery - operated in collaboration with his lover Aart van Barneveld -  advertised its wares as “other books, non books, anti-books, pseudo books, quasi books, concrete books, conceptual books, structural books, project books, plain books.”


As a gallery, it hosted over fifty exhibitions, including solo shows by artists such as Dick Higgins, Dorothy Iannone, Maurizio Nannucci, Allan Kaprow, Takako Saito, Anna Banana, and Jiri Valoch. Like Art Metropole, Other Books and So also published a magazine. Ephemera was a 12-issue periodical edited by Carrión, Barneveld, and Salvador Flores, focusing on Mail Art. 


“By reimagining books as a sequence of spaces and temporalities, Carrión unmoored the book from its more conventional definition as a material support of texts and images” write the editors in the opening essay. They contextualize Carrión as starting out at a time when artists began employing text as an alternative to painting and sculpture, and when avant-garde writers started exploring the visual and sonic properties of poetry. 


Monica de la Torre’s text “An Essay in Nine Books (and Not)” explores Carrión's work from his 1970 acclaimed collection of short stories De Alemania to the excellent 1979 Artist Book In Alphabetical Order


This is followed by “Communities, Bureaucracy, and Office Technologies in Ulises Carrión’s Publishing Projects”, by Felipe Becerra. The text begins with Carrión’s disillusionment with Mail Art in the late seventies (which had devolved into goofy “Crackjack Kid” indulgences) and explores the typewriter, mimeograph and rubber stamp. But rather than merely celebrate these tools for their liberating DIY qualities, Becerra examines the clerical and bureaucratic connotations in works such as Sonnet[s] (1972) and Arguments (1973). 


The essay also recounts the story of Carrión discovering a Beau Geste Press title in a bookstore in 1972, and writing to the publishers to learn more about their activities, leading to a lifelong friendship and collaboration. 


“The Archive is Open” by co-editor Sal Hamerman follows, expanding the conversation from books to libraries and archives, as well as methods of distribution. Artists dedicated to the bookwork as a new form had to simultaneously consider ways to get these works into the hands of 'readers' and librarians.  


When Other Books and So folded after three years, it was converted into an archive. Toronto’s Art Metropole developed an archive alongside their distribution activities, which eventually sold to a collector in the late nineties, who donated it to the National Gallery in Ottawa, where it remains accessible to researchers. Other artist-initiated archives from the era include Maurizio Nannucci’s Zona and Martha Wilson’s Franklin Furnace. 


“Why should an artist open a gallery? Why should he keep an archive?”, Carrión wrote in 1985. “Because, I believe, art as a practice has been superseded by a more complex, more rigorous, and richer practice: culture. We’ve reached a privileged historical moment when keeping an archive can be an artwork.” Carrión felt an obligation to collect and preserve cultural artifacts, while avoiding the trappings of institutional libraries, museums and archives, which he characterized as “perfect cemeteries for books.”


Javier Rivero Ramos’ “The Most Illustrious Unknown Postmaster: The Erratic Networks of Ulises Carrión” applies Craig Saper’s notion of “intimate bureaucracies” to Carrión’s practice. Saper coined the term in 1997 to refer to systems which make "poetic use of the trappings of large bureaucratic systems and procedures to create intimate aesthetic situations, including the pleasures of sharing a special knowledge or a new language among a small network of participants.”


The final chapter in Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond is “Plural Authority as Queer Polyphony in Ulises Carrión’s Mail Art Projects” by Zanna Gilbert. Her essay investigates the artist’s interest in plagiarism and multi-authorship and also places his work in the context of other queer artists working with Mail Art, such as Dick Higgins and Ray Johnson (whose own work was not examined through the lens of his homosexuality until over twenty-five years after his death). She writes: “Carrión’s interest in plural authorship and artistic polyphony to create a community and queer the art world's systems was at the heart of this unusually trenchant engagement with mail art projects.” 


Gilbert also gets at the Marxist underpinnings of the artist’s ideas, quoting Carrión from 1981: 


“The organization of communication, and not the little thing that you send or the little thing that you make, nor the book that you make…is the next step, historically in art.” This notion perhaps best encapsulates Carrión’s wholistic approach to art production: 


“Before you were a worker, now you’re the director of the factory.” 



Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond is essential reading for anyone interested in "Mexico’s most important conceptual artist”, Artist Book theory, and artist-run bookstores. It is available from Printed Matter for $49.95 US, here





Sunday, July 14, 2024

Ulises Carrión | The I want to be in your catalogue no matter what the theme of your project is Card







Ulises Carrión
The I want to be in your catalogue no matter what the theme of your project is Card
Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Other Books and So Archive, 1982
4 x 6"
Edition size unknown


“One of Carrión’s last mail art projects, The I want to be in your catalogue no matter what the theme of your project is Card from 1982 could be interpreted as a sardonic dig at the “junk mail” and “quick-kopy crap” that dominated the mail art network in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The postcard did not invite responses, and this might be read as reflecting, Carrión’s dissatisfaction with the mailers networks model of collective authorship. It is equally possible however, the postcard was not just a humourous attempt to poke fun at the network, but an expression of earnest support for it. The very act of circulating the postcard (or any mail artwork) is what creates the network, and the gesture of participation is as important as, if not more important than, the content produced. “How can we measure the intention intensity of our knocking" Carrión and asked in 1978. His answer "by the echo reproduce, obviously.”
- Zanna Gilbert, Ulises Carrión: Bookworks and Beyond (see next post)


Saturday, July 13, 2024

Bill Viola | Hatsu Yume - First Dream




Bill Viola
Hatsu Yume - First Dream
Vienna, Austria: Frameworks, 2002
40.3 by 50 cm. 
Edition of 15 signed and numbered copies


In Japan, the dream one dreams in a new year is known as hatsuyume, and is said to foretell the luck of the dreamer in the coming year. It is good luck, for example, to dream of Mount Fuji, a hawk, or an eggplant.

This portfolio comprises a VHS video tape and a signed book in a clamshell box which also houses three chromogenic prints.

"I was thinking about light and its relation to water and to life, and also its opposite — darkness or the night and death. Video treats light like water — it becomes fluid on the video tube. Water supports the fish like light supports man. Land is the death of the fish — darkness is the death of man.” 
- Bill Viola


Viola died yesterday, at his home in Long Beach, California, at the age of 73.




Dieter Roth | Piccadilly Postcard Puzzle






Dieter Roth
Piccadilly Postcard Puzzle
London, UK: Edition Hansjörg Mayer, 2005
96 pp., 12 x 17 cm., boxed
Edition size unknown


A clamshell box containing reproductions of the 6 Piccadillies (see previous post), each one enlarged and cut into 16 postcard-size pieces which can be sent out individually and reassembled at random.

When Roth produced the first series, he imagined them being cut up into a "Giant Piccadilly Puzzle" with interchangeable elements. This work, produced by longtime friend and collaborator Hansjörg Mayer, completes the work as Roth intended. 


Dieter Roth | 6 Piccadillies








Dieter Roth
6 Piccadillies
London, UK: Petersburg Press, 1970
61.3 x 77.8 x 8.9 cm.
Edition of 150


A portfolio of six double-sided screen print over offset lithographs, one with iron fillings, mounted board. 

"In the late 1960s, Rita Donagh, wife of Roth’s longtime friend and collaborator Richard Hamilton, gave the artist a postcard of London’s famous Piccadilly Circus. This unremarkable image is the basis for one of the artist’s best-known series of artworks, 6 Piccadillies. Roth enlarged and reproduced the image as a doublesided photolithograph, then transformed it through various interventions: overprinting it in Day-Glo colors, sub-merging it in a fog of translucent white, and almost completely erasing it with a layer of iron filings. The portfolio cover resembles a suitcase, an item that had a constant presence in Roth’s itinerant life. 96 Piccadillies, a later volume, reproduces the artist’s paintings on postcards picturing the same landmark; the reproductions themselves can be separated and sent as postcards.”
- MoMA wall label