Anna Banana [ed]
Vile: Vol. 1, No. 1
San Francisco, CA: Self-published, 1974
56 pp., 8.5 x 11", velo binding
Edition of 200
The February 14th, 1985 issue of VILE magazine was released eleven years earlier, in January of 1974. It was the debut issue of the large format artists' magazine project by mail artists (and romantic partners) Anna Banana and Bill Gaglione.
Visually, the periodical is a parody of General Idea's influential FILE megazine, which itself parodied the format of Life magazine (at least initially - eventually Life's lawyers cried trademark infringement and demanded a different logo). Other responses to FILE include BILE by Chicago artist Bradley Lastname, which published 25 issues between 1978 and 1984, and SMILE, an open-concept magazine started by Stewart Home in 1984.
The content of VILE was also a response to FILE, and it's "growing disdain for mail art". FILE had began publishing two years earlier, and - with it's close ties to Image Bank - was extremely important to the mail art community in Canada. The inclusion of an Artist Directory in the magazine was responsible for growing the 'network' of mail artists across the country.
But by the time of the September 1973 issue, General Idea were beginning to disengage from the 'network' and growing skeptical of its growth. The issue included a mock obituary announcing the "death" of Ray Johnson's New York Correspondence School and a few scathing comments about the over-proliferation of the genre. For example, Robert Cummings wrote:
“I get stuff every day that makes it barely out of the envelope and into the trash it’s so terrible. Its not the terribleness of the art that worries me, but the enormous waste of paper. I can no longer answer a bad piece of mail with a letter or photo. I used to answer everything I got, but now find myself ignoring 3/4 of it out of principle and lack of energy. There’s too much of it.”
"Maybe those guys were just pushing buttons, trying to get a rise, but whatever their intent, their comments inspired me to create VILE," said Anna Banana, later. "I believe it was the influence of FILE that grew the network at an exponential rate, perhaps part of the “too much” problem. From Vol. 3 No. 3, Spring 1977 on, FILE moved into covering the more mainstream art and music scenes with their New York issue. By then, most of us had our own mailing lists well established, and with the ongoing publication of both the Banana Rag and VILE magazine, the problem was more how to keep up with it all, than how to make more contacts.
VILE began at Speedprint, a small instant print shop in San Francisco where it became apparent to Banana "that anyone could be a publisher." The first issue featured an image of the bare-chested Monty Cazazza tearing out his own heart.
The contents featured examples of international mail art, texts & manifestoes, letters, performance documentation, articles on individual artists & their projects, and faux-advertisements. Each issue featured an introduction by Banana. VILE continued for nine years, until 1983, producing seven issues.
Copies are available from the artist, here, though Vol 1, No. 1 is only available as part of the complete set of seven for $1,750.00. The above copy is from the Banff Centre Library.