Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Stephen McCoy | Housing Estates 1979–1985 Boxset

Stephen McCoy
Housing Estates 1979–1985 Boxset
Southport, UK: Café Royal Books, 2019
14 x 20 cm.
Edition of 100

Five books and a signed print, available from the publisher for forty pounds, from the publisher, here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Sarah Lucas | Selfish in Bed Shirt

Sarah Lucas
Selfish in Bed Shirt
New York City, USA: New Museum, 2018
Dimensions vary
Edition size unknown

An edition published to coincide with the New Museum retrospective of Lucas' work held last fall, this t-shirt recreates (and inverts) the one worn by Lucas in two photographs from 2000: Selfish in Bed I and Selfish in Bed II. 

The shirts, available in Medium, Large and Extra Large, are available for $35, at the New Museum Bookstore, here.

Monday, February 25, 2019

John and Yoko | Wedding Album

Last week it was announced that Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s Wedding Album will be reissued on March 22nd, to coincide with their 50th wedding anniversary. The disc will be released via Secretly Canadian, in partnership with Chimera Music, with a "faithful recreation" of the original artwork. In addition to the CD and white vinyl reissue,  it will also be made available as a digital download, apparently for the first time. It is available to pre-order now, here.

Wedding Album is the third and final record from a series of experimental albums that served as documents of Lennon and Ono's life together. Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins marked the beginning of their romantic and artistic partnership, and Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions documented their 1968 stay in London's Queen Charlotte Hospital, where Ono suffered a miscarriage.

Wedding Album was released on Apple records in October 1969, credited only to John and Yoko, without their last names listed. The disk commemorated their wedding in Gibraltar on 20 March 1969, and subsequent honeymoon.

It was released as an elaborate box set, designed by John Kosh, who was responsible for the Beatles'  Abbey Road album cover (released a month prior) and would go on to work with Lennon and Ono on the War is Over [If You Want It] campaign. The box included photographs, drawings by Lennon, a reproduction of their marriage certificate, a 16-page booklet of press clippings and a picture of a slice of wedding cake, possibly as a nod to Oldenburg's 1966 work Wedding Souvenir.

"It was like our sharing our wedding with whoever wanted to share it with us. We didn't expect a hit record out of it... that's why we called it Wedding Album. You know, people make a wedding album, show it to the relatives when they come round. Well, our relatives are the... what you call fans, or people that follow us outside. So that was our way of letting them join in on the wedding," Lennon told the BBC in 1980.

The A-side of the record featured "John & Yoko", a 22:41 recording made in April 1969, of Lennon and Ono calling out each other's names over the sound of their heartbeats. The b-side, "Amsterdam" was recorded at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, a month prior. It consists of dialogue from their Bed-In campaign for peace, including interviews, conversations and snippets of songs ("Goodbye Amsterdam Goodbye", "John John (Let's Hope For Peace)", "Grow Your Hair", and a brief excerpt of the Beatles' "Good Night", performed a cappella).

Reviews were terrible and sales were poor.

The Melody Maker newspaper ran a front cover piece by Richard Williams, who mistook the test pressings he received as review copies for the final album. Critics were sent two single-sided LPs with the contents of the original single LP on the A-sides, and test-tone signals on the other. His review included the both "John & Yoko" and "Amsterdam", but also the engineer's test signals, which he mistook for intended content. He noted that "...constant listening reveals a curious point: the pitch of the tones alters frequency, but only by microtones or, at most, a semitone. This oscillation produces an almost subliminal, uneven 'beat' which maintains interest. On a more basic level, you could have a ball by improvising your very own raga, plainsong, or even Gaelic mouth music against the drone."

Lennon and Ono dispatched a telegram of thanks and congratulations to the critic:


Sunday, February 24, 2019

This week on Tumblr

This week on Tumblr (and here): books, magazines and letters from Guy Debord and the Situationists:

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Internationale Situationniste

Twelve issues of the journal Internationale Situationniste were published between June 1958 and September 1969. Each issue edited by a different individual or group, including: Guy Debord, Mohamed Dahoiu, Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio, Maurice Wyckaert, Constant Nieuwenhuys, Asger Jorn, Helmut Sturm, Attila Kotanyi, Jørgen Nash, Uwe Lausen, Raoul Vaneigem, Michèle Bernstein, Jeppesen Victor Martin, Jan Stijbosch, Alexander Trocchi, Théo Frey, Mustapha Khayati, Donald Nicholson-Smith, René Riesel, and René Viénet.

Internationale Situationniste was the main vehicle used by the Situationists and its members to carry the organization’s theoritical messages, as well as its view on current events and society at large. It is considered one of the most important journals of political and cultural upheaval in post-war Europe.

The periodical was initially printed in a small run, each with metallic covers of different colours. After the success of Guy Debord's La Societe du Spectacle the print run increased significantly. Five thousand copies were produced of the penultimate issue and the twelve and final issue doubled that. Page count ranges from 32 to 120.

Complete sets are valued at around $3000.

All twelve issues are available as PDF downloads from Ubuweb, here.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Guy Debord | Society of the Spectacle

Guy Debord
Society of the Spectacle
Detroit, USA: Black & Red, 1970
[unpaginated], 5.25 x 8.5", softcover
Edition size unknown

The first English translation of La société du spectacle. The original was published three years prior and was quickly considered a seminal, canonical text for the Situationist movement.

"In late 1967, Debord published Society of the Spectacle: 221 theses on social life as a show that rendered all men and women, even those who staged the play, passive spectators and consumers of their estrangement from their own words, gestures, acts and desires. It was a severe, Hegelian treatise. But somehow, perhaps simply in the incisive cruelty of its prose (‘All that was once directly lived has become mere representation ... In a world that has really been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood’), the book was also pop: the ideas moved with the same implacable momentum the Rolling Stones would find a year later in ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. Society of the Spectacle was discovered, trumpeted, damned and celebrated as the signal text of the student and workers’ uprising in France in May 1968; discovered in the midst of that unshaped revolt, and especially after it, the book lasted."

"...A polemical and prescient indictment of our image-saturated consumer culture. The book examines the “Spectacle,” Debord’s term for the everyday manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena; advertising, television, film, and celebrity."

- Tiernan Morgan & Lauren Purje, Hyperallergic

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Guy Debord | Contre le Cinema

Guy Debord
Contre le Cinema
Paris, France: Institut Scandinave de Vandalisme Comparé, 1964.
[87 pp.], 26.3 x 19.4 cm, softcover
2nd Edition

Illustrated scripts of the first three films by Guy Debord: Hurlements en faveur de Sade, 1952 (Howlings in Favour of De Sade), Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps, 1959 (On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time) and Critique de la séparation, 1961 (Critique of Separation). With a preface by frequent collaborator Asger Jorn.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Guy Debord and Asger Jorn | Mémoires

Guy Debord and Asger Jorn
Copenhagen, Denmark: Permild & Rosengreen, 19
64 pp., 8 ½ x 11", "softcover"
Edition size unknown

An artist book with a legendary sandpaper cover. I first heard of this title when I bought Public Image Ltd's 1979 record Metal Box, which came housed in a metal film canister. John Lydon had reportedly first wanted the LP released with a sandpaper cover, in order to destroy the other records in your collection every time it was removed or returned to the shelf.

A year later the idea was realized by Manchester band The Durutti Column, for their album The Return of The Durutti Column (below). Released by Factory Records, the packaging for the disk was hand-assembled by label-mates A Certain Ratio and Joy Division. Ian Curtis is said to have done most of the labour, while his bandmates watched pornography in the other room.

Aphex Twin took the premise a step further, with the release of a sandpaper work designed to engage with your turntable stylus (see earlier post, here).

Mémoires is the second artist's book produced by the Danish artist Asger Jorn and French artist and theorist Guy Debord, when both were members of the Situationist International. See the previous post for their debut.

The heavy-grade sandpaper is typically credited to Debord, but the printer V.O. Permild disputes this account. He maintained that he was tasked with finding an "unconventional" material for the cover, such as asphalt or glass wool:

"Kiddingly, he wanted, that by looking at people, you should be able to tell whether or not they had had the book in their hands. He acquiesced to my final suggestion: sandpaper. Can you imagine the result when the book lies on a blank polished mahogany table, or when it's inserted or taken out of the bookshelf. It planes shavings off the neighbour's desert goat."

Greil Marcus describes reading Mémoires and it's collage of cut-up texts, maps, cartoons and newsprint, splattered with coloured ink, as "like waking from a dream, or falling into one." Strangely, though, his brilliant book Lipstick Traces - which charts the history of punk backwards to the Situationists - fails to note the connection to either Public Image Ltd or Durutti Column. This despite the fact that PIL's John Lydon/Rotten appears on the book's cover and that Marcus discusses the Situationist comic by Andre Bertrand where Durutti Column took it's name and title of their sand-paper covered debut, The Return of The Durutti Column. 

Factory Records was essentially founded at a small Sex Pistols concert in Manchester, attended by Tony Wilson and many of the bands he would eventually sign. Wilson had been introduced to the comic (titled Le Retour de la Colonne Durutti in French) in University, and the influence of the Situationists can be found throughout the label's catalogue, perhaps most notably in his notorious nightclub The Haçienda. It was named in honour of a phrase from Ivan Chtcheglov’s essay "Formulaire Pour Un Urbanisme Nouveau", which was reprinted in the anthology Leaving The 20th Century: The Incomplete Work Of The Situationist International.

The first full-length LP on Factory Records wasn't always intended to be issued in the now-legendary sandpaper cover.  The original plan was to release the disc in a metal film canister, which was abandoned when PIL's Metal Box was released. One of Wilson's colleagues at the Granada TV station was dating artist Jamie Reid, who had designed the cover for the Sex Pistol's debut (and swan song) Never Mind the Bollocks. Reid had ties to the Situationists and introduced Wilson to a sandpaper copy of Mémoires.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Asger Jorn and Guy Debord | Fin de Copenhague

Asger Jorn and Guy Debord
Fin de Copenhague
Copenhagen, Denmark: Bauhaus Imaginiste, 1957
[36 pp.], 24.5 x 17 cm.
Edition of 200 [+ APs]

Shortly after arriving in Copenhagen, and immediately preceding the foundation of the Situationist International, Asger Jorn and Guy Debord reportedly robbed a newsstand of several newspapers and magazines and spent a drunken afternoon cutting up their pages to create a series of collages. The following day, thirty-two of them were transferred to lithographic plates with Jorn standing atop a ladder and dropping India ink onto them.

The facsimile was produced in 1986 by Allia and reissued in 2001. A downloadable PDF of the book can be found at

Monday, February 18, 2019

Yoko Ono | Grapefruit

Yoko Ono
Tokyo, Japan: Wuntemaum Press, 1964
[upaginated], 13.8 x 13.8 x 3.2 cm., softcover
Edition of 500

One of the seminal works of Conceptual Art, Grapefruit was originally intended as a Fluxus edition (one of George Maciunas' many planned "Complete works of...") but with Ono in Japan and Maciunas in Germany at the time, the artist self-published under the name Wuntemaum Press.

This first edition includes more than 150 instructional scores, organized under the (seemingly arbitrary) headings of Music, Painting, Event, Poetry and Object. Approximately one third of the book is translated into the artists' native Japanese. Many of the works are dedicated: to John Cage, La Monte Young, Maciunas, Nam June Paik, Peggy Guggenheim, and Isamu Noguchi.

Six years later Simon and Schuster produced an expanded trade edition (with a very brief introduction by John Lennon). Other versions and translations have been issued by Peter Owen Ltd, Sphere, Touchstone, Verlag Bärmeier & Nike, Ediciones de la Flor, Kodansha, Piccola Biblioteca Oscar Mondadori, etc.

The title is readily available today, and MoMA published a facsimile of the original a couple of years ago. The above copies list for between $15 000 and $35 000 US, depending on signature, association and condition.

Yoko Ono turns 86 years old today.