Saturday, January 5, 2008

Intermedia: forty years on and beyond, J. Sage Elwell


Forty years ago artist Dick Higgins coined the term "intermedia" to describe works of art that seemed to "fall between media." (1) Although delimiting concepts are contrary to the spirit of intermedia, two defining features have marked intermedia art since its inception. The first is what Higgins called a "conceptual fusion" of media. The second is an eager appropriation of new technologies. The following will trace intermedia's historical embodiment of these two principles, outlining its performative origins in New York, its experimental development in Iowa, and its surprisingly uncertain future.

Intermedia art fuses traditionally separate artistic media and often incorporates media outside the established parameters of the arts. The self-constituting nature of this fusion precludes the possibility of separating the various media from one another, while simultaneously preserving the integrity of either the constitutive elements or the work itself. For example, in 1962 Elaine Summers presented the film Overture at the first Judson Dance Concert that consisted of an amalgam of 16mm images of W.C. Fields's films and original footage she and John Herbert McDowell shot, fused through the "chance mechanism" of a telephone book. This complete media synthesis is intermedia art.

An equally important feature of intermedia art has been its appropriation of new technologies. Nam June Paik captured this theme when he proclaimed, "as collage technique replaced oil paint, the cathode ray tube will replace the canvas." (2) Because intermedia is by definition an exploration of the new and uncharted, it has never felt bound to a singular tradition that would inhibit the use of media not explicitly recognized as "artistic." The technology revolution of the late twentieth century thus introduced a panoply of provocative new alternatives for exploration. The advent of video recording technology offered a locus for the conceptual fusion at the heart of intermedia's vision by acting as a virtual funnel through which media could be poured, manipulated, and represented. And, as will be seen, video and digital technology played a key role in defining intermedia as it developed.

After Higgins's article appeared, intermedia was often confused with multimedia. In a 1993 interview Higgins sought to clarify the difference between the two by comparing a recording of an opera to a happening. He explained:

Now, if, for example, I play a recording of an opera, what I'm hearing
is the music of the opera, and perhaps the text as well--but I'm not
seeing the mise-en-scene. That means that the opera is a mixed medium.
If on the other hand I go to a Happening or I look at some of Dick
Higgins's theater pieces, there the musical element is really
inseparable from the textual or the visual. (3)

Whereas multimedia highlights the static juxtaposition of media (the music and text of recorded opera), intermedia attends to the fluid dialectic between media (the interplay among the visual, musical, and textual features of a happening). And inasmuch as dialectic entails movement and process, intermedia resists the constraints of final categorical definitions. For this reason the question arises, Does intermedia fail precisely where it succeeds?

In securing a disciplinary place for itself at the table of the arts, intermedia has become its own media. For example, when the fusion of the visual and the textual becomes poesia visiva it teeters on the precipice of becoming a medium itself--a concept in itself, and not a conceptual fusion. Ken Friedman, editor of The Fluxus Reader, observers that, "The most successful intermedia forms will eventually cease to be intermedia. They will develop characteristics of their own ... [and] become established media." (4) For this reason those working "between media" have tended to understand intermedia as a space for, or ingress to, new media convergences rather than a monolithic "movement" or "style." And yet when fusing incongruous media has become the artistic media of choice, and media boundaries have largely been relegated to historical or critical heuristics, is intermedia necessary? In brief, has the success of intermedia's vision made intermedia superfluous? To approach intermedia's uncertain future, we turn to its intrepid past.


By the early 1950s abstract expressionism had fully blossomed in New York. By the late 1950s even its advocates like Harold Rosenberg began to note that the flower appeared to be wilting on the vine. The growing conviction that abstract expressionism had lost its cutting edge was confirmed by the artistic innovations of John Cage. Perhaps more than any other individual, Cage stands as the most significant catalyst of late twentieth-century art. His experiments in music, composition, and performance were the progenitors of concept art, and intermedia art thereby. During the summers of 1948 and 1953 Cage taught at Black Mountain College, the art school-commune in North Carolina. In the summer of 1952 he staged his historic Untitled Event, calling on painters, musicians, dancers, writers, filmmakers, and non-artists alike in a project that would pave the way for happenings, performance art, assemblages, and installations. From the late 1950s to 1960 Cage taught a series of courses on experimental music and performance at New York's New School for Social Research, where he also began to experiment with assembled environments akin to Kurt Schwitters's Merzbau work. Several early concept artists including Higgins, Bertolt Brecht, Allan Kaprow and others attended Cage's classes and it was Kaprow who, by adding time and action to Cage's notion of art-as-environment, would stage the first "official" happening, 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, in 1959.

This disregard for discrete artistic disciplines exhibited by Cage and adopted by Kaprow was concretized in Fluxus. "Founded" by Lithuanian-born American George Maciunas in the early 1960s, Fluxus was a loosely organized group of artists who stressed media openness in works of whimsy, provocation, humor, and critique. Examples of Fluxus-associated works range from happenings, instruction paintings, vocalizations, and theatrical events to musical performances, mock protests, and video work. This atmosphere of media transparency was the soil from which intermedia would grow. As art critic Peter Frank points out, "it is possible, and in fact historically justified, to trace the majority of intermedia activity realized since the early 1960s to Fluxus." (5)

When theatrics were added to static environments artists were liberated from exclusively material mediums and were given direct contact with the spectator. This allowed artists to bypass the system of critics, curators, and dealers affording them greater control over the installation and display of their work. Moreover, this made it possible to create "art-as-idea" instead of "art-as-commodity." However, new problems accompanied these new possibilities; namely, the issue of documentation and preservation. Intermedia artist Hans Breder explains:

[The issue of documentation] is a really big problem. Early on in the
'60s it was about the experience, so it didn't even occur to me to
document. And so several of my major early works are not documented
because I didn't care about it. It was all about the moment and the
experience. (6)

The increasing need for documentation and the Fluxus spirit of media experimentation came together in 1965 with the introduction of Sony's personal video camera, the Portapak. With new technology in hand, the course was set for the "official" arrival of intermedia.

In the early 1960s Paik had been creating sculptural works out of television sets and purportedly created the first work of video art in 1965 when he recorded Pope Paul VI's procession through New York with a Portapak and showed the video that night at a club. Artists quickly moved beyond documentation and began to manipulate the image and turn the video recorder on itself, making video a self-reflexive medium. For example, Peter Campus combined the signals from two Portapaks in an electronic mixer to produce a discordant image in his 1971 work Double Vision; and in her 1972 piece, Organic Honey's Vertical Roll, artist Joan Jonas recorded the playback of pre-recorded material on a television with the vertical hold setting intentionally misadjusted. And yet just as artists were mastering the potential of video recording, digital recording arrived with a host of new possibilities.

In 1946 the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was constructed at the University of Pennsylvania. Weighing eighty tons, the first digital computer could complete thousands of calculations per second. But it was not until Douglas Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute introduced the concept of bitmapping and direct manipulation via a mouse that digital technology became generally accessible. In 1983 the Macintosh computer was introduced, and the digital revolution began in full. Since then digital recording and processing has steadily replaced all other visual and audio media. Media arts scholar William Mitchell cites 1989 as the dawn of the "post-photographic era" when the digital began to displace all former technological media in a complete digital convergence. Media theorist Friedrich Kittler describes this convergence: "Once optical fiber networks turn distinct data flows into a standardized series of digitized numbers, any medium can be translated into any other." (7)

The ability to document performance-based concept pieces, the capacity to transform video into a medium itself, the birth of digital technology and the ongoing realization of digital convergence have all combined to yield a media fluidity Kittler dubbed the "post-medium condition." (8) In this post-medium condition everything is a potential medium for artistic creation, including digitization itself. The questionable status of intermedia art in such an age thus returns: When the very concept of isolated media is being replaced by a radical media fluidity, has intermedia become anachronistic?


Born in New York out of Fluxus, named by Higgins, and set in motion with video and digital recording technology, the development of intermedia art then veered roughly one thousand miles west. From New York City to Iowa City, Breder brought intermedia to the heartland.

In 1968 Breder established the Intermedia Program in the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa, making it the first program to offer an MFA in intermedia arts. (9) Apprenticed as a painter in Hamburg, Germany, Breder came to New York City in 1964. In New York his minimalist sculptural works such as Cubes on a Striped Surface (1964) received critical praise, and in 1966 the University of Iowa asked him to join the faculty of the School of Art and Art History. When his peers in New York questioned his decision to leave the art mecca for the "breadbasket" of the United States, Breder insisted, "I will bring New York City to Iowa City."

Breder characterizes the atmosphere of the New York he was leaving as one of "flowering new concepts, new media, new forms: Happenings, Pop Art, Op Art, Minimal Art, Concept Art ... to say this was a wildly liberating time in the arts is an enormous understatement." (10) His first major step toward bringing this artistic liberation to Iowa was the creation of the MFA program in Intermedia and Video Arts. (11)

Because the media boundaries traditionally separating the arts were quickly crumbling, Breder realized that the School of Art and Art History had to adjust to avoid being left behind. As such, the Intermedia Program was conceived of as an arena where he and his students could explore the spaces between the arts. According to the program's statement of purpose penned in 1968 by Breder and Ted Perry, the program was designed "to expose the participants to technical and aesthetic considerations of various arts, to provoke creative work and experimentation and to stimulate speculative work on a scholarly, theoretical and aesthetic level." Moreover, because the program was premised on the artificiality of media and disciplinary boundaries, it was established without an "overall intermedia 'style' or philosophy." (12) This rejection of false boundaries created a space for interdisciplinary cross-pollinations as painters, dancers, filmmakers, musicians, poets, and performers collaborated in works ranging from the aural to the tactile.

In the 1970s and 1980s this liminal space expanded beyond the fine arts and into the liberal arts. As rumors about the Intermedia Program spread through the University, faculty members from other departments began to visit Breder's weekly Intermedia Workshop. These visits opened doors to collaborations across academic borders with faculty and students from comparative literature, communication studies, psychology, anthropology, and religious studies. (13)

The Intermedia Program's visiting artist initiative was equally crucial in maintaining and fostering a progressive intermedial environment. The list of artists Iowa has hosted reads like a "Who's Who" of contemporary experimental art. From Robert Wilson, who developed Deafman Glance (1970) while at the University, to Karen Finley, who took Breder for a crank caller when he phoned to invite her to her first university engagement in 1985, the visiting artist program was another way Breder sought to bring New York City to Iowa City. (14)

Breder retired as director of the Intermedia Program at Iowa in 2000. His tenure was iconic of intermedia's development throughout the artworld--reflecting the merging of traditional mediums with one another and with media beyond the fine arts, as well as the continual integration of innovative techniques and new technologies. The legacy he left to the program at Iowa, and the trajectory he continues to set for intermedia art generally, is the ideal of perpetual liminality--to always dwell in between.


But has intermedia become superfluous with the realization of its own ideal? To return to where we began, what is the future of intermedia in an artworld without discrete media to "fall between"--where media fusion has itself become a medium?

It seems there are at least two possible futures for intermedia: either the term "intermedia" must be abandoned as a genre of contemporary art (and accept relegation to the dustbin of art history), in favor of a nomenclature that reflects the present circumstances of media convergence, or alternatively "intermedia" must reclaim the spirit of the term Higgins coined in 1966 and continue to dwell in the liminal by going beyond the exclusive purview of the fine arts and into the borderlands between extra-aesthetic disciplines falsely separating the media of the singular human project.

The first possibility is already occurring. The language of intermedia is being displaced by the language of "new media" as the reality of media convergence is increasingly realized. A trivial yet telling example of this is the name of the visiting artists program launched in 2002 by the Intermedia Program at the University of Iowa: "Intermedia/New Media--A Visiting Artists/Scholars Program." Like intermedia, the language of new media connotes a conceptual fusion of divergent media. However, unlike intermedia, the language of new media escapes the threat of obsolescence posed by ever-encompassing media horizons. That is to say, like the "contemporary," the "new" is always now.

And yet perhaps this nominal adjustment entails a subtle abandonment of the original ethos of intermedia. Ostensibly Higgins coined the term as a way to talk about specific works of art being produced during the late 1950s and early 1960s that fell between media. However, these works and those that would follow stand only as particular embodiments of the idea of intermedia--an idea that began at the dawn of the twentieth century with the ongoing media revolution in the arts, and yet entailed a conceptual sensibility that went beyond the parameters of the arts.

The second possible future for intermedia requires an expansion of its province by drawing on and drawing in extra-artistic fields of inquiry. We often fail to recognize that we are intermedial beings and our seemingly disjointed endeavors and inquiries are merely different appearances of the singular human endeavor to reconcile ourselves to ourselves--to reconcile our materiality and necessity with our consciousness and freedom. And yet our colleges and universities, institutions we've established to further this very project, are cordoned off into discrete disciplines whose territorial walls are fiercely defended. In addition, the fear of dilettantism and the demand for increased specialization have made interdisciplinary (intermedia) work scarce--much to the detriment of the disciplines themselves. The future of intermedia then is perhaps best conceived of as a guiding precept ripe for appropriation and actualization by a new Fluxus collective drawn from art buildings, English departments, business programs, divinity schools, and chemistry labs in a radical new conceptual fusion.

Forty years after Higgins coined the term, the future of intermedia demands that it recover itself in order to advance beyond itself. Intermedia's vision of a conceptual fusion of media is increasingly being realized in the arts, but innumerable extra-aesthetic media await intermedial convergence. As Higgins once said, "Here, our life is largely controlled by people in the university, and until we have departments of the arts in which the visual artist or professor is seated side by side with the poetry professor, it's not very likely that people will get beyond their areas of specialization." (15)

J. SAGE ELWELL is currently completing a dissertation on theology of culture and contemporary art at the University of Iowa.


1. Dick Higgins, "Intermedia," Something Else Newsletter 1, No. 1 (1966), 1.

2. Amy Dempsey, Art in the Modern Era: A Guide to Styles, Schools & Movements (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. Publishers, 2002), 257.

3. Nicholas Zurbrugg, ed., "Dick Higgins," Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 201.

4. Ken Friedman, "Intermedia: Four Histories, Three Directions, Two Futures," Intermedia: Enacting the Liminal, Hans Breder and Klaus-Peter Busse, eds., (Norderstedt: Dortmunder Schriften zur Kunst, 2005), 53.

5. Peter Frank, "The Arts in Fusion: Intermedia Yesterday and Today," in Breder and Busse, 30.

6. Hans Breder, conversation with the author, January 26, 2006.

7. Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 2.

8. Ibid.

9. It should be noted that in 1967, one year before the founding of the Intermedia Program at the University of Iowa, Ken Friedman organized a one-time intermedia class at San Francisco State University Experimental College.

10. Hans Breder, "Intermedia: Enacting the Liminal," Performing Arts Journal Vol. 17, No. 2/3, (May-September, 1995), 112.

11. See the accompanying interview with Hans Breder for an account of how the Intermedia Program came to be.

12. See

13. Breder recalls this sense of disciplinary fluidity: "If I had an idea I could call someone up and say, 'Hey, I was thinking about psycho-physiological responses.' And they say, 'Yea, we have a guy here who does experiments.' And I didn't know this, and so I called him up and the next thing you know, I'm over at the Psychology Department making a film." Hans Breder, conversation with the author, January 26, 2006.

14. A sampling of artists visiting between 1969 and 2000: Hans Haake, Allan Kaprow, Robert Wilson, Vito Acconci, Mary Beth Edelson, Nam June Paike, Ben Vautier, Dick Higgins, Nicholas Zurbrugg, Willoughby Sharp, Kenneth Gaburo, Elaine Summers, Phill Nibblock, Dennis Oppenheim, Lucy Lippard, RoseLee Goldberg, Richard Kostelanetz, Ann-Sargent Wooster, Jean Dupuy.

15. Zurbrugg, 204.

above copied from:

Between Film and Video- the Intermedia Art of Jud Yalkut: An Interview with Jud Yalkut, Sabrina Gschwandtner

Printed in MFJ No. 42 (Fall 2004) Video: Vintage and Current

Sabrina: I thought we could begin by talking about what the Destruct Film at the Judson Gallery - later installed at the Whitney - had in common with your 1967 film, Kusama’s Self-Obliteration.

Jud: Actually, there was no connection between them whatsoever. The show at the Whitney in 2000 was media environments by myself, except for the collaborative work that I did with USCO, which was the one with the balloons, spinning around, called “Yin/Yang Sine/Pulse,” and everyone’s contributions to it were equal. Many of the films from the USCO period were shown at the final weekend of the show. The second installation, the Destruct Film, came out of my participation in the “Art and Destruction” movement—I was on the American Committee of Artists for that—which included, among other people, Jon Hendricks, Jean Toche, Al Hansen, Lil Picard, and a number of other people. The “Art and Destruction” movement was an international movement, of course, in England and all over. There was a big show of Destruction Art at the Finch College Museum; a lot of things were going on at that time. The Judson Gallery became one of the venues where that kind of art was explored, and people did a number of things there. There was a series called “Manipulations,” which included Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman; there was a very famous, almost infamous moment, when Charlotte was performing this piece by Paik, “One for Violin,” which involved smashing a violin, and she was about to smash it and some artist/activist—I think his name was Saul Goodman, or something like that—stuck his head right into the place where she was going to do this. It was a kind of protest to prevent her from smashing the violin. And what happened in the end was that somehow Charlotte actually completed the action, but he got hurt.

Sabrina: She smashed it on his head?

Jud: Probably. There are a lot of different accounts of that. Also Al Hansen gave a Dada lecture, and there was a painter in the area named Steve Rose, I think—he’s now teaching in Pennsylvania—and his idea was to do an Abstract Expressionist painting as a live performance. Then there was also Jean Toche with his light machines that said, “Do not hurt me, I am a human being,” and lights that were too bright, that hurt your eyes, all these other kinds of things. I filmed a bunch of these things.

Sabrina: So they asked you to be the filmmaker for this?

Jud: Well, I was a friend of all the people there, so there was never a formal asking. I filmed it all on regular 8 mm and left it unslit so that on 16 mm it’s four screens and this film was shown as a continuous loop. The big thing is that Destruct Film was a piece that I designed site-specifically for the Judson Gallery, where as you walked down into the gallery, you walked into a sea of film strewn all over the place; there were some projections, there was a loop of “Some Manipulations” that ran continuously, like feedback, of things that had happened in the space, being projected back into the space, and there were two slide projectors, which had at that time slides from filmstrips that used to have “start” and “end” printed on them, but later the slide projectors showed 35 mm slides that had the standard 35MM countdown on them, and this is the way it was presented at the Whitney. And in front of the lenses of the projectors, I had motorized beam-splitter mirrors, which spun the images around the room. So you had all these light beams going on, with all this film in the middle, and people had to destroy the film by walking on it, sitting on it; people made piles and jumped into it, picked it up and held it into the light, and so forth. The whole thing was based on the idea of film as a strip and a loop; it was a comment on the nature of film in the context of art and destruction.

Sabrina: There seems to be a thematic link between Kusama’s Self-Obliteration and Destruct Film, no?

Jud: Well, only because it happened the same year. I was filming with a choreographer at the Black Gate Theater, and Kusama came in; she was doing something there two weeks later, and she asked me to film it. It was in the beginning of December that I did the Destruct Film, and later in December, I was in Belgium for the Experimental Film Festival where the Kusama film was shown. So they were simultaneous but unrelated in other respects.

Sabrina: So you see the Kusama film as a documentary that you did for her?

Jud: No, not a documentary, it was a film that I wanted to do. I had an interest in film as an experiential medium because I did it environmentally, I did multi-media shows with USCO. Destruct Film became an experiential/environmental thing, and this was an experiential art concept expressed as a film. At the end of the film, one of the things that happened in 1968 was that Kusama started using it to lead into actual naked body painting happenings. But the whole thing is that it moves towards different levels of poetics; well, that was my real interest in doing it.

Sabrina: Poetic…?

Jud: Visual poetry. I was originally a word poet. And I was also a visual artist and I was interested in technology. I majored in math and physics for a year at the City College of New York, and all that merged together in film. So merging art and technology has always been present in my work in film, video, digital, or whatever. I highly enjoy an admixture of film, video, and digital manipulation, and the complex tactilities that this affords me.

Sabrina: What do you mean by tactilities?

Jud: By tactilities, I mean the unique texture which each medium has, whether it is the beautiful reflected light of film, the direct eye-brain projection of electron/photons in video, or the magical iterations of digital delay, feedback,,and electronic coloration. The contrast between "real" color in imagery and the otherworldly richness of electronic color is highly beautiful and fascinating to me, as are the confluence of pixels in digital work, raster lines in video, and grain in film. They each have a unique beauty that cannot be found in other forms.

Sabrina: How has the idea of tactilities evolved over time for you? I remember a mention of the tactile in Jonas Mekas' diary entries published in an edition of Film Culture that I read recently, in which he writes about Sol Mednick speaking at the Philadelphia College of Art. Mednick said that cinema will probably never have that tactile feeling, the energy passed from a painter’s brush onto a canvas.

Jud: Mednick is referring to what he conceives of as being the "hands-on" feel of the artist and the direct contact with the medium. In filmmaking, the tactility of editing is very direct, with the feel of the film in one's hands, the smell of the cement, the ability to cut directly to the correct frameline. Filmmakers feel that video lacks this tactility, but in video there is another translation of this hands-on effect in the almost instantaneous reaction of the medium to the maker's will, which is an experience of another ilk. If a painter could project his vision directly onto a canvas, and with a twist of the mind give the strokes the strength or gentleness required, this might somehow equate to the video artist’s tweaking of the image, producing changes and making choices almost in real time, or as close to it as is humanly possible.

Sabrina: Your film Kusama's Self-Obliteration seems to translate the tactile experience of the editing and shooting very well—not just because the film features people touching. The camera movements and the intimacy of the shots give a very tactile impression. And your piece Electronic Zen seems to me very much about tactility and energy.

Jud: Electronic Zen was Nam June's piece, in which the film is clear leader and picks up dirt and scratches and is based very much on the energy of the projection beam into the environment. Self-Obliteration and the process of its shooting involved very much my total immersion in the scene, moving with the camera, creating "body zooms" by choreographing with the camera (I owned no zoom lens at that time and used the "body zoom" in many of my films of the 60s; some people misinterpreted it as "overuse" of the zoom). Also, by involving the camera in the action, there was a new sense of the subject and object merging, which in the case of Self-Obliteration was highly relevant.

Sabrina: Tell me about your first experience with filmmaking. How did you get into it?

Jud: Well, the very first film I made was when I was 13 years old, and I was bar mitzvahed. My present was not a fountain pen, but an 8mm camera, which my father used to film the bar mitzvah. I actually made some films with that camera, and then I got into other things, but I was always interested in film, and I went to films from the time I was 12, and became really conversant in avant-garde and experimental films early on. But, as I say, I became a poet. I went to McGill College in Canada, and Leonard Cohen was my fraternity brother. But when I went to Big Sur in 1957, I stopped writing poetry and stopped doing anything art-related until I moved to the Monterey Peninsula a year later where I started painting again. When I got back to New York much later, in 1961, the woman who became my first wife—a real film buff—gave me an 8 mm camera, and I started making films again. In 1964 I got my first Bolex, and at the end of that year and the beginning of 1965, I started working with the USCO group. It was in 1965 that I started working with Nam June Paik, and the rest is history.

Sabrina: And you worked with him until 1972?

Jud: Well, the Video/Film Concert pieces went up to 1972, but the collaborations continued ever since that time, because I worked with him on a John Cage piece in 1973; there was the Suite 212 that was actually finished when I left New York in 1975, and we still do things together.

Sabrina: I know that you produced a video around the Paik retrospective.

Jud: That was for the touring show, “Electronic Super Highway,” in 1996. I directed that thing, working with the Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati where the pieces were actually being fabricated, so that made it easy, because the whole show was there. And then we had someone go out and shoot the first installation in Ft. Lauderdale.

Sabrina: In your Early Color TV Manipulations with Nam June Paik, there is a sense that the energy comes from objectifying the subjects of the video, where you electronically manipulate the video image and destroy the video signal.

Jud: In these early color TV pieces with Paik, he was transforming the video signal through various means, either rewiring the circuits, or throwing in electromagnetic interference, and destroying the video sync signal in the process. I was discovering ways to capture these images on film, since they could not be recorded on video, and then reworking these images through film editing into final pieces. In the Cinema Metaphysique series, one of the techniques I used was a matte box to film only portions of the screen, as we were basing the series on the exploration of the "unsafe" parameters of the film image's edges when it is translated to TV.

Sabrina: And you used TV in other films.

Jud: Paik and I produced the whole series of video films in the "VideoFilm Concert" program from 1965 through 1972. I have used the video of the Woodstock Festival, transferred to film, and A&B rolled with my original color film to produce Aquarian Rushes. Of course, my ongoing video work involves various aspects of TV at various times, and I have produced works like Raw War, based on TV images of war and destruction, and another based on images from the early history of television, as well as Felix in Videoland based on the fact that an image of Felix the Cat was the first experimental image transmitted from a studio in NY to the Midwest before World War Two.

Sabrina: Tell me a little bit about the filmmaking for USCO.

Jud: There was a commune in Garnersville, New York—which is very close to Stony Point—where Stan VanDerBeek, John Cage, the sculptor Shari Dienes, and a lot of other people were. The church in Garnersville that USCO used as a base is still there; it’s the Intermedia Foundation now.

Sabrina: The term ‘intermedia,’ isn’t used so much right now. How did it come about?

Jud: I wrote an article back in 1966, when I started writing for Arts Magazine, called “Understanding Intermedia,” which was a paraphrase of Marshall McLuhan’s term. The term came about in a number of different ways; no one knows exactly how it was formulated, but some people think it might have been by Dick Higgins, who used it to talk about things that were working between the different art media. So intermedia is the combination of different media working together. Some people called it “multimedia,” but multimedia as a term is totally corrupted by the whole cyber thing. You know, it’s something else and doesn’t have the same meaning anymore.

Sabrina: What’s the difference?

Jud: At the time, intermedia and multimedia were the same thing. It was like talking about avant-garde, experimental, or independent film back then. Today, when you talk about independent film, you’re talking about people who are making feature films outside of Hollywood. It’s different. Multi-media means making things for what they call ‘new media,’ which is, you know, DVDs; it’s when people are going to do a presentation for somebody and they are providing images, word, sound, blah blah blah. And, it’s a totally other thing. People make DVDs and CD-Roms for art, of course. I use DVDs for installation work now. The Whitney USCO installation will be shown in Vienna as DVDs and video projection instead of film loops. I was one of the first and one of the few people who worked with both film and video. There were a handful of us, including Scott Bartlett, Tom Dewitt, Ed Emschwiller, Stan VanDerBeek, and myself. That was it. I interviewed all of them about it; the manuscript for that is up at the Experimental Television Center; it was finished finally with a grant in 1984, from NYSCA. Some of it is on the Vasulka web site; I think it’s also on EAI’s web, and some of it is on the ETC web pages.1 But it’s a 400 page manuscript, called “Electronic Zen: the Alternate Video Generation.”

Sabrina: What sort of questions did you ask people during the interviews?

Jud: Oh, they covered everything--technical, philosophical, social, aesthetic, questions, and so forth.

Sabrina: What do you think of the intermedia approach to ideas of social connectedness now?

Jud: It’s not as prevalent as it was back then. In New York in the 1960s and 1970s, filmmakers, composers, dancers were all overlapping, attending each other’s things. That was the time when my career was really built and there was a lot of collaboration; so my career has always been really involved with that in some form or another. USCO is a notable example; the continuing relationship with Paik is another; the collaboration with Kusama another. There used to be a real community.

Sabrina: I mentioned earlier an issue (#43) of Film Culture from 1966. It states that its purpose was to "give our readers an idea of what's going on in the avant-garde arts today," and to "serve as a sort of catalogue or index to the work of some of the artists involved." Did you know Jonas and did you know of this special issue, the Expanded Arts issue? George Maciuinas did graphic design for it, and your work and the work of USCO are catalogued inside.

Jud: The role of intermedia was a predominant force in the 1960s, with involvement from the Fluxus artists, many of whom were friends of mine, and of course with the annual New York Avant Garde Festival, of which I was the Film coordinator for many years, starting in 1967. Yes, I knew Jonas from way back in the old Cinematheque days, when I had my first one-man show in New York in 1966. I was one of the devotees of the Cinematheque from the early days, when only a few people often attended shows, except for regulars like Hollis Frampton and myself. The Expanded Arts issue of Film Culture emerged after the Expanded Cinema Festival at the Cinematheque in 1966, where I was part of the Film Co-op Board of Directors for four years through 1974 when I was in Ohio already.

Sabrina: During this movement of expanded arts in the late 1960s, happenings, installations and expanded theatre works were all seen, experienced, and written about by those who were also involved in the avant-garde film world, right? If this is the case, I'm wondering what happened in the 1970s. How did the movement evolve, and why is it that the film and video worlds seem to have become so polarized?

Jud: During the 1960s in the film world, there was a great deal of interest in using film in non-traditional ways, often triggered by the Happening movement in the art world, with people like Red Grooms and Bud Wirtschafter, who worked briefly with Warhol and then set up a neighborhood projection event on a block in the Lower East Side. Also, in 1968 when the alternative video groups started working, some film people moved over into that medium, like Ira Schneider, former filmmaker, and they started groups like Raindance and the VideoFreex. All of these people were friends of mine, and I had been involved early on with video, working with Paik, so that I was accepted among the video people, used their equipment, and actually shot early video, some of which is in the Raindance archive. "Pure" film people disparaged or distanced themselves from video, but a few like Vanderbeek, Emshwiller, DeWitt, and Scott Bartlett used both when needed. So, the polarization between film and video started early on, something that I never could understand. As I have stated, I was interest in "rubbing the two media against each other, and polishing each into its full essence." As the video world began gaining force and attracting arts funding, such as NYSCA, there was for a long period, a fragmentation in the video world caused by rivalry, backbiting, and scrambling for funds. I observed all of this close up, and somehow all of the combatants were and continue to be friends of mine. I was one of the first film writers to write about video, beginning with my "Electronic Zen" article in The West Side News in 1967.

Sabrina: Wasn't there scrambling and backbiting in the film world, too? Since video was new, was there new funding that wasn’t available to filmmakers?

Jud: The scrambling and backbiting in the film world really started when the Anthology Film Archives began its "pantheon" grouping of filmmaker acquisitions for what they called "The Essential Cinema", a terminology which may be attributed to P. Adams Sitney, who was on the selection panel. Back in the Cinematheque days, there were chances for many filmmakers to show their works in multiple contexts, but the new Anthology left out many of them. Later, it was stated that budgetary concerns prevented the second and further rounds of selections, which supposedly were intended all along, but that expansion was never implemented. The Filmmakers' Co-op continued its democratic practice of distributing the works of any filmmaker who wanted to participate. Now, The Anthology has opened up its theaters to a variety of film shows, but the Essential Cinema still remains as a kind of temple.

Sabrina: But inclusion in this temple really just means a kind of prestige, not money, since there was no funding involved for Essential Cinema-makers?

Jud: That part is unknown to me. Certainly though, acceptance in the Essential Cinema guaranteed academic bookings and rentals for those concerned.

Sabrina: What about EAI—didn’t that serve as a kind of collection of "Essential Video?" And wasn't Howard Wise more concerned with getting money for video makers through distribution? He also offered a place to make work--Anthology never offered that, did they? I know that the Millennium Film Workshop offered a space to show work as well as a space to make it.

Jud: No, Anthology never had work facilities for filmmakers. Millennium has always been a viable exhibition space for filmmakers, with workshops and access to equipment. Millennium was where I premiered the majority of my works in New York, including works with Paik. I also led the Personal Non-Narrative Filmmaking workshops every Wednesday at Millennium for four years until I left New York. If not for Millennium, I think the New York film world would have been much poorer.
Anthology has served an important function as an archive for many films that would be lost otherwise, and this includes filmmakers who are not included in the Essential Cinema.

Sabrina: What about EAI? Was that the only resource center for video in New York City?

Jud: EAI was definitely the main resource for video artists. For a time, Raindance had been a place where interested people could access equipment for shooting early CV and later AV video. EAI did provide for a time editing and post-production facilities available at low cost to video artists, as I remember. Technical help was available to members of the video community from technicians in the Videofreex group. Bill Etra and I taught a Portapak workshop for the Continuing Education department of NYU, and I was able to obtain my first Portapak through their resale of old equipment to Technisphere Corporation. Other helps to the video community included C.T. Lui and his Egg Store where there were some post-production facilities.

Sabrina: So, video makers could make money by showing the work. Video wasn't being sold, right? Instead there were grants that everyone fought over?

Jud: One other factor in the video scene at that time was the attempt by gallery dealers to distribute video works and documentation of their artists like Vito Acconci, Jonas, and others in limited edition videos for a high price. Considering that video was an infinitely reproducible medium at the time, some people felt that that was a counter-productive move. However, much important work came out of the Art Video world, some of which EAI distributes today. The main grants as I mentioned were from NYSCA and those were the ones that video groups, like Raindance and Global Village, fought over—which particularly polarized the movement for a time. I was involved with both, being part of the first Global Village show which was based on the screening of video of the 69 Woodstock Festival along with my 16mm film of that festival.

Sabrina: Were gallery owners able to sell videos for high prices? What was the result of the bickering over funding by video makers who didn't want to sell their work through the gallery system, or who couldn't sell work that way or otherwise make much money through other means of distribution?

Jud: Basically, there were two different worlds that never merged. Many video makers of that time came from different areas, including radical software or alternative television documentaries, and more abstract image-processing, There were also the most didactic or conceptual uses of video, and this aspect coincided more with the gallery video art world. How extensive the sales were for gallery video, I don't know, not having ever seen any figures, but the word was that the take was limited. The conceptual forms of video are what might be called "Teledynamic Environments" and would include such varied things as Paul Ryan's confessionals and "Earthscore,” Dan Graham's video viewing environments, and for me, the use of video as a distance and space coordinator in my series of "Video Vector" pieces staged during the 1970s, out of New York, but in venues in California, Minneapolis, and the Midwest.

Sabrina: Do you think that the video world or the film world has been more receptive to your work over the years? Has one been kinder to you than the other? Which one were you more attached to?

Jud: I have always been involved in producing single channel works, whether as film, or later as video pieces. The installation aspect has been a concurrent interest, and I did film installations in the 1960s like the Destruct Film piece and others like the "Openings" installation with USCO materials at the Black Gate. I have not deserted either the film or the video worlds or favored one over the other. Being in the Midwest for the past thirty years, access to film laboratories has not been convenient. I was spoiled in New York by being able to bring work into a lab and get it back the same day, instead of having to rely on shipping. Video does not present that problem, being instantaneous, and so it has become more convenient for me to pursue work in this medium now. I know that after the founding of Anthology, there were a number of filmmakers, including myself, who found it more difficult to show and get good rentals. The video world has in recent years unofficially adopted its own "Pantheon" with a limited number of video makers being shown internationally in the museum world. I have been relatively lucky since my long association with Nam June Paik has assured a place in history for our collaborative works.

Sabrina: Yes, you were really in the film world, the video world, and the expanded cinema world. Do you think that these histories have been kind to you?

Jud: As far as histories are concerned, I think I have done pretty well. As Barbara London of MOMA once said to me, "you're in all the books.” Of course, I am still waiting for recognition of my own works, apart from all of the collaborative efforts, such as my Aquarian Rushes, Planes with Trisha Brown, USCO films like Turn Turn Turn, Us Down by the Riverside, and Clarence. I have also been called a historian of my cultural times, for my writings as well as films like the Avant Garde Festival in Central Park, John Cage Mushroom Hunting in Stony Point, and Metamedia: A Film Journal of Intermedia and the Avant Garde: 1966-1970.

Sabrina: Why did you move out of New York?

Jud: I left New York in 1973 because I had been teaching in four different places in the city: NYU, York College, Visual Arts, and Millennium—and then I was offered an Assistant Professorship, setting up my own film and video area in the Art department of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Howard Guttenplan of Millennium told me he was surprised that I left New York because I was what he called "the archetypal New York filmmaker."

Sabrina: Did you enjoy setting up your own area at Wright State? And now you're the Director of the Miami Valley Cooperative Gallery, and doing major projects with them?

Jud: Setting up the media area at Wright State was great; the honeymoon lasted for the first three years until the political-economic monster of state-funded educational reality hit the fan. I lasted four years, and the program continued a few more years with short-term contract teachers until it expired. Now there is a narrative and documentary program of Motion Pictures in the Theater department and no media in the Art area. Overlapping with the demise of my program, I started the non-profit Contemporary Media Study Center, first with a couple of years of filmmaker showcases at the Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and then a gallery and performance space in Dayton until 1981, bringing in many important and national artists. The Miami Valley Cooperative Gallery started in 1989, with its first exhibitions in 1990, always using donated quality public venues. This was part of my vow never again to have to pay rental for a non-profit space, the finances of which collapsed the Media Study Center. Since 1980, I have been an arts writer in Ohio, 19 years for Dialogue magazine, and for the last seven years and counting for the weekly Dayton City Paper for which I am Art Critic. I continue to wear several hats, as Art Critic, as a video artist, and a collage maker. I have had quite a number of shows, including at the Dayton Art Institute, and for the past six years have been published on covers and with inside illustrations of the literary magazine The Vincent Brothers Review.
I've always done collage work, and did the covers for the first year or so of the Filmmakers' Newsletter published by the New York Co-op in the early 1970s. Occasional collages were published in the pages of The East Village Other and The New York Free Press in the late 1960s. So, I like to do several things simultaneously, each providing a break from the other, and refreshing myself as it goes along.

Sabrina: What are you working on now?

Jud: Currently, I am continuing to do a series of new collages, to be shown in an exhibition here at the Riverbend Art Center opening April 30. I received a $10,000 Lifetime Achievement Fellowship from the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District, a program that is unique in the U.S. Thus, I am trying to finish and show new work before the end of June. There are several single channel video works that I plan to finish, and my major thrust is to try to set up venues for two major video installations that I have been working on for the past year. Finding venues with the proper space and video projectors is still a task, although I have gathered other equipment needed, like industrial strength DVD players and a custom DVD-synchronizer designed by Dave Jones Design, one of the greatest innovators in video manifesters in the Western World.

Sabrina: So you're working on collages and looking into venues for this large scale video work.

Jud: Two major pushes which have helped my installation work were of course the Film/Video retrospective at the Whitney Museum in 2000 where I premiered my "Vision Cantos" three-projector installation, along with classic works from 1967 like the USCO balloon piece and Destruct Film. From April to June 2002, there was the "Videoscapes" exhibition at the Miami University Art Museum in Oxford, Ohio, where the two projector version of Vision Cantos was shown, Light Display: Color was premiered, and the "Flash Video" rocketship installation from 1996 was included. Also compilations of "Video Vectors" and the "Video Dada" series were installed. So, my sights are set on large-scale video work as my major thrust for the near future. In my new video work, I enjoy using elements of film that I previously shot and then transferred to high-quality video. This can then be image-processed in my studio and through residencies at the Experimental Television Center. In the "Video Dada" series and related works, I blew up my collages with quality Xerox to 30" x 40" photomurals incorporating video monitor motifs, and cut out some of these monitors to make apertures in which closed-circuit monitors could be placed to incorporate the viewers and the spaces into the piece.


1. see

above copied from:

ART or BREND?, Henry Flynt

1. Perhaps the most diseased justification the artist can give of his profession is to say that it is somehow scientific.


It is the creative personality him- or herself who has the most reason to object to the "scientific" justification of art. Again and again, the decisive step in artistic development has come when an artist produces a work that shatters all existing "scientific" laws of art, and yet is more important to the audience than all the works that "obey" the laws.

2. The artist or entertainer cannot exist without urging his or her product on other people. In fact, after developing his or her product, the artist goes out and tries to win public acceptance for it, to advertise and promote it, to sell it, to force it on people. If the public doesn't accept it as first, he or she is disappointed. He or she doesn't drop it, but repeatedly urges the project on them.

People have every reason, then, to ask the artist: Is your product good for me even if I don't like or enjoy it? This question really lays art open. One of the distinguishing features of art has always been that it is very difficult to defend art without referring to people's liking or enjoying it. (Functions of art such as making money or glorifying the social order are real enough, but they are rarely cited in defense of art. Let us put them aside.) When one artist shows his latest production to another, all he can usually ask is "Do you like it?" Once the "scientific" justification of art is discredited, the artist usually has to admit: If you don't like or enjoy my product, there's no reason why you should "consume" it.

There are exceptions. Art sometimes becomes the sole channel for political dissent, the sole arena in which oppressive social relations can be transcended. Even so, subjectivity of value remains a feature which distinguishes art and entertainment from other activities. Thus art is historically a leisure activity.

3. But there is a fundamental contradiction here. Consider the object which one person produces for the liking, the enjoyment of another. The value of the object is supposed to be that you just like it. It supposedly has a value which is entirely subjective and entirely within you, is a part of you. Yet--the object can exist without you, is completely outside you, is not your or your valuing, and has no inherent connection with you or your valuing. The product is not personal to you.

Such is the contradiction in much art and entertainment. It is unfortunate that is has to be stated so abstractly, but the discussion is about something so personal that there can be no interpersonal examples of it. Perhaps it will help to say that in appreciating or consuming art, you are always aware that it is not you, your valuing--yet your liking it, your valuing it is usually the only thing that can justify it.

In art and entertainment, objects are produced having no inherent connection with people's liking, yet the artist expects the objects to find their value in people's liking them. To be totally successful, the object would have to give you an experience in which the object is as personal to you as your valuing of it. Yet you remain aware that the object is another's product, separable from your liking of it. The artist tries to "be oneself" for other people, to "express oneself" for them.

4. There are experiences for each person which accomplish what art and entertainment fail to. The purpose of this essay is to make you aware of these experiences, by comparing and contrasting them with art. I have coined the term `brend' for these experiences.

Consider all of your doings, what you already do. Exclude the gratifying of physiological needs, physically harmful activities, and competitive activities. Concentrate on spontaneous self-amusement or play. That, is concentrate on everything you do because you like it, because you just like it as you do it.

Actually, these doings should be referred to as your just-likings. In saying that somebody likes an art exhibit, it is appropriate to distinguish the art exhibit from his or her liking of it. But in the case of your just-likings, it is not appropriate to distinguish the objects valued from your valuings, and the single term that covers both should be used.

When you write with a pencil, you are rarely attentive to the fact that the pencil was produced by somebody other than yourself. You can use something produced by somebody else without thinking about it. In your just-likings, you never notice that things are not produced by you. The essence of a just-liking is that in it, you are not aware that the object you value is less personal to you than your very valuing.

These just-likings are your "brend." Some of your dreams are brend; and some children's play is brend (but formal children's games aren't). In a sense, though, the attempt to give interpersonal examples of brend is futile, because the end result is neutral things or actions, cut off from the valuing which gives them their only significance; and because the end result suggests that brend is a deliberate activity like carrying out orders. The only examples for you are your just-likings, and you have to guess them by directly applying the abstract definition.

Even though brend is defined exclusively in terms of what you like, it is not necessarily solitary. The definition simply recognizes that valuing is an act of individuals; that to counterpose the likes of the community to the likes of the individuals who make it up is an ideological deception.

5. It is now possible to say that much art and entertainment are pseudo-brend; that your brend is the total originality beyond art; that your brend is the absolute self-expression and the absolute enjoyment beyond art. Can brend, then, replace art, can it expand to fill the space now occupied by art and entertainment? To ask this question is to ask when utopia will arrive, when the barrier between work and leisure will be broken down, when work will be abolished. Rather than holding out utopian promises, it is better to give whoever can grasp it the realization that the experience beyond art already occurs in his or her life--but is totally suppressed by the general repressiveness of society.

Note: the avant-garde artist may raise a final question. Can't art or entertainment compensate for its impersonality by having sheer newness as a value? Can't the very foreignness of the impersonal object be entertaining? Doesn't this happen with my "Mock Risk Games," for example?

The answer is that entertainmental newness is also subjective. What is entertainingly strange to one person is incomprehensible, annoying or irrelevant to another. The only difference between foreignness and other entertainment values is that brend does not have more foreignness than conventional entertainment does.

As for objective newness, or the objective value of "Mock Risk Games," these issues are so difficult that I have been unable to reach final conclusions about them.

published 1968

above copied from:

Art by Instruction and the Pre-History of do it, BRUCE ALTSHULER

The following essay is reproduced from "do it," the exhibition's catalogue which was produced by Independent Curators International (ICI). ICI organized the 'do it' exhibition and toured it in the Americas from 1998 through 2001. The accompanying book is available from ICI or through D.A.P.

The aesthetic 'attitude' is restless, searching, testing- it is less attitude than action: creation and re-creation.
-------------- Nelson Goodman1*

do it unites two strategies employed at key moments by the conceptual avant-garde: the generation of a work by following written instructions, and the insertion of chance in the realization of an artwork. Both of these techniques have also surfaced throughout the history of the avant-garde exhibition. The reason is not hard to find, for not only have such exhibitions sought to instantiate the ideas of the works contained within them, but advanced exhibitions have come more and more to be approached as artworks in their own right. Since the 1960's the contemporary curator has come to be seen as a kind of artist, an auteur creating visual and conceptual experiences related to those of the works exhibited. What we find in the pre-history of do it, then is something like three parallel narratives, development tied to changing conceptions of the artwork, the exhibition, and the curator.

In all of these areas, the critical progenitor is Marcel Duchamp. While one can look to the studios of the Renaissance, say, for works created by individuals other than the artist-of attribution, the modern tactic of removing the execution from the hand of the artist appears in 1919 when Duchamp sent instructions from Argentina for his sister Suzanne and Jean Crotti to make his gift for their April marriage. To create the oddly named wedding present, Unhappy Ready-Made, the couple was told to hang a geometry text on their balcony so that wind could " go through the book [and] choose its own problems..." Duchamp produced another instruction-work in 1949, when he asked Henri-Pierre Roch to make a second 50cc Air de Paris (fig.1) after Walter Arensberg's original had been broken, directing Roch to return to Paris pharmacy that Duchamp had visited in 1919 and have the druggist empty and re-seal the same kind of glass ampule as was used originally.2* Duchamp's use of chance had emerged earlier with the Three Standard Stoppages of 1913, created by dropping meter-long threads onto a canvas to generate new units of length that mock the idea of the standard meter. (That same year Duchamp and his sisters, Yvonne and Magdeleine, wrote Musical Erratum by placing notes on a staff in the order in which they were randomly drawn from a bag.) And as a curator, in April 1917 Duchamp installed the First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists by using, in effect, two chance procedures. For his New York show of 2,125 works, Duchamp directed that pieces be arranged alphabetically by artist's last name, determining by a lot the letter "R" with which the installation began.3*

Marcel Duchamp
Ready - Made, 50cc Air de Paris, 1919
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.

While do it does not explicitly employ chance operations, its content is determined by a procedure whose results cannot be foreseen, so, as far as the curator and organizers are concerned, the process is functionally equivalent to chance. For viewers, on the other hand, the experience of the exhibition involves as awareness both of what is and what might have been. Both these perspectives point to the work of John Cage, whose role in the geneses of art-by-instruction is central. In a series of classes given at the New School for Social Research between 1956 and 1960, Cage influenced a generation of artists who would develop the performance script into an art form, and lay the ground for Happenings and Fluxus.4* Having earlier embraced chance compositional procedures as a means of effacing his own likes and dislikes (and, as he put it, " imitating nature in her manner of operation"), Cage encouraged students who already were using chance in their work - such as George Brecht and Jackson Mac Low - and prompted others - such as Allan Karpow, Dick Higgins and Al Hanson - to do so. And his classroom assignments led to instructions for events and performances that yielded some of the most important intermedia activity of the late 1050s and early 1960s.

Out of the Cage class came the kind of event cards for which Fluxus would become well-known, an evocative form whose power is best appreciated in the 1959-66 works of George Brecht published by the movement's impresario George Maciunas in a box called Water Yam. While most Fluxus event cards are performance scripts, Water Yam also includes instructions for the creation of objects or tableaux - obscure directions whose realization left almost everything to the realizer. In such works as Six Exhibits ("ceiling, first wall, second wall, third wall, fourth wall, floor") (fig.2) and Egg ("at least one egg"), Brecht applied to objects and physical situations the freedom of execution and openness to serendipity that is the hallmark of a Fluxus performance. As we can see in the pieces contributed by Allan Karpow and Alison Knowles to do it, alumni of the Cage class and their associates continue to work in this spirit.

George Brecht
Six Exhibits, 1961

More than Brecht, however, Yoko Ono was the artist during this period who most significantly focused on the creation of objects from instructions. Although she never studied with Cage, her husband at the time, composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, was in the New School class, and Ono was an active participant in the surrounding milieu. At the time Ono was best known for the series of events that she and La Monte Young organized in her Chambers Street loft, beginning in December 1960, but more interesting for us is her July 1961 exhibition at Ceorge Maciunas' AG Gallery. Here she displayed a group of works in the process of realization, made from instructions to be carried out by visitors. Painting to be Stepped On, for instance, called for viewers to walk on a canvas laid on the gallery floor, and Smoke Painting (fig.3) was to be realized by visitors burning the canvas with cigarettes and watching the smoke rise. Ono took next logical step in her May 1962 exhibition at the Sogetsu Art Center in Tokyo, where instead of objects created by instructions she displayed only the instructions on sheets of white paper. In this show ideas - exhibited as verbal directions - were marked as central. Yoko Ono released her paintings in the world, in the form of instructions, like the butterfly whose release in the concert hall constitutes La MonteYoung's most poetic instruction piece. Calling for participation by others in an ongoing, free artistic process, Ono's instruction book Grapefruit, first published in Japan in 1964.5* An important aspect of such work is the tension between ideation and material realization, for while these pieces seem to be created by being imagined, as instructions for physical action they stake a further claim in the world.

Yoko Ono
Smoke Painting, 1961

Smoke Painting: Light canvas or any finished painting with a cigarette at any time for any length of time. See the smoke movement. The painting ends when the whole Canvas or painting is gone. 1961 summer

Art in which ideas are primary, and are presented via verbal description, would reach its apogee within a decade in the broader conceptual art movement. But the story of art-by-instruction first tales a turn into more rigorous sculptural practice with Minimalist fabrication. Of course sculpture has a long history of works created by craftsmen casting or carving from the artist's maquettes and directions. And certain modern masters, such as Joan Miró, had extended this practice by having pieces fabricated according to oral or written instructions.6* But the Minimalists were motivated very differently than earlier sculptors, for their use of industrial fabrication was a reaction - as was the work of Cage and Fluxus circles - to the aesthetic ideology of Abstract Expressionism. 7* When Donals Judd, Robert Morris or Dan Flavin had sculptures fabricated from construction drawings, they were striking a blow against that movement's focus on the artist's hand and the central position held by the subjectivity of the maker.

In Minimalist practice, as in do it, instructions and anonymous fabrication impose a distance between the artist and the realized artwork. The role of the artist is thus transformed from maker to conceiver. This connection between Minimalism and conceptualism was made clear by Sol LeWitt in his important " Paragraphs on Conceptual Art," published in June 1967 in Artforum. Here LeWitt valorized ideas rather than their physical instantiations, and he accepted unrealized concepts as works in their own right. And as concepts became the focus their linguistic expression was admitted as an artistic form. Artworks could be embodied in statements, and a collection of statements could constitute an exhibition.

The move from conceptual work to conceptual exhibition was made by dealer/publisher/organizer Seth Siegelaub in his exhibition Douglas Huebler: November, 1968. Lacking an exhibition space, Siegelaub presented Huebler's show in the form of a catalog alone. Here Huebler's pieces - space-time construction imperceptible at any one time or place - appeared as verbal descriptions, maps and other documentation. The next month Siegelaub published Lawrence Weiner. Statements, not explicitly introduced as an exhibition but clearly functioning that way. Weiner's works were presented in written form - " Two minutes of spray paint directly upon the floor from a standard aerosol spray can" ( fig.4) - and they each specified a material process that could be carried out in the world. ( Whether his instructions ever were carried out, whether the work actually was physically realized, was a matter of indifference to Weiner, who left that decision to the "receiver.") In January 1969 Siegelaub mounted his most famous exhibition in an unused office on East 52nd Street in New York, yet even here the catalogue was fundamental. For while the exhibition known as The January Show displayed in physical space pieces by Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner, Siegelaub insisted that the catalogue was primary: " The exhibition consists of (the ideas communicated in) catalogue; the physical presence (or the work) is supplementary to the catalogue."8*

Lawrence Weiner
Two minutes of spray paint directly upon the floor from a standard aerosol spray can, 1968
Courtesy Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. The LeWitt Collection.

By 1969 the international art world was exploding with art-by-instruction, much of it created for radical exhibitions mounted in Europe and North America. The proliferation of the form was driven by two factors: The nature of much new art allowed for its being made on the basis of artists' directions, and the great demand by curators of large shows for pieces from artists unable to travel to distant venues. I cite a few examples from two of the most important exhibitions of that heady year: Lucy Lippard's 557.089 and 955,000 (two versions of a show named for the populations of the cities in which it was mounted - Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia), and Harald Szeemann's When Attitudes Become Form: Works-Process-Concepts-Situations-Information (Live in Your Head).9* For 557.089 Robert Smithson sent instructions for a work consisting of 400 photographs to be taken with a Kodak Instamatic camera of deserted Seattle horizons (fig.5); and for 955,000, Jan Dibbets sent directions for recording a tape of the sounds of a car trip of up to thirty miles, with the driver verbally counting out the miles driven, to be played continuously in the exhibition under a map of the rout taken. For When Attitudes Become Form, Robert Morris instructed the Kunsthalle staff to collect as many different kinds of combustible materials as were available in Bern, and beginning with one kind add different sorts of materials at units of time to be determined by dividing the length of the exhibition by the number of materials. On the last day of the exhibition, with all the materials having been "placed freely in the space," they were removed and burned outside the museum. And for both Lippard's and Szeemann's exhibitions, Sol LeWitt sent detailed instructions for the creation of wall drawings. The work-by-instruction created by American and European artists during this exciting period, and the curatorial activity that often elicited these pieces, constitute the critical precedent for do it.10*

Robert Smithson
instruction card for
400 Seattle Horizons, 1969

Like many of the avant-garde exhibitions of this century, do it itself exemplifies the characteristics of the art that it contains. Just as important surrealist exhibitions were themselves surreal works in the form of constructed environments - witness Duchamp's installation of the 1938 International Exposition of Surrealism, or Frederick Kiesleer's design of Peggy Guggenheim's Art of this Century (1942) and of the Hugo Gallery's exhibition Bloodflames (1947) - do it is a work of the same kind as its components.11* do it is a do-it, a work to be realized from instructions, and as with other pieces of art-by-instruction it can be done simultaneously in more than one place. The exhibition comes with rules that must be followed by the institutions mounting the show; the requirement that works be destroyed after the exhibition for example. But like all art-by-instruction, do it is essentially open, allowing for a range of realizations according to the interpretations, choices and constraints of those who follow the directions. Like the works comprising it, do it is a multiple of potentially unlimited variety and number.

These features of instruction-works raise philosophical questions regarding the identity of such pieces, and therefore about the nature of this sort of artwork. The questions are of two kinds. First, what exactly is the artwork here - the idea as stated in a set of directions, or the actual words and instructions diagrams themselves, or the set of all realizations?12* Wittgensteinian worries about what it is to follow a rule - a consequence of any rule or instruction being interpreted in so many different ways - prompt a second set of questions: How closely must one follow the instructions of do it, or of the works comprising the show, to count as realizing this exhibition, or that particular work? How important in this regard are the curator's or the artist's intentions, and what other factors are relevant? It would be foolhardy to try to settle these matters here, but the pre-history of do it suggests answers that emphasize openness of interpretation and that move in the direction of freedom.

Freedom and openness to novel exhibition forms characterize do it and Obrist's curatorial work in general. Very much in the spirit if his avant-garde precursors - beginning with Jules Lévy, whose 1882 Arts incohérents exhibition in his Paris apartment looks forward to Obrist's 1991 and 1993 exhibitions in his Swiss kitchen and Paris hotel room13* - Obrist has sought to show art in new ways and in unexpected places. While he departs from his predecessors of the 1960s and 1970s by wholeheartedly accepting the museum as a legitimate venue, reasoning from the inevitable institutionalization of successful anti-institutional forms, Obrist has sought space for freedom within the museum by such artistic interventions as his Migrateurs series at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. do it also creates such a space within the museum.

This lack of being burdened by do it's historical predecessors also characterizes the work of the younger artists in the show, such as Jason Rhoades and Rirkrit Tiravanija, who are at home in the establishment settings that once made their older colleagues so uncomfortable. The spirit of do it thus is very much of our time, enjoying in post-modern pastiche both nostalgia for the 1960s and accommodation with the institution. This is clear from the exhibition title, which prompts two very different associations: Jerry Rubin's battle cry from 1968 - the year of Obrist's birth - and the familiar advertising slogan for Nike athletic shoes. do it is a delicate high wire act, balancing subversion with curatorial and artistic renewal. And with these instructions in hand, it is an easy act to follow.

Bruce Altshuler is the director of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum and author of The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the Twentieth Century


1. Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art (Indianapolis, New York and Kansas City: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1968), P.242.

2. Marcel Duchamp, quoted in Calvin Tomkins, Marcel Duchamp: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996), P.212. On re-creating 50 cc Air de Paris, see P-374.

3. For this exhibition, Duchamp's installation and its critics, see Francis Naumann, New York Dada 1915-23 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994), PP-76-r9i.

4. For a detailed account ofthis class, and its influence on the development ofintermedia art forms, see Bruce Altshuler, "The Cage Class," in Cornelia Lauf and Susan Hapgood, eds., FluxAttitudes (Gent, Belgium: Imschoot Uitgevers, 1991), PP.17-23

5. Yoko Ono has written that her primary interest in these works is in "painting to construct in your head," tracing their origin to childhood experiences of hunger in wartime Japan, when she and her brother "exchanged menus in the air." ["To The Wesleyan People (who attended the meeting)-a footnote to my lecture of January 13th, 1966" in Yoko Ono, Grapefruit (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1970), n.p.] Ono's piece for do it, instructing visitors to write their wishes on pieces of paper and tie them to a tree, recalls her Japanese childhood as well, when she would visit a temple and tie her wishes to a tree along with those of other supplicants.

6. According to Georges Hugnet in "Joan Miró, ou l'enfance de l'art" (Cahier d'Art, VI, 7-8, PP- 335-40), Miró sent instructions to a carpenter to make such works as the 193o Relief Construction now at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. For this reference I thank Anne Umland of the Museum of Modern Art.

7. Two artists associated with Minimalism, Robert Morris and Walter De Maria, first made such sculptural objects as part of performances related to early Fluxus. See Bruce Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the Twentieth Century (New York: Harry A. Abrams, 1994), pp.223 and 233.

8. For an account ofthese works and exhibitions, see Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition, pp.236-43.

9. When Attitudes Become Form was mounted at the Kunsthalle Bern (Switzerland) in March-April 1969, and traveled to the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld, Germany and to London's institute of Contemporary Art. Instructions for works in both of these exhibitions are included in their catalogs, with the catalog for 557,o87 consisting of a set of four-by-six-inch cards that details each piece. Also see Lucy Lippard, Six Years: The dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997), pp.iio-i2, and Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition, pp.243-55 While instructions for works in such exhibitions generally were provided to the curator in written form, an important exception is Jan van der Marck's 1969 show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Art by Telephone, for which instructions could be communicated only by telephone.

10. There are many subsequent instruction works, of course, and later exhibitions that embrace this form. Two noteworthy cases are Nina Felshin's The Presence of Absence: New Installations, organized in 1988 by Independent Curators Incorporated and containing instruction pieces by thirteen artists, and John Cage's Rolywholyover A Circus, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 1993. The Presence of Absence traveled to eleven venues in 1989-9o, and-like do it-was realized simultaneously in different locations. Rolywholyover A Circus, which traveled internationally, included a huge number of non-instruction works, but the composition and installation of the exhibition constantly changed according to a Cage-created set of instructions employing chance operations.

11. For these exhibitions, see Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition, Chapter 7.

12. This last suggestion follows Nelson Goodman's rich analysis of performance works, in Goodman, Languages of Art, Pp.99-123 and 177-221.

13. For Jules Uvy's apartment exhibition, see Dennis Phillip Cate, "The Spirit of Montmartre," in Dennis Phillip Cate and Mary Shaw, eds., The Spirit of Montmartre: Cabarets, Humor, and the Avant-garde, 1875-1905 (New Brunswick, NJ: Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 1996), p1. |

above copied from:


2.1. Introduction.

In USA, whilst Johnson continued to use the postal system to transport his orchestrations, Fluxus - a constantly changing, international loose group of geographically separated people,1 through Europe and North America - participated in mailart and began to widen the network of mailart through publishing and to explore the creative potential of the elements of the postal system with postcards, stamps and franking. This chapter examines the uses of these elements by Fluxus and mailartists.

Whilst much has been written on Fluxus, it has not been discussed in terms of its importance to the development of mailart. Writers on mailart on the other hand have acknowledged the importance of Fluxus to mailart. Significantly, Chuck Welch chooses to organise his book, Eternal Network: A Mail Art Anthology 2 with the first chapter, written by Fluxus man Ken Friedman, 'The Early Days of Mailart'3 including an account of Fluxus mailart work. It is not until the third chapter that Clive Phillpot's 'The Mailed Art of Ray Johnson' occurs, although Friedman does include writing about Johnson. (Chapter two is by John Held Jr., 'Networking: The Origin of Terminology.') Friedman perceives that it was through Fluxus that mailart:

"reached out to the public" ... "and began to make real, its potential for social change and for contributing new forms of communication to the world." 4

This is a view that I share, but note the importance of the word "began". Friedman also sees that it was Fluxus that encouraged people to find-out about each other through the mail, a means of broadening knowledge and understanding of other artists' work without having to travel and meet them.

Although Robert Atkins in his "guide" mentions mailart under Fluxus:

"Fluxus was not limited to live events. Mail (or correspondence) art - postcardlike collages or other small scale works that utilized the mail as a distribution system - were pioneered by Fluxus artists, especially Ray Johnson."5

the statement is misleading in that Johnson was never a "Fluxus artist" and given that, it was not Fluxus artists who pioneered mailart. Writing about Fluxus is frequently accompanied by reproductions of works that show Fluxus use of the mail but do not comment on them in terms of mailart, seeing them simply as Fluxus works6. John Hendrick's massive tome on Fluxus reproduces many works that used the mail, again without reference to mailart.7 In his introduction to this text, Robert Pincus-Witten describes Fluxus as an indictment of USA political and artistic (Abstract Expressionist) imperialism and a:

"campaign that subverted the inherited abstract value system - large, heroic, ambitious, and sexist - favouring an art that was intimate, ephemeral, and highly poetic."8

This is a view of Fluxus that is echoed by Hendricks in his foreword to the book and is not only applicable to Fluxus but also to my reading of mailart in the USA in the sixties and seventies.

2.2. The Conception of Fluxus.

Fluxus was conceived in 1961/1962 by George Maciunas (1931 - 1978), a Lithuanian architect and designer and part owner of the A/G gallery, 925 Madison Avenue.9 A/G got its name from the forenames of Maciunas and his partner Almus Salicus. The intention had been to exhibit abstract painting and sell ancient musical instruments but within the same year (1960) Maciunas met La Monte Young and others that were to be Fluxus artists and turned the gallery into a venue for their (including Johnson's) events that Maciunas sponsored. The gallery closed in 1961. Fluxus began outside Fine Art, with many of the people who joined Fluxus coming from non-art backgrounds working in the spaces between art forms and between art and life.10 In this way, they relate to mailartists with the participators not necessarily coming from an arts background and not signalling the importance of 'art'.

The first Fluxus manifestation was Maciunas' publication 'Fluxus' (1961) that grew out of the musical events of the people centred around John Cage. Many of those who were to become the mainstays of Fluxus11 had attended Cage's course in Musical Composition at The New School For Social Research, New York in the summer of 1958.12 In 1960, Maciunas also attended Maxfield Parish's classes in electronic music, and met La Monte Young at the same venue. La Monte Young, Fluxus man and composer organised performances at Yoko Ono's New York studio, (11 Chambers Street) from Dec. 18, 1960 to June 30th 1961 and Maciunas arranged performances in his gallery from March 14th to June 30th 1961. It was on an invitation card to three concerts in March of that year "Musica Antiqua et Nova" - "A 3 dollar contribution will help to publish Fluxus magazine." that Maciunas first used the word Fluxus.13 Johnson was one of the participants in these concerts, and so was involved in Fluxus right from the very start. La Monte Young and Maciunas were not simply connected by their involvement in Happenings14 but also their interest in publishing. Young had taken over Beatitude East magazine15 which developed, with Maciunas doing the layout and Mac Low assisting, into An Anthology (October 1961). The journal included experimental music and event scores; poetry and essays and the work of Nam June Paik; Dieter Rot; and Emmett Williams and was intended by Maciunas to be a serial publication under the banner of Fluxus but was interrupted by his moving to Germany to take-up a job with the U.S.A.F. in Germany as a freelance designer / architect. Although the move to Germany affected the intended production of the publication, it strengthened the idea of internationalism that is so clear from the nationalities of the artists involved in the Cage workshop, Fluxus in general and later in mailart. Nam June Paik (b.1932) was also in Germany at that time and Maciunas - taking advantage of his geographical location - planned an ambitious 18 months long tour of concerts, to include Paik, from Berlin in June 1961 to Tokyo in January 1964 via Moscow - a big city per month to be supported by Fluxus magazine. The reality of the locations was somewhat different to the plan - being limited to Europe - but still impressively ambitious.16 Fluxus performance and therefore Fluxus, was clearly launched.

At the start of 1963 Maciunas published the Fluxus, 'Purge Manifesto' which declared war on:"The world of bourgeois sickness, "intellectual", professional, and commercialized culture."17 Maciunas saw Fluxus as being free of confines and able to work in any way that it wished, without concern for tradition or the need for recognition by established art critics. Whilst the publication of Fluxus works and the opening of a Fluxus shop can be read as being a critical comment on commerce - given that the goods on offer were neither functional nor falling within accepted notions of Fine Art - there is also a danger of falling into the trap of becoming part of the very establishment that is being criticised. Maciunas' criticism of 'professional(ism)' is also problematic, given the professional role that he played as the highly committed organiser of Fluxus.18

Rejection of the notion of 'Authorship' and therefore the 'Artist as Hero' was central to Maciunas' concept of Fluxus: participators were expected to sign their work - if at all - 'Fluxus.' Fluxus signalled participation, inclusivity rather than exclusivity, experimentation and creativity as being paramount and individual identity, career building and ego-feeding as being of no importance whatsoever. However, the reality was that the participators in Fluxus frequently did sign their work with their own names. Equally, mailartists usually sign their work as a principle because the spread of contacts is important to its activity. Although within mailart there is a tradition among some networkers of working anonymously by adopting pseudonyms, or 'combat names' as discussed in Chapter one, this is not the same issue as signing a work 'Fluxus' because these are individually held names and also because cynically it could be suggested that Maciunas' motive in encouraging this signing was giving Fluxus itself a higher profile than that of the individual participating artists. Whilst combat names, may well make the individual more memorable, they do not serve to promote mailart as a whole and mailart, unlike Fluxus has no intention of producing a saleable product.

Multiple Names relate to Combat Names in as much as that they do not reveal the legal name of the networker but their origins lie in the Fluxus anti-elitist, anti-artist-as-hero stance. Whilst Duchamp used pseudonyms such as R.Mutt and Rrose Selavy, these were not used to suppress his career as an artist, arguably the opposite was the case. In 1920 however, Raoul Hausmann suggested that the Berlin Dadaists should all call themselves 'Jesus Christ'. This can be considered to be a typically provocative Dadaist idea rather than a serious proposition but nevertheless, it is a multiple name proposal. Maciunas had more success with suggesting to the Fluxus artists that they should simply sign their work 'Fluxus', in a move against the perception of art as elitist behaviour and careerism. The notion of an anonymous work of art has the effect of preventing the placing of value on a work of art because of its 'brand name.'

The issue of putting a name to a work of art was subsequently explored by mailartists and the first mailart Multiple Name was created in the mid 1970s by two British mailartists, Stefan Kukowski and Adam Czarnowski who tried to persuade other networkers to adopt the name 'Klaos Oldanburgh' (sic).19 The ideology of this concept is called into question by their use of Roman Numerals after the name to differentiate the different Klaos Oldanburghs, thereby in effect drawing attention to their being different people, with identities. One year before Maciunas' death, in 1977, David Zack a Los Angeles, USA. networker proposed what he described as an "Open pop-star" name that could be used by mailartists wishing to assume the identity of a pop-star. The name, Monty Cantsin became associated specifically with Neoism and in particular with a Canadian networker, Istvan Kantor (I discuss Neoism in Chapter 4). In 1985, Stuart Home, an English networker, became interested in Multiple Names but felt, because of the specific association of Cantsin with Kantor, that a new association-free name was needed and chose that of Karen Eliot. Documentation of mailart projects occurred where all the participators' names were listed as Karen Eliot or Monty Cantisn.20 Honouring the expectation of participants to receive the addresses of all participants in many respects defeated the principle of anonymity, the printing of the individuals' addresses making the identification of the participant possible.

2.3. Publications.

The importance to Fluxus of publishing was to be significant for mailart in that it was the start of mailartists extending their work beyond the impetus of Johnson's 'letters', to making editions and journal based work.

In 1965, the first mailart book (and what seems to be the first published accounts of mailart after Wilcock's article) was produced by Dick Higgins - a prominent member of Fluxus - with the publication of Johnson's book, The Paper Snake.21 This work consists entirely of mailart works by Johnson from 1960 to 1964 and almost entirely sent to Higgins. These are mostly text with, in many cases, some resemblance to the text works of Yoko Ono from the 1950s and 1960s, often with barbed references to specific individuals, many of them famous from all walks of life. Although Johnson's address does appear, there is neither invitation, nor indication of the possibility of participation. The work makes no attempt to reach out to the uninitiated and as such perhaps would be unapproachable to most people, but would undoubtedly have made Fluxus artists more aware of the way in which Johnson used the mail. There is a short introductory essay by the American art critic, William Wilson, sometimes described as Johnson's unofficial biographer, eulogising about the work but adding no information on Johnson or mailart (see the introduction to this thesis).

Of particular importance to the spread of mailart, Higgins also produced a newsletter in 1966, initially to present his essay on 'intermedia', it went on to disseminate mailart ideas and to be the inspiration for future network newsletters.22 Also in 1966, Ken Friedman of Fluxus West (San Diego) began to publish the annual compilations of Fluxus mailing lists which George Maciunas had produced since the early days of Fluxus as membership lists so that people could communicate directly with each other. These could seem to relate to Johnson's 'meeting' lists but differ in two important ways. Firstly, Fluxus lists were factual whereas Johnson's were, at least in part, fantasy. Secondly, Johnson did not reproduce lists of addresses with the names, to enable and encourage growing networks. Fluxus compilations grew until by 1972 the list was of more than 1400 names and addresses of people interested in communicating experimentally. The 1972 list was published in co-operation with 'Image Bank', a Toronto, Canada artists' collective which sent out bi-monthly requests to other participants, a kind of brokerage firm, based on Johnson's example of putting people in touch with each other.23 The Image Bank list, in turn, became the core of the artist's directory of File (see below) which was released in hundreds of free copies, distributed to artists, arts organisations and publishers around the world. The artist's directory published network information, addresses and project invitations, providing the first possibility of information rather than simply written versions of Chinese Whispers.

Although mailing lists per se do not appear anymore in mailart, documentation of mailart projects (discussed in Chapter 3) by tacit agreement, consists of the names and addresses of all the participants, so acting as a mailing list. Since Fluxus, there have been many mailart magazines which include name and address lists, notably Lo Straniero, the production of Neopolitan Ignazio Corsaro who refers to his list as 'The Strangers Directory', printing about 1,000 names and addresses, covering approximately five letters of the alphabet each issue.24 This magazine is published in the uniquely (for mailart) large edition of 10,000 copies, is professionally printed in Black and White and produced twice a year since 1985, initially in Broad Sheet format.25 Corsaro's magazine is a forum for discussion through letters sent to him and his reply to them, through the magazine. Other means of increasing contacts occur in some quite different journals, in England the commercially produced Artists Newsletter includes a column, compiled by London mailartist Michael Leigh, listing current mailart projects.26 Mailart newsletters vary from the highly efficient, professionally produced but visually bland Global Mail produced by Ashley Parker Owens of the U.S.A., to the visually enjoyable but slimmer, photocopied and more random quality of husband and wife Serbian Lawyers, Rorica and Dobrica Kamperlic's Open World. Global Mail developed from an initial single fold in 1992, to issue no.15, December 1996, consisting of 32 pages, stapled, with the listings under eleven categories and 2500 copies produced.27 In choosing to concentrate on the content of her visually functional journal rather than creating a very recognisable appearance, Ashley Parker Owens highlights the importance of simply being able to contact people and expand the network, over the nature of the contact, she remains impartial to how her information is used. Open World, has been published since 1985 and continued throughout the war in ex Yugoslavia, even though it was published in Beograd. The magazine consists of paste-ups of fliers for mailart projects and photographs of mailartists, with typewriter generated text. Whilst this makes it difficult to use as a reference work about current projects, unlike Global Mail, it is a much more visually seductive production, encouraging browsing and with a sense of ownership in that although Ashley Parker Owens prints entries sent, these are changed into the text, style and format of the magazine, whereas the Kamperlics simply photocopy whatever is sent. The Kamperlics also encourage the spread of the magazine by recipients photocopying it and sending copies to other mailartists. Ashley Parker Owens also uses mailartists to pass the magazine on, but by sending-on copies sent. In both cases they are using the potential of the network to distribute their magazines about the network beyond their immediate contacts. Both have their place in mailart and represent two extremes of mailart, Ashley Parker Owens being highly 'professional' (although at her own considerable expense28) and the Kamperlics enjoying the immediacy of hastily produced magazines that enabled them to produce and distribute 83 editions in the first ten years of production.

Fluxus production of magazines,29 developing from Maciunas' initial concept of a Fluxus magazine, was to become one of the mainstays of mailart, with magazines produced for a variety of reasons, from contacts and advertisers of mailart projects to publishers of visual and text based creative work. The word 'magazine' is often shortened to 'Zine', Stephen Perkins defines them as "self-produced, self-distributed, non-profit publications focusing on topics that are often ignored by the mainstream media." referring to self published, cheaply produced products with no commercial ambitions or outlets, he goes on to say that "the history of Zines can be traced back to the 1930s when science fiction fans started putting out their own slick science fiction magazines ... When those fans circulated their mimeographed writings amongst themselves, the zine was born".30

Life magazine, with the punning potential of its title, inspired a number of mailart magazines that in some cases had large print runs, received grants and reached out beyond the confines of the network.31 These magazines evolved organically in the change of title and passing of production from mailartist to mailartist. The first of these, and perhaps the first magazine to be generated through the mailart network, was produced by General Idea who began File magazine in 1971 with a grant from the Canada Council. File was printed in editions of 3-5,000 and was sold at news-stands in major USA cities, but by 1974 it had ceased to address mailart, choosing to concentrate on the general activities of General Idea, in preference to what they perceived as being the 'Quikkopy crap' that they were seeing in mailart as a response to the new availability of photocopying and the broadening out from the hand-crafted works that epitomised the early years of mailart. File was conceived as an anagram of Life and the first issue, April 15th, was a convincing imitation of a 1948 issue of Life magazine. In 1974 Anna Banana adopted File, renaming it Vile. Banana was no newcomer to self publishing having produced ten issues of her Banana Rag since 1971. Her particular ambition was to imitate Life magazine to such an extent that it could be taken for it and by 1977 she published the fourth issue which came close to her ambition. At that point she dropped the notion of imitating Life, not least because the producers of File had lost their battle with Time / Life over the use of the similar logo.32 By then the publication was jointly produced with Bill Gaglione, in a different format and with different designs and they continued publishing it until 1981. Although mailart based, Banana and Gaglione chose to seek funding for the publication and the third issue that had included poetry and fiction was given a grant by the Co-ordinating Council of Literary Magazines making it possible to print 1000 copies. The sixth issue also received a grant from the CCLM and entitled 'Fe-Mail-Art' explored women mailartists. By complete contrast, the seventh issue was a much smaller edition and hand produced.33

A further evolution of the name of the journal was adopted by Stewart Home who in February 1984 published his first issue of Smile, 'The official organ of the Generation Positive.' This journal was to express Home's ideas on 'Positive Plagiarism' which are explored in Chapter 4. Home also encouraged others to produce copies of Smile which several did though to Home's initial disappointment the first, continuing the established tradition of punning on the title, calling it Slime & Limes. Home had intended that all magazines should be called Smile and subsequent issues conformed to that request. Smile remains open as a possibility for any networker to use the title for a magazine and from time to time networkers do publish under that title, frequently with a political agenda. Jo Klaffki for example, a German mailartist who uses the name Joki Mail Art has published a number of editions of Smile sometimes with political undertones but always with a strong sense of humour.34

The concept of common ownership of journals was not Home's original idea, this can be traced back to Fluxus. Ken Friedman of Fluxus West published the first twelve issues of The New York Correspondence School Weekly Breeder, initially 81/2" X 11" single sheets, it was begun in 1971 and in 1972 began to be passed from networker to networker for subsequent issues, spawning the idea of magazines that were owned by the network as a whole and not the egotistical province of an individual or group, reflecting the belief in anti exclusivity of Fluxus. This publication became influential not only within the network but also in Bookarts. Since Fluxus, other people have worked with the concept of common ownership and in 1977, Polish mailartist, Pawel Petasz initiated the Commonpress periodical project which encouraged other networkers to publish editions, using his/her own theme and format, following the Fluxus lead. All contributors to any edition were expected to produce their own edition, in a print run of not less than 200.35 Petasz produced the first copy and a total of sixty were produced across thirteen countries between 1977 and 1981, all co-ordinated by Petasz. At that point the political climate in Poland made it inadvisable for him to continue and he handed over the co-ordination to a Canadian networker, Gerald Jupiter-Larsen.

The principle of magazines produced by individual participants sending their contributions as ready to print artwork, took the name 'assembling' from the title of a publication by New York writer and critic, Richard Kostelantz who, between 1970 and 1981, produced 11 editions of his magazine Assembling.36 This journal was unique amongst mailart magazines in being published in editions of 1000 copies, thanks to financial support from various sources. Kostelantz requested 8 1/2" X 11" artwork and sent each contributor three copies of the complete work.

Earlier, in 1968 Ken Friedman produced the one and only issue of Amazing Facts Magazine which established a cherished mailart principle of a journal produced from gathered material as an editorial principal.37 This was a collation assemblage of received mail which was dispatched to the participators. In Germany in the late 1960s, Thomas Niggl created Omnibus News which was the first accumulated magazine to be published in multiple editions.38 This notion was developed through the 1970s and is a very common aspect of networking today, founded on the general principle of a co-ordinator responsible for collating and distributing the finished product to the participants, the number of participants dictating the number of copies that each contributor is required to send to the co-ordinator. Typically, numbers have ranged from twelve, twenty, fifty and sometimes 100. Co-oridnator/originators also state the dimensions required although these have usually been given as a maximum so that the final assembled work is frequently a hotchpotch of work on different types of paper and other supports as well as varying in thickness and dimension this means that the visual appearance alone of assembling zines instantly separates them from commercial magazines. Central to this notion of publishing is the decision to exercise no editorial control, as in the practice of no juries for mailart shows. This inevitably has meant that the content and 'quality' in the critical sense have often been questionable because the importance of these zines lies in the inclusion of material, without editorial control, of work from a wide cultural and geographic background where the taking part is of supreme importance.

2.4. Postal Elements.

For Fluxus, unlike mailart, production of objects was for an intended sale. Central to the production of Fluxus material was the mail order warehouse and shop which Maciunas had opened, with the Flux-Hall for Performances, at 359 Canal Street, on his return to New York after the Fluxus tour. The warehouse advertised many items, mostly made by Maciunas though few existed in advance of orders. Although Fluxus was keen to sell its products, 70% of them were given away rather than sold.

The recognition by Fluxus of the postal system as a means of keeping in touch with each other, and as a system for selling their work, led to Fluxus people seeing it as a medium and vehicle for their work. Paik operated through the mail, although not using his own stamps. 'The Monthly Review of the University for Avant-Garde Hinduism.'(Plate 16), taking Johnson's fascination for bizarre names, was a series of works that Paik mailed out in 1963.

"To the subscriber of the Monthly Review of the University for Avant-Garde Hinduism sometimes comes something by mail. once, or twice, or thrice, you will find a tiny 1 cent coin in a white envelope. or ..."39

It is not clear how many Paik sent although there may be some clues given in his deliberately unlikely suggestions as to what he would send, including "arm-pit hair of a chicagoan negro prostitute". There is little interest shown in the appearance of the envelope although the use of his own rubber stamp should be noted.

Although mailart was not of primary importance to Fluxus, it is interesting to note how central a part it made of the postal system in a parody of marketing systems. Fluxus, taking the postal system seriously as a medium, (that is to say seriously from an often humorous point of view as was their wont) went so far as to produce a:

" Fluxus Postal Kit, prepared in 1966 complete with a Fluxpost cancellation mark, permitting an entire, Fluxus-controlled postal exchange to take place."... " By the end of the 1960s, a number of Fluxus people had begun to view mail art as a medium offering unique potentials and challenges. They saw beyond the basic issue of art through the mail, and began to explore the reaches and media of correspondence and mail themselves." 40

'Flux-post kit 7', 1968 (Plate 17) shows the range of postal ephemera that Fluxus was involved in but it also shows - with its box container - how these objects were very much seen - at least by Maciunas - as commodities rather than explorations of the mail. For Maciunas there was little difference between Flux Tattoos, as an artwork / commodity and Flux Postal ephemera, in that both were produced to be sold and collected.

Although these objects were to add to the correspondence aspect of mailart that Johnson had begun, for mailartists, it is the interaction through the mail that is important. It is not insignificant in the consideration of mailart that every communication received, and sent, will have the marks of the postal system (postage stamps and franking) of, at least, its country of origin. These in themselves can lead to, both a better understanding between two countries and the simple though not to be devalued pleasure of an appreciation of the aesthetic qualities and charm of stamps and frankings of other countries. It is therefore apparent that irrespective of the networker's contribution and intervention, any mailart communication, in order to comply with the postal system, has intrinsic interest. For Fluxus and mailartists, there was also the possibility of adding their own faux-stamps and faux-frankings.Faux-stamps were to become known as Artistamps.41

Historically, the first recorded non official stamps are understood to have been made long before Fluxus, by Karl Schwesig.42 As with the history of most things however, earlier examples come to light and this is no less the case with artistamps. Artistamp News, in 1991 (1/2) published a brief article on rubberstamp produced stamps by Michael V. Hitrovo from 1914. A subsequent article in Artistamp News 2/1 1992 describes an even earlier example from the last century.43 More recently, an American, Donald Evans, looked to stamps as a format for artwork, though not a mailartist, he made one-off stamps. Evans began making stamps in 1957 when he was twelve years old and continued making them until his untimely death in a fire in 1977. Evans' water-colour stamps from imaginary kingdoms were exhibited in galleries and sold by him, thereby distancing him from the practice of networkers. None of these historical precedents relate to mailart in that they were not part of an exchange within a network and serve only to demonstrate that unofficial stamps had been produced before networkers began to make them.

The earliest stamps made as part of mailart activity were those of the prolific Fluxus member Robert Watts who in 1962 printed 'Safe Post / K.U.K. Feldpost / Jokpost.' (Plate 18) These stamps were subversive in that whilst they imitated commercial stamps in their borders, the central images were taken from photographs of naked women. The 1963 'Yamflug/5 Post 5'44 (Plate 19) also suggest commercial stamps with their traditional borders but are confusing to the viewer because of their evident non-commercial heads. Watts continued to make artistamps, as part of his Fluxus activity, until his death in 1988. In a further parody of the postal system Watts in 1963 produced his own stamp dispenser, an altered readymade, taking his own stamps. Fluxus stamps, with the word 'Post', inclusion of numerical 'values' and frequent use of heads as subject matter, very clearly indicate a wish to produce something that relates very strongly to officially produced stamps. This is an imitation of a formal system which Watts, with references to Fluxus on his stamps, clearly situated in Fluxus production. It was an offshoot of the considerable structure that Maciunas attempted to set-up, in that with its own shop and publishing, stamps were a logical development. Maciunas, as well as producing finished artwork and producing many of the multiples designed by other Fluxus people, also designed his own stamps, for example, 'Fluxpost (Smiles)' (Plate20). These stamps relate to his Flux Smile Machine and as such situate them firmly within Fluxus products rather than for mailart usage.

By 1974 artiststamps had become well established as a mailart medium, with thirty-five networkers from nine countries participating in the first "Artists' Stamp and Stamp Images" exhibition, which was held in Canada.45 In 1984, Michael Bidner of Canada, held an exhibition in Ontario, combining his passions of art and stamp collecting.46 This show exhibited stamps by over 1000 networkers from almost 50 countries. Artistamps were totally to dominate Bidner's life with his mission to document the production of artistamps and to produce a catalogue.47 The documentation and entire collection of over 10,000 images was given to the 'Artpool' Archive of Julia and Gyorgy Galantai in Hungary, after Bidner anticipating his death, failed to persuade any Canadian Museum to take them.

As James Felter, a Canadian mailartist, recognised in an introductory essay to a Seattle Artistamp exhibition,48 that postage stamps give a universal message of authority, functioning in a manner that is instantly understood throughout the world.

"One symbol they (mailartists) have found is the postage stamp, or rather the postage stamp format. This is one of the few existing symbols of officialdom, of authority, and of low economic value that is recognised in every nook and cranny of the globe. It is a universal symbol of a means of communication and a carrier of an unlimited variety of 'authorized' messages in the form of words, numbers, and images (or any combination thereof). It is a symbol that is used everyday and collected throughout the world. The artists of the global village have adopted this symbol and named it 'Artistamp.'"The use of this old symbol as a carrier of new symbols, new visual messages and new aesthetic discoveries lends an aura of authenticity to the creative efforts of the artists of the global village and legitamizes their imagination with the international society." 49

Stamps are also a very low cost item carrying an endless variety of images and texts that can be seen as miniature, multiple artworks. The imitation of postage stamps by mailartists is a logical decision, giving their enormous potential for the use of text and image in miniature and relevance to the activity of postal art. In spite of this, only a small number of mailartists produce artistamps, presumably because they perceive them to be too difficult and /or expensive to produce. Some of those who do produce artistamps on the other hand, go to great lengths to create postal systems which at times even include fake countries, languages and even Royalty. Robert Rudine, a USA. mailartist, using the combat name, Dogfish or the King of Tui Tui produces Philatelic Bulletins to accompany every new issue of stamps for his 'country': these are accompanied by a glossary for those not familiar with the language of Tui Tui in which some of the text is written. Working with artistamps and systems can become a fantasy life in which the creator escapes to his/her land of his/her dreams that s/he can be in complete control of, a way of escaping from the mundanity of everyday life, which in a sense mailart is, every time the post deliverer arrives. Equally it ridicules the seriousness of officialdom, a comment on the artificiality of established systems, the ease with which they can be constructed and the shallowness that can be their underpinning.

There is an established precedent for non-postage stamp stamps, namely in what are called Cinderellas, that is to say the commercially produced stamps with no postal value, used as part of an advertising or promotional campaign.

"...the stamp format was widely used as an advertising medium throughout Europe and America from 1900 through 1940, as one of the only affordable means advertisers could use to circulate full colour reproductions of their products or facilities. After 1940 the medium died out quickly when technologies of colour and black and white printing were integrated, and colour advertising in the context of magazines, became available." 50

The design considerations for Cinderellas are the same as for most aspects of postage stamps and are also appropriate to artistamps. Whilst affordable to business, commercial printing is of course not affordable by the average networker and so whilst Cinderellas remain as a precedent, they do not indicate a standard method of production. Similarly, the production designing of postage stamps by artists is not related to mailart quite simply because postage stamps are the mark of authority. Whilst artistamps do not necessarily seek to subvert or mock the authority, they exist alongside it as a personal statement or mark.

In contrast to the hand produced works of Schwesig and Evans, the usual medium for artistamps has become the photocopier, hence the considerable increase in the production of artistamps since the widespread availability of photomechanical reproduction, especially the colour-copier. Other stamps are hand printed, silk screen for example and many are produced by rubber-stamping or designed and produced on computers. These images if hand produced may well be unique stamps and the printed stamps may be produced in editions of any number or unlimited.

Fluxus work whilst at times poking fun at and parodying the establishment, tended to achieve their aim through humour, some artistamp makers on the other hand have taken risks by subverting the official postage due. The simplest form is simply to send mail with no stamp, but that runs the risk of the recipient having to pay, which at least in the case of mailartists from countries where incomes are relatively low, is not an acceptable risk. Simply using an artistamp is another possibility. Famously (although not part of mailart networking) Yves Klein made his IKB stamps in 1958 to send out on the envelopes of his invitations to the exhibition Le Vide. Reputedly, these were the only stamps on the envelopes and successfully reached their destinations without surcharges being added.51 More provocatively, in 1970, USA. mailartist, William Farley's USXX stamp of a rear view of a head with a pony tail in an early US design, imitating a Lincoln stamp was used by a friend of his in place of an official stamp. The stamp was traced back to Farley and resulted in him being forced to surrender all the remaining stamps to the Secret Service. Totally undetected however was the production and use by an anonymous American artist of a facsimile of the '10c US. Air Mail' stamp.52 Subversive activity has not been limited to stamps but has included franking with the production of fake franking and specifically fake wartime "Utility" marks, producing a strange time-warp for any handler of the envelope recognising the franking.

The simplest form of artistamps is to work with the official stamps, this can be for aesthetic, subversive reasons or purely for fun. The more stamps that are placed on the envelope, the more possibilities there are of aesthetics, with choice of colour, placing and relative positioning. An example of this is to use the lowest denomination stamp and to totally cover the envelope with the stamps, thereby making a minimal work of art. This kind of 'game' is not unique to mailartists at all, and is often played by friends who have never heard of mailart. Subversively, inverting the Queen's head demonstrates disrespect, if not a treasonable offence and placing the stamp in an attempt to avoid franking so that it can be reused by the recipient are all strategies that mailartists use. Actually working on the stamps and altering them is another possibility that has been explored by an English mailartist who limits his introductions to his combat name of Red Herring who in 1988 over painted a stamp of Wellington, giving him a Donald Duck bill. Whilst this work is humorous and subversive, it is interesting to consider that it is so subtle that it could easily be sent to a mailartist who does not archive and so not noticing the altered stamp could have thrown away the envelope without ever being aware of Herring's labours. Requiring a similar amount of detailed effort is the attempt to remove any franking marks on the stamp, without damaging the original image so that it can be reused, the amount of time involved for what is a relatively small financial saving suggests that the importance to the perpetrator is in subverting the system rather than in saving money. In doing this as with Herring's stamp, the motivation is one that is primarily personal satisfaction and amusement at beating the system.

Rubber Stamps, or Rubberstamps as they have come to be known by mailartists, were invented by businessmen in the mid to late nineteenth century and by the late 50s and early 60s were widely used by both Fluxus and Nouveau Realists as a medium for producing artworks.

The combination of the mundanity and power of rubberstamps gives

"a symbol of power - their role is to validate or invalidate something. There are many symbols of power and we are frequently confronted by them. But none is as common and petty as the rubber-stamp. Their lack of sophistication and glamour seems to contradict the enormous power conveyed by them."53

This is particularly evident in oppressed countries where, as discussed later, received mail has usually born the mark of the censor. Rubberstamps fall into several categories, the official stamp is associated with authority and validation of, for example, licenses, certificates and passports: these actions and documents acknowledge and approve us. The very medium or carrier of mailart, the Royal Mail, validates our messages with rubber-stamps and officialdom in general uses them to number our documents. Fluxus used faux frankings, for example Ken Friedman's 'Fluxpost West 1964 - 1974' and many mailartists since have used their own versions of frankings. Similarly, mailartists have often used date stamps or numbering stamps, of for example their envelopes, partly to broadcast their prowess at having produced so much mailart but also to give spurious authority to their sending, in a play on officialdom. The reliving of childhood pleasures of 'playing Post Offices' with Post Office Sets, should not be underrated, the simple pleasure of using the paraphernalia and the sense of importance that accompanies the use of the stamp.

Domestically there is a formal but far less official use as a convenient method of producing letter heads and 'sender' address stamps for the back of envelopes. These were used by Fluxus and Johnson and are used by most mailartists today, partly for convenience. Name stamps have also been used for fake institutions, such as, as already stated, Paik's 'University of Avant-garde Hinduism' and often by Johnson for a wide variety of his fake institutions although he did not always use rubberstamps to validate them, often preferring to hand write or type the names. Johnson also used rubberstamps with text such as 'Ray Johnson Evaporations', 'Collage by Ray Johnson', or even 'Collage by Joseph Cornell.54

The use of rubberstamps as cheap movable type has long had an attraction for children with 'John Bull' printing sets, allowing them to play at typesetting. It is this element of play that many mailartists find attractive, with the hand-crafted appearance of something that is close to a commercial graphic process but with the visual attraction of its imperfections, so much loved by Warhol in his early 1960s photo silk-screen prints. Although most type for Fluxus work was generated by letterpress, (by Maciunas usually) Vautier for example enjoyed the use of rubber stamp type.

In 1974 Herve Fischer, a French artist, published rubber-stamp images55 and in 1978 the first Rubberstamp Album was produced in America by Joni Miller and Lowry Thompson who subsequently edited the massive bimonthly journal Rubberstampmadness begun in 1979 and still running commercially (currently 92 pages). The 1970s also saw a proliferation of companies, particularly in the USA., offering a wide range of ready made decorative rubberstamps and a bespoke service giving an enormous range of creative possibilities. This, coupled with mailartists beginning to carve their own rubberstamps led to a considerable increase in the use of rubberstamps in mailart.

The use of the rubberstamp by networkers varies considerably in intention and effect from networker to networker. For some, at times as humorous pastiche and at others to make critical comment: this impression can only be created with the blandness of commercially produced rubberstamps. Hand cut rubberstamps however, created usually with a scalpel from an eraser, inevitably present an entirely different image, lacking the authority of precision but with the visual attraction that goes with hand-crafted work. Equally, with Rubberstampmadness giving examples of how to create complete pictures in multi colours purely from rubberstamps, the creative possibilities are considerable. Whilst the latter suggests more of a craft-hobbyist approach, the experimental nature of mailartists has resulted in very imaginative rubberstamps and uses for them, whether commercially or hand produced. In an age in which for many networkers, making contact with people is more important than laboured hand produced creativity, the rubberstamp offers a very quick, accessible and immediate medium with considerable potential: expediency and pragmatism dominating ideology.

2.5. Postcards.

The beginnings of handmade and commercially produced picture postcards, in England, date from 1894: until that time postcards could only be made by the government. Hand decorated postcards are as old as postcards themselves and as an art form are not confined to the network, exhibitions of postcard art having been held since the late 1970s. For the networker, they provide a simple and direct medium with all the process (accumulated ephemera of postmarks etc.) of its transition, from sender to recipient, unavoidably evident. Whilst the importance of mailart lies in bringing people together, the postcard, having no protective packaging, is prey to the ravages of its journey through the post. The postcard, therefore, is the most pure form of mailart. Ideologically, it truly functions as mailart by being open to be 'read' by all the postal workers who handle it and any casual passers-by who may see it on the door mat before it is received by the 'intended' recipient as I go on to discuss in Chapter 5.

Whilst the sending of Picture Postcards by mailartists to each other as mailart is probably usually because of a wish to share the image, because of its beauty, humour, personal relevance or any one of a number of reasons, it could be seen to indicate either a lack of concern for any attempt at considering the communication as art or on the contrary, possibly the consideration of the chosen postcard as a ready-made in the Duchampian sense. Fluxus members often sent messages to each other on postcards but it was Ben Vautier who used the postcard as a creative vehicle in itself. In 1965, he made what was probably the first pure conceptual mailart work - 'The Postman's Choice'56 (Plate 21) in which he produced a double-sided postcard, inviting the postman to decide which side s/he wished to select to determine the recipient. Whilst being an admirable work in terms of conceptual process, Ben's57 postcard lacks an interest in interchange and therefore remains outside mailart networking. Further, Maciunas' request, "can I reprint 1000 of them! and sell for 10 c each?"58 indicates very clearly that for Maciunas at least they were perceived as a commodity to be sold and used by others rather than as a conceptual usage of the post by the artist.

Artist's Postcards became so popular as a medium for mailart exchange that by 1971, two Canadian networkers, Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov in Vancouver, Canada, were able to stage a show devoted solely to networkers' postcards.59 This exhibition was documented with an album of postcards and greatly helped to promote the idea of working in this medium as well as furthering the concept of creating an exhibition from mailart material, discussed in the following chapter.

2.6. Conclusion.

Maciunas' need to control and organise Fluxus extended to thorough documentation of Fluxus activities and archiving Fluxus material. Whilst the habit of documenting and archiving work is one that has been adopted by many mailartists, unilateral control is both alien to mailart and not possible, given the vast numbers and disparity of its adherents. Although Johnson was a figurehead of mailart, at least in the late fifties and early sixties, he was nevertheless, keen to encourage exchange that went beyond his control. Maciunas' willingness to devote himself to the cause of Fluxus and his generosity in giving work away are however, very much a fundamental part of mailart attitudes.

Fluxus was highly influential on mailart with its, philosophies, attitudes and internationalism. Of particular importance was its usage of postal elements; stamps and postcards and especially with the publishing of address lists which greatly enlarged the number of participants. This was partly responsible for mailart taking on a much broader geographical and cultural spread than it had been possible to achieve simply with the efforts of one man - Johnson. Mailart became a union of two elements, the orchestration and interchange through the mail as practised by Johnson and the playing with the elements of the postal system which - whilst not generally used as mailart - were demonstrated by Fluxus.

Where Fluxus failed was in its attempt to rid itself of authorship by the simple tactic of requiring the participants to sign themselves 'Fluxus', had this happened, it would have changed the way in which the work has been commodified, particularly given the illustrious careers that many of the Fluxus artists went on to have - without names, the historian looses interest. The anonymity of mailart is something that was to become central to its operation and it is with the theories of authorship and art that Fluxus man Joseph Beuys - building on Fluxus ideas - was to propound, that mailart was to develop its rationale, as I debate in the final chapter.

It was natural with the anti-establishment idealism and optimism of the late sixties and early seventies that mailart should grow beyond the life and parameters of Fluxus and Johnson. The burgeoning of mailart reflected the tremendous interest that grew at the time in the seventies of exploring and setting-up new and alternative systems, which in mailart was to be centred on MAPs (Mail Art Projects), their exhibiting and documentation.

1 The seven original members, George Maciunas; Dick Higgins; Emmett Williams; Alison Knowles; Nam June Paik; Ben Patterson and Wolf Vostell were soon joined by George Brecht; Philip Corner; Toshi Ichijanagi; Ben Vautier; Jackson Mac Low; Yoko Ono; La Monte Young; Charlote Moorman; Daniel Spoerri; Josef Beuys and Robert Filliou, the last three being peripheral members.

above copied fromL

This is part of a larger project by Lamb, MAIL ART 1955 to 1995 Democratic art as social sculpture, You can see the whole thesis at: