AS-AP

Transcript of AS-AP Panel at CAA Conference, February 2010

Posted August 05, 2010 by admin

AS-AP Panel at CAA 2010


Panelists:


Ann Butler (Moderator)

Anthony Elms

James Hoff

Emily Roysdon



ANN BUTLER: Good afternoon. I’m Ann Butler, project director of Art Spaces Archives Project, AS-AP. And I’m also director of the library and archives at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. Art Spaces Archives Project, AS-dash-AP, is a nonprofit initiative established in 2003 by a consortium of art organizations, including Bomb magazine; the College Art Association; Franklin Furnace Archive; New York State Council on the Arts, (NYSCA); New York State Artist Workspace Consortium; and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. With funding provided by NYSCA, the NEA and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, AS-AP has a mandate to help preserve, present and protect the archival heritage of living and defunct, for and not-for-profit art spaces of the alternative or avant-garde movements of the 1950s to the present. In January of 2007, AS-AP merged with the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. CCS Bard is an exhibition, education and graduate research center dedicated to the study of art and curatorial practices from the 1960s to the present day. AS-AP’s major activities include advocacy and referral services for arts organizations needing information about how to manage, preserve and provide access to their organizational archives; and major initiatives to document the history of living and defunct art spaces in the US, through an active oral history program and current survey project. AS-AP’s website serves as an online resource with a national index of alternative art spaces. The index provides in-depth information about art spaces, provided by the spaces themselves. This is the front page of the AS-AP web site, and this is the survey list, the online index of art spaces.

This year, with funding from NYSCA, AS-AP is working on an extensive survey to update all of the entries in this online index, through outreach interviews and, in some cases, archival survey and needs assessment work. With additional funding from the NEA and NYSCA, AS-AP is also conducting dozens of oral history interviews with the founders, current and previous directors of art spaces and collectives, in an effort to document this vital history. Transcripts for each of the interviews will be made available online, through the AS-AP website. Some of the commissioned interviews currently underway include the Guerrilla Art Action Group (GAAG), Franklin Furnace, Group Material, Artists Space, Hallwalls, Rhizome, Dexter Sinister, and many others. Next year we plan on focusing on documenting the history of artist-led publishing groups, by conducting oral history interviews with the founders of those publishing spaces.

AS-AP’s website also provides access to resources including an international directory of contemporary-art-related archival repositories, which is being continually updated; and links to tools to assist in archiving and other aids for scholars interested in the history of alternative and avant-garde movements and art spaces. We also want to encourage new scholarship to happen; and we want the AS-AP website to provide original content, towards that end. The history of the alternative arts movement has been largely been written by members of the alternative arts movement, and so we hope to foster a broader reading of it. Within the coming year, we’ll be providing access to online articles and publications from young curators and scholars working in this area.

And finally, one of our primary goals is to help people recognize that if you’re part of an arts organization, your archival holdings are potentially of cultural and historic significance. AS-AP’s mission is to prevent this material from dissipating into the ether or being put out for recycling.

The term art spaces should be understood in its broadest sense, meaning that spaces do not necessarily refer to a physical place or site, but can also refer to transient spaces, performance space, collectives and publishing spaces. Which brings us to today’s panel, “Alternative Publishing and Distribution Models as Art and Curatorial Practice.” The focus of this panel is to examine current initiatives in artist-led publishing, as a means of artistic practice, intervention, collaboration, dissemination, social networking, and curatorial practice. As we all know, artist-led publishing is not a new form. These types of practices have been deployed by artists for most of the twentieth century. The history of artist groups and movements, including the Surrealists, the Situationists, the Dadaists, Bauhaus and Fluxus, all include publications as part of their practice—all radical in design and content, and intentionally at odds with conventional publishing practices.

In 1977, in The Print Collector’s Newsletter, artist Howardena Pindell wrote, in an article entitled “Alternative Space: Artist Periodicals,” that the artist-produced magazine or serial publication had come to function as an alternative space. The publication was essentially an exhibition space, a critical and conceptual space, a performance space, a documentary space, and also an archival space. Many factors point to there being a renewed interest in publishing as an experimental site for artists and curators. The New York Art Book Fair, now in its fourth year, this year had over 200 international presses, booksellers, dealers and independent artist publishers participating. The London Art Book Fair was first presented in 2009, and the second fair is going to take place at the Whitechapel Gallery in the fall of 2010. Both the New York Art Book Fair and the London Art Book Fair were organized with an international art fair model in mind. And recently, there have been a number of exhibitions devoted to artist-led publishing. The exhibition In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists, an exhibition curated by Andrew Roth and Phil Aarons just closed last week at X Initiative in New York City. Artist Books as Subculture was an exhibition held at the Center for Book Arts in New York last year, and explored the history and emerging changes to artist spaces, within the context of artist books as alternative space. And there have been many more.

Is there an upsurge in interest in this area? And if so, why? Why the interest in deploying publishing as an artistic tool and a form of curatorial practice? To explore these and other related issues, we have a distinguished panel of artists, curators and practitioners. Anthony Elms, artist, writer and editor of WhiteWalls magazine, a Chicago-based art and language journal founded in 1978 by writers Reagan and Roberta Upshaw and artist Buzz Spector. WhiteWalls is now an innovative Chicago-based publisher of fine art titles. James Hoff, co-founder of Primary Information, a nonprofit organization devoted to the publishing, and in some cases republication, of select artists’ books, artists’ writings, out of print publications and editions such as REAL LIFE Magazine, the Great Bear Pamphlets Series, and long lost recordings of DISBAND, among others. And finally, Emily Roysdon, interdisciplinary artist, writer, editor and co-founder of the queer feminist journal and artist collective LTTR. LTTR was founded in 2001, and produces—or used to produce, until 2006—an annual independent art journal, performance series, events, screenings and collaborations.

Our first panelist is Anthony Elms. As I just mentioned, he is an artist and a writer. He’s also the editor of WhiteWalls and an assistant director of Gallery 400, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. With WhiteWalls, he’s curated and/or edited five issues of the journal, fourteen books, the CD Pillow Plays Brötzmann, with Bottrop-boy, and the seven-inch single Filler, with Academy Records. With Gallery 400, he’s curated and/or organized ten exhibitions. His writings have appeared in numerous art journals, including Art Asia Pacific, Art Papers, Artforum, among many others. He’s also written essays for many catalogs. As an artist, Elms’ works have been included in projects exhibited at Boom in Oak Park, the Hyde Park Art Center, the Randolph Street Gallery, and VONZWECK, all in Chicago; and Mandrake in L.A., among others. Elms has also independently curated many exhibitions, including Sun Ra, El Saturn and Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-61, with John Corbett, and Terri Kapsalis; Interstellar Low Ways, with Huey Copeland; and Can Bigfoot Get You a Beer?, with Philip von Zweck. Please join me in welcoming Anthony Elms. [applause]


ANTHONY ELMS: Sculptor Allan McCollum, from an interview with Thomas Lawson. “It doesn’t even necessarily make sense, this idea that beautiful things should only be made available in small numbers. Yet in the art world we seem to accept this limitation without much question.”

I’m going to seem to contradict Ann a little bit. WhiteWalls Incorporated was founded here in Chicago in 1977, as a not-for-profit artist run organization, as she mentioned, by Buzz Spector, with Reagan and Roberta Upshaw. That contradiction, we’ll get to in a moment. Since its inception, WhiteWalls has been dedicated to publishing as a form of exhibition venue, printing visual projects and experimental writings, poetry, essays, performance documentation, photography, image/text work, and adaptions of film, video or site-based work, by makers for whom the printed page then becomes both material and subject. Fairly early on, poetry was given the boot. Over the thirty-three years, WhiteWalls’ mission has wavered and wandered in its specifics. What has remained is the dedication to fulfilling an artist-published project to the artist’s specifications, within all reasonable limits, then offered as a package in a modestly pressed format. The artists published in the journal have included Dan Peterman, Adrian Piper, Guillermo Gomez Pena, Stephanie Brooks, Robert Barry, Zoe Leonard, John Giorno, Robert Blanchon, Goat Island, Stephen Prina, Kay Rosen, and hundreds of others. Recently, with the books, we’ve released titles by Edgar Arceneaux, Dike Blair, Gregg Bordowitz, Ha-Ha, Silvia Kolbowski, Learning Group, Sarah Sze, Temporary Services with Angelo, Carl Michael Von Hausswolff, and many more. Next up on the docket will be Glenn Ligon’s A People on the Book.

The journal’s transformation from a literary/visual arts journal in the seventies to a socially engaged practices journal in the eighties, to the more free-for-all space in the nineties reflects, in the process, the changing desires of the artists, as approached by the shifting editors. This ability to quickly change and alter its appearances was largely due to the organizations low overhead. Specifically, the lack of a physical space. Nothing but a mailing address; and seemingly, nothing to worry about except the contents of each issue. Changes were as easy for editors to make as a photo blue mark-up pencil and a few hours at a copy stand.

I became editor in 1996, inheriting much worry: an organizational and financial mess not atypical for an alternative space, boxes abandoned in multiple locations, misplaced legal documents, missing material, debt, no coherent inventory, a newfound lack of NEA funding, which had been the organization’s only real support, and crumbling or unresponsive independent distributors for the small press journal. In a word, fumbling. Add to this getting tired of having to tell artists no because what they wanted to do for the journal impinged too much on another artist’s content, and exhaustion from trying to redevelop distribution from scratch. And on top of that, convincing outlets to pay on invoices due. In this environment, it made perfect sense to me, for WhiteWalls Inc. to begin publishing artists’ books in 1999, and sometimes straying into other printed matter by artists, with a special focus given to work that reflects on its mode of address and the methods of distribution. For example, a four-times-a-day CB shortwave broadcast of psychotropic tones [Brennan McGaffey’s Project Citizens Band, 4 x Daily for 27 MHz]. Book production is the main focus, with distribution through the folks at the University of Chicago Press. Our titles are not always artists’ books, but the books are always driven by the artist authors. WhiteWalls the journal ceased completely in 2003. It was unique, if it was unique in its time among art journals, in that it often published complete works and documentation by artists, without the framing filter or fracture that reviews and art criticism can create. But back issues are yesterday’s news, at best; and usually just today’s scrap loss on average. The books maintain, at least for the time being, a longer presence on shelves, if not a guarantee of their relevance. This allows our materials to find a life in the face of no money for international marketing, and often little- or untested authors. As it was with the journal, the preparation of a project is a collaborative process between the editor of WhiteWalls Inc. and the participating artists. The process generally involves not so much editing, but translating into a published form, the approach an artist uses to make objects, videos or performances. As we see it, mistakes get made. Like agreeing to individually number copies of a book, which allowed for specious price fluctuations once it went out of print, and the fetishization of certain numbers of the publication. We grossly miss deadlines or are often unable to find the money for a project that we want to commit to.

Often I’m asked why I still edit for WhiteWalls Inc.. Quantity and distribution. When publishing anything in multiple format—say a postcard, print, photograph, book, seven-inch parallel grooved record [Filler, published with Academy Records], poster, CD, video—these most prevalent conditions are the most easily overlooked. The trouble is that there is no way to directly address quantity without speaking in dangerously oversimplified terms. Once the published materials leave the production house, there is hardly any one thing that can be said about the range of situations in which individual editions find themselves. Rarely with a quantity of something do you ever have more than a few token copies gathered in one location. What can be said with authority is that by publishing books in press runs of over a thousand, and releasing the books through the conventional distribution channel of the University of Chicago Press, the sprawl of the quantity allows the artists’ projects to be at play in the fields of capital, without committing to a single market, nor a single interpretive framework. Not Karl Marx, not Adam Smith, nor even Sigmund Freud can accurately fix the spectrum of locations and varied temperaments to which individual editions arrive.

All the while, WhiteWalls Inc. does stray from the path set before it, for example arranging for a European record label, Bottrop Boy, to release a CD of a Chicago improvised music group playing the compositions of a German free jazz saxophonist [Pillow Plays Brotzmann], or deciding to publish the left-behind notes and ephemera of a dead jazz composer [The Wisdom of Sun Ra and Pathways to Unknown Worlds]. With what justification do we stray?

To introduce the first issue of WhiteWalls, founder Buzz Spector wrote:

“WhiteWalls is an experiment in synthesizing word-related interests of artists and poets, focusing on that interface where poetic metaphor merges with the more iconographic structure used in written conceptual art texts.

In preparing this volume we have tried to be mindful of the many philosophical and metaphorical connections between artists, whatever their medium of expression. Obviously the intentions expressed through the works of our various contributors are not alike. Hopefully they are not contradictory--at least as far as making a positive assertion of cultural value is concerned.”

Turning the page, co-editor Reagan Upshaw wrote: “I suppose it is characteristic of White Walls,” and I’d like to just pause to mention the different spelling of the magazine’s name, “(and rather ominous for its success) that Buzz and I are each writing a statement of policy, rather than attempting to present a unified front editorially. While each of us has some background in both literature and the visual arts, I think that Buzz’s slant is generally more towards the latter and its criticism, while mine is poetry. I’m probably more conservative than he is; I mean, W.H. Auden is one of my all-time favorite poets.

So what are we doing here? David Meltzer has written about being a young poet in the mid-1950’s: “We used to wonder what was going to happen, who was going to throw the bomb.” There seems to be a general consensus that what has been called the “Iowa school of poetry” has exhausted its impetus, as has what Stephen Dobyns in Kayak termed the “Jes Plain Folks” school. What’s next? That’s one of the things I would like to see this magazine take up. Perhaps (dare we hope?) these very pages may someday be graced with said bomb.” I’ll stop quoting here.

Certainly, plenty of bombs have been published by WhiteWalls over the years, but not quite the kind of bomb that I think Upshaw desired. And yes, Buzz won. More to the point, the organization was off the rails from its founding intent, apparently. Now, it could’ve been a typo, but the editors didn’t even agree on how to typographically represent the name of the journal. One word or two? Branding was not on point, as the managers say. Also all the legal documents and internal communications say WhiteWalls Inc. was founded in ’77, when the first issue appeared. The first issue is dated 1978. Comedic timing? Comedic structure? All I can say is I hope there is value in not getting it right, rather in getting it wrong in an engaging manner, an ethics of the small and inefficient that implicates many. Luckily, a perfect-bound publication has a strong formal presence; enough to give the appearance of cohesion amid obscure u-turns and roundabouts. This binding and the gutter where the pages meet always gets the vision of WhiteWalls Inc. back on a course.

When organizing events, performances and exhibitions, a curator or administrator can pretend that thinking about how to distribute ideas and materials is an afterthought. You cannot ignore distribution when sitting on a couple dozen boxes weighted down by thousands of copies of a title. Particularly after you’ve accumulated over sixty individual titles, each with its attendant copies in tow. Distribution is what makes a publication a space. How to manipulate printed matter is well known. You pick it up, you move it and you set it down again. You give it away, cling to it as your own. No one printed copy is the entire story. But neither is one printed copy a fragment. This fact is just enough. Dispersal allows mistreatment of materials, most certainly in the case of books, records and paper ephemera. These published products end up as platforms, placemats, coasters, doorstops, headrests and shades. They get tossed aside. Somebody marks them down or up, they return them to the publisher, they steal them, they shelve them, they lose them. One individual object, one book, of which there are actually many, exists simultaneously in order and disorder, and every value in between. This sly tactical nature of the distribution allows a public gesture to translate into a personal one, an institution to behave perhaps a little bit more like an intervention.

WhiteWalls Inc., as with many alternative spaces founded in the seventies, has always been run by individuals with no training in archiving, no history of administrative brilliance, no business sense. Each was an artist or art enthusiast first, administrator second. Apologies, forgiveness and learning after the fact are the bricks and mortar of this type of alternative space. With this in mind, how does WhiteWalls Inc., or any publication or publisher, exist as a model of a type of alternative space? Sometimes not being an alternative is the actual alternative. Perfect-bound four-color printing, ISBNs, worldwide distribution—like any proper book should have—these qualities provide the ability of WhiteWalls Inc. productions and the sometimes misfit nature of the contents to sit with others and seemingly belong; for example, on the front table of the bookstore of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.



There are few actively productive professionalized art publishers in Chicago. There are four or five independently organized producers of publications in this town. What Chicago doesn’t need is one more scrappy do-it-yourself publication hastily edited with bad reproductions, or perhaps even Xeroxed and hand bound. Not that this style of publication is bad. What Chicago does need is an approach to artists’ publication that can place the material alongside more internationally recognized and more solidly funded publishers the world over. Chicago needs a series of publications that look like publications being presented in any number of publishing centers.

In an equation that I’m still sort of grappling with, the publishing concern Dexter Sinister wrote a couple years ago, “Quality is merely the distribution aspect of quantity. Quantity is merely the distribution aspect of quality.” Without being able to clearly determine the implications of these two positions, I know that the crucial question is merely distributing material appropriately, given the context and position of the organization; and that these are exactly the relationships that mesmerize me. Artist/writer John Miller, in discussing the artist’s books of Ed Ruscha said, “The paradox facing any artist who makes mechanically reproducible work (books, photos, videos, films or multiples of any kind) is that, despite the obligatory claims made for it, demand lags far behind supply. Full-tilt mechanical reproduction quickly outstrips the market for the individual producer’s work.”

Now, one object makes new friends in new places. Ten others are abandoned on steps or fed to paper shredders. WhiteWalls Inc. might not find a home for every copy we print of every title; still, some books are treated by our public with an intent. The ability to exist simultaneously in order and disorder, and every level of valuation in between, allows an opportunity for unexpected engagements. Published media often, for an integral slight moment, exempt issues of aesthetics or the politics of display as commonly applied to art objects, to allow the item to be judged simply as a thing. And that brief moment is what it can take to change a perception. This is the skill of quantity. Quantity equals opportunities; and quantity is why, even throwing aside the old canard about the democracy of artist books, as we should, that there are relationships and structures curatorially and institutionally achievable only in the distribution of multiple materials. Quantity allows both the simultaneous multiple interpretations and contexts for a single work, from the producer’s side; and the simultaneous multiple titles that appear related only by spine or design, from the receiver’s side. And both create interesting, tenuous paths. Quantity becomes a highly flexible and useful structure for the administrative and archival chaos of artist-run alternative space, to an organization that is not a large cultural center, without the fiscal or physical means to compete with the mainstream institutions, be they museum, gallery or publishing house. And on top of that, the attendant spotty archiving, bad business models, and loose mission adherence, quality and distribution can become tactical methods for memory, historical preservation and influence. Randomly placed and scattered individual copies leave a trace of the obscure and the fleeting and a tonic for the empty institutional archives, because surely, somewhere someone saved that.

I think of one more statement by John Miller relative to the cultural value of artworks, a comment he made in the course of discussing independently produced publications with Maria Fusco: “We tend to presume (and as an artist I’m inclined to presume) that the relevance of art should be long range. If anything, it should become more relevant as time goes by and, therefore, qualify to be preserved. That may not be the case.” I think his assessment is correct. And many publications and artists are and have been cast aside as irrelevant by major archives. But I’d add to Miller’s assessment that having enough physical copies out there guarantees the irrelevant, the marginized, and all others who have not qualified to be preserved, do find a space, however small, compromised, private, uncomfortable or imperfect. And it’s this fact that makes, for myself, the vagaries of quantity and distribution worth navigating curatorially. [applause]

BUTLER: Thank you, Anthony. Our second panelist is James Hoff. James Hoff is co-founder of Primary Information, a nonprofit organization devoted to publishing artists’ books, artists’ writings, out of print publications and editions. Primary Information was founded by James Hoff and Miriam Katzeff, who met while working at Printed Matter, a nonprofit artist bookstore in New York City. United by their mutual interest in artist publications, they formed Primary Information to foster intergenerational dialog, as well as to aid in the creation of new publications and editions. James Hoff. [applause]


JAMES HOFF: Thank you, Ann. And thank all of you for coming. Let’s see; let’s get this slide show set up. I wanted to start with a newspaper clipping or actually a magazine clipping that my colleague Miriam Katzeff and I, both of whom run Primary Information, used as part of an exhibition that we did at P.S.1 around the Art Workers Coalition. This was taken at a protest against the Museum of Modern Art in 1969, and included in a magazine called Arts Magazine. I’m going to talk about Art Workers Coalition in a little bit, but I wanted to show this because it was through working at Printed Matter and through our love of—or through our interest in—art and activism, that my partner Miriam and I had come to first discuss starting a press. I was working at Printed Matter, and Miriam was doing some work there based around a splinter group from the Art Workers Coalition called the Guerrilla Art Action Group. It was through our interests crossing with the Guerrilla Art Action Group and with the art workers of this period, that drew us to Printed Matter and drew us to the idea of starting a press. That was in 2001. It was much later that we actually realized our goal of starting a press; it wasn’t until 2006. It took a few years to ferment and to finally come together.



But I wanted to talk a little about Printed Matter, which was started by artists and art workers, because it was very much ingrained in what we were doing. It was founded perhaps on the false notion, or at least the belief at the time, that artist books were a democratic form of art itself; that art could transcend the gallery or transcend the exhibition space, and belong and be seen by everyone. As Anthony pointed out, there might be a falsehood, or there may need to be a re-examination of whether or not it’s truly a democratic form or not. I think that’s a question we can maybe talk about later or maybe it’s just a question to throw out. But it was our belief that this book form was democratic and was universal, and that it could move throughout the world, unlike a museum exhibition or a gallery exhibition, that inspired us to start Primary Information, and also inspired the founders of people like Lucy Lippard and Edit DeAk and Walter Robinson to start Printed Matter. So we were very much aligned with and inspired by this sort of alternative art space of New York of the 1970s. We took inspiration from people like the Art Workers Coalition, 112 Greene Street, Artists Space, and Printed Matter.

We were founded in 2006, formally incorporated in 2007, with the mission to print and publish artists’ books, artists’ writing, and source material regarding artists’ publications. When we first started out, we decided that instead of just sort of stepping into and starting to publish work by contemporary artists, we would establish a plan for what we wanted to publish by reprinting material from the past that represented or talked about or was in conversation with what we wanted to do with contemporary artists in the present. So we started with three different things in mind. The first one was artists’ writings; the other was artists’ pamphlets, or the easily disseminated form of artists’ writings or artists’ books; and the third was sound art, or music by artists.

I’m going to come back to that in just a second. I want to take a segue to discuss a little bit more about the start, the second chapter of Primary Information as it was started and first conceived in 2001. It was in 2005, 2006 that Miriam and I had started becoming very interested in the curator Seth Siegelaub, from the 1960s, who is no longer a curator; he retired from the art world in 1971. Seth was a little camera shy, so I couldn’t really get a good shot of Seth; I could get a shot of his shadow, which doesn’t really do much for anyone. So instead, I decided to include here a photo that he took as a promotional gesture for an exhibition he did that’s commonly referred to as the January exhibition. As we can see, we have Robert Barry on the left; Douglas Huebler, second to left; Joseph Kosuth, looking—trying to do his best Andy Warhol; and Lawrence Weiner, just plain old looking cool, I guess. So this is promotional material for an exhibition that actually never took on a proper form, in that it never took on a realized space inside of an exhibition—or excuse me, inside of a gallery or a museum. Instead, it took on the form of a catalog. This is what is commonly referred to as the January exhibition by Seth Siegelaub—I’m just going to show a few examples of it. It took place from January 5th through the 31st of 1969.



Here’s the title page, Barry, Huebler, Kosuth and Weiner. Here we have a piece by Douglas Huebler. I don’t know if you can see, it has a very famous quote, which is a testament to the deconstruction of the mission—or the mission of deconstruction that Seth, I think, was tending towards with this sort of publication, and with the artists he chose for these publications. I’m just going to paraphrase it because I don’t have it written down and maybe you can read it, but essentially it’s the top line. “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting. I do not wish to add anymore.” It’s since become a famous end quote for Douglas Huebler, and a testament to his reliance on the written form, as opposed to the realization of a constructed form or a visual form.

We have some pieces here by Lawrence Weiner, his famous paint on the floor piece. We also have this famous dictum by Lawrence Weiner, which I think is also a great testament to what Siegelaub was doing at the time, as well as these artists. “The artist may construct the piece, the piece may be fabricated; the piece need not be built. Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist, the decision as to condition rests with the receiver, on the occasion of receivership.” So it sort of levels the playing field. I think the important fact to take away with Siegelaub is that he broke Conceptual art down into two parts. One was primary information and one was secondary information. Primary information was the idea or the notion behind the actual work and secondary information was the realization of that work. So the idea or the concept would be the primary information; the realization of that concept on the wall, on the floor, in a book, would be secondary information. He placed emphasis on primary information as being the most radical and important aspect of that equation and it is from that equation that we garnered our name, Primary Information.

So with all this in mind, with these inspirations in mind, myself and my colleague Miriam and I were very eager to get started. So we decided to start off with the re-publication of Real Life Magazine. It actually wasn’t the re-publication of Real Life Magazine, it’s an anthology of Real Life Magazine, which was published between 1979 and 1994, and was edited by Thomas Lawson and Susan Morgan. The reason why we were attracted, mostly, to this magazine was because it contained a very large source of artists’ writing; both artists writing about themselves and their work, and writing about other artists’ work, as well. It also integrated artists’ projects into the magazine, and also interviews between artists. At the time, we were seeing—and I think looking back, we may have been a little bit wrong, maybe, or maybe a little too hasty in our judgment—but we were seeing a lot of interviews between artists. It seemed to be a very prevalent form at the time, where artists were interviewing other artists, which we felt was a form that didn’t really lend itself to criticality. Because in that form, artists who are face to face generally don’t tend to be hypercritical of the other artist, because it creates problems with the interview format. We were seeing a lot of this going on, seeing a lot of books devoted to this phenomenon. We wanted to see a more critical response by artists about artists and about their own work. So we chose Real Life as an example of that criticality, as a form that promoted that criticality. I’ll show you a spread. This is with Edit DeAk, who was a founder of Printed Matter, and also the founder of Art-Rite magazine, who was a great stalwart of the downtown scene, and who is, in fact, still around to this day. This is an interview with her. The magazine, until 1988, was essentially centered around the East Village and the artists that were active in that scene, the East Village scene as we know it—people like Allan McCollum, Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Thomas Lawson, Susan Morgan, people like Bernard Tschumi, as well. The list goes on and on. It’s sort of everyone you would think, including musicians like Kim Gordon and Glenn Branca and Barbara Ess of the Y Pants. So that was our first project that we undertook, and that was undertaken in 2007.

And maybe I’ll segue really quickly, just to tell a little side story about Edit DeAk, who is a bit of a hero of mine. This picture here was taken in 2002. Or excuse me, in 1982. As you can see, the room is covered by graffiti from people like Fab 5 Freddy, Futura 2000, and most importantly to everyone else involved, Jean-Michel Basquiat, under the name Samo. It was rumored that this room had been sealed off after Edit’s departure, and not changed for many years, for about two decades. And lo and behold, in 2006, a developer bought a building in SoHo, and this room was uncovered. And it was indeed sealed. When they unsealed it, it became kind of a small media phenomenon, maybe a slightly larger media phenomenon in the art world, because it was a time capsule, basically. It contained work by artists that we’ve come to know and come to value in different ways. In a sense, it became an archive of a movement and of a group of people that were moving through a space. If you look online—I don’t have one to show you, but if you look online, you can see pictures in the New York Times and the New York Post and the Daily News of this exact room, from this exact same vantage point. The only thing missing is Edit DeAk, the radio and the bed, but you still get the graffiti. In fact, in the pictures, you get a little more graffiti because it had been built up since the time of this photograph. That’s just a segue for entertainment, I guess. Consider that a commercial of sorts.

The next thing that I had mentioned was the idea of easily disseminatable projects. The first project we undertook from the past, that we wanted to sort of show, that we took as a model, was the Great Bear Pamphlets Series, which was published by Something Else Press between roughly 1964 and 1967. Like WhiteWalls, there’s a little bit of a question as to the exact date when it started. Some say ’65, some say ’64. Unfortunately, the records are never as clear as you want them to be. But nonetheless, we have twenty pamphlets here, which like Something Else Press, feature a span, a wide spectrum of artists, which ran across various forms of the avant-garde of the 1960s. We have people here like Alison Knowles, Claes Oldenburg, Dieter Roth, John Cage, the Zaj poetry group from Spain, Emmett Williams, Jackson MacLow, Allan Kaprow; a manifestos issue, which had devoted itself to about twelve different artists. Each were printed on different paper stock and sold relatively cheaply at the time. The dream of Dick Higgins, the founder of Something Else Press—which was sort of a side press and the brother press to Fluxus, was running concurrently as kind of a concerted Fluxus press, in many ways, because it featured many Fluxus artists—at the time, his goal was to see his book sold in supermarkets, next to mass produced romance novels. And there are a few instances in which that actually happened. I’m not sure how that happened. I think it may have been Dick himself actually going into the stores and placing them there. But there are stories of that happening that have been passed down to us through his family. So here we have the republication of the Great Bear Pamphlets Series, which was published in 2007. This is a deluxe edition that we had done in a wooden box. We sell them now as a set and individually, so that anyone can have them. I mean, at the time of their reproduction, they were extremely scarce. The originals sell for anywhere from twenty-five to $150 each. This is another point; a big point of Primary Information is to make material available at a cheap and affordable rate for students and artists and scholars, who would not otherwise be able to view the material itself. So for this series, we actually priced each publication at ten dollars, and then we priced this set at around $150 or something like that. So it became quite a bargain, and it reintroduced the material back into the public arena, where it belongs.



I’m going to just show a few other examples of Something Else Press because it’s a pretty vital press for artists’ books, and a very good model for anyone producing artists’ books today, and a big influence for Primary Information. This is Store Days, by Claes Oldenburg, which was published by Emmett Williams—or excuse me, edited by Emmett Williams. Emmett Williams became the editor of Something Else Press in 1966. This is a book called A Valentine for Noel, by Emmett Williams. And to continue with the Emmett Williams theme, this is An Anecdoted Topography of Chance, which was a book by Daniel Spoerri, but really a collaboration between Emmett Williams and Daniel Spoerri, and Williams was essentially the editor. And that idea of portability that we’re talking about, dissemination, we realize now, with electronic media, we don’t necessarily need to produce pamphlets, like they did in the 1960s, we don’t necessarily need to produce zines, because we have the ability to distribute stuff online.

We decided that our next project, would be the Art Workers Coalition project, which I discussed earlier, which was the result of an exhibition that was held at P.S.1 in 2008. The Art Workers Coalition, just for a brief history, was formed in 1969 by a loose group of artists, and quickly snowballed into a large group of artists between January and March or April of 1969. And they formed in response to several protests against museums and institutions in the New York area, specifically the Museum of Modern Art. And they produced two documents or two publications in that time period, between January and let’s say May of 1969. One was called Documents 1. And it was ephemera, which consisted of newspaper articles, press releases, minutes, notes, manifestos. It pretty much documented the history of the Art Workers Coalition through the first five months of its existence. The second was called Open Hearing. And the Open Hearing was just that; it was an open hearing held by artists in response to what was going on in that period of time. The Art Workers Coalition was calling for a greater response by the museums to artists, a greater responsibility to artists, and also a greater response by the museums to the war going on in Vietnam. They had kept trying to get a meeting with the Museum of Modern Art. They had been going back and forth with the museum many times, and there had been many protests, and eventually, the museum came back and said, “No, you can not have a meeting at the Museum of Modern Art,” so they decided to have it at the School for Visual Arts instead. And what happened was hundreds of people showed up and they brought written statements and they also spoke about issues they wanted to see the Art Workers Coalition address. And that was published as this publication called Open Hearing. These were initially published and given away for free, as sort of awareness publications, to boost the awareness of the coalition and what it was trying to do. At the time of our publication of these materials, they were extremely scarce and selling on the secondary market as a pair, for around $800 to $1000. Which to us, was a bit of an abomination because the material was very important to students who were interested in activism and art of the late sixties, and also scholars, and artists. We felt like we were in a period where people should be studying the material of activism and art of the 1960s, in 2008. You know, from 2001, basically, on, we thought people should be more interested in things like the Guerrilla Art Action Group and Art Workers Coalition. That’s what initially led us to this material. So we published this material in an edition of a hundred, sold it for five dollars or maybe eight dollars; I can’t remember. And they sold really quickly. But what we did instead of trying to sell them as publications is we put them online, which then made them free to anyone. They were initially put up on our website for free, and then they were spread through Ubu Web and other distribution points online that specialized in portable document files and other forms of archiving and cataloguing, distributing avant-garde material. And the model works. Since then, together there’s been over 20,000 downloads of these two publications, and that’s just been in the last year and a half. So it was this extremely successful effort to disseminate the material and to make it available again to the world for free, as it was originally intended.

Instead of showing you material from the— Okay, I’m speaking too long, I think. Instead of showing you material from the books, I’m just going to go through some material really quickly, about the Art Workers Coalition. This was an anonymous flier that was made regarding money and art and politics of the time that was passed around and nailed to the doors of galleries and museums. This is from the famous Flag Show at Judson Church, in which three people were arrested for burning a flag. This happened in 1970. This is another demonstration at the Museum of Modern Art, regarding a collaborative poster that was supposed to take place between the Museum of Modern Art, called Q: And babies?, and A: And babies. The Museum of Modern Art pulled out its support of the poster and the Art Workers Coalition published it anyways. And this is their protest of the museum pulling out.

I’m just going to end really quickly and kind of sum up. Our next project— Because I have discussed the first two models that we were interested in pursuing. The third was recorded sound, artist recordings, sound art. And the model, or the particular publication that we decided to put back out in the world was Allan Kaprow’s How To Make A Happening. This has an interesting story, in that it was published in 1966, but Mass Art, the publisher, went out of business shortly thereafter, so it was never readily distributed. Something Else Press distributed a few copies, but most of them went into the basement of Allan Kaprow’s house. So we got permission from the Kaprow estate to republish this in CD form, which was the first time it had actually been distributed to a wide audience. What’s great about this is in light of all of the retrospectives going on looking at Allan’s work and the Happening movement, is this was actually recorded in 1965. It’s just Allan talking into a microphone about how Happenings are made and how they’re not made, and giving examples of recent Happenings. So it lacks any sentimentality that goes along with the typical retrospective of his work that’s sort of happening now. It’s just him talking straight from the gut, and is actually a quite funny recording and quite well done. He’s a really great speaker, because he was a teacher at the time.

We moved on from there, from publishing facsimile editions to working with material from archives, but material that had not actually been distributed or placed in a publication format at that point. So the first one was Disband, a loose group of feminist artists that formed a performance art music collective in the late seventies, in response to Rhys Chatham and the downtown No Wave scene. They couldn’t play any instruments, so they didn’t try. Which is something to their credit; especially in that period. They focused on politically motivated lyrics and a form of a cappella that involved also clapping and stomping and screaming, and a kind of typical song structures that almost formed pop songs but occasionally, was atonal. So this was the first project that we undertook in that form. We’ve undertaken another project with Lee Lozano, which will see publication in the next week or two. It’s her notebooks from 1967 to 1970. It’s the first time they’ve actually been published. They were taken apart and disseminated as individual artworks; each page was disseminated as individual artwork many, many years ago. But prior to that, they were photocopied, so we’ve taken that photocopy record and produced a new book with it, which will be out shortly.

Another thing I’d like to mention is that coming around, just to wrap things up quickly, we are typically seen as a press that’s been reprinting things and working only with archives and facsimile editions. But our original intention was to do both; work with facsimile editions and lost works, or works that needed to be reprinted, but also to focus our attention on contemporary artists’ books and contemporary artists’ writings. And that is where we find ourselves today. Since we’ve set up our model with these projects and a few others, we now have the capacity to actually begin working with new and younger and emerging and even mid-career artists. We’ve just recently finished a project with John Miller, Jutta Koether and Tony Conrad, a record called XXX Macarena. And we’re going to be working with a few other artists in the upcoming year, including Elad Lassry, the L.A.-based photographer; Lutz Bacher, from Berkeley California; and a few others, which are still in the works. But the next phase of our movement as a nonprofit arts organization will see us still publishing lost works and works from the past, but also refocusing our attentions onto contemporary works, as well. So thank you all for listening. [inaudible; applause].

BUTLER: Our third and final panelist is Emily Roysdon. She’s a New York- and Stockholm-based interdisciplinary artist and writer. Her work is invested in language, memory, collectivity, the processes of history; and she uses video, photography, text and performance to that aim. She’s editor and co-founder of the queer feminist journal and artist collective, LTTR. Roysdon’s work has been shown at Participant Inc, in New York; the Generali Foundation in Vienna; New Museum in New York; Power Plant, in Toronto; Studio Voltaire, London. Her videos have been screened at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Arsenal; The Kitchen; and the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen. Her writings have been published in numerous books and magazines, including Cabinet Magazine, The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, and Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. Roysdon completed the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 2001, and an Interdisciplinary MFA at UCLA in 2006. For six months in 2008, she was a resident at the International Artists Studio Program in Sweden. She’s a recipient of a 2008 Art Matters grant, and a 2009 Franklin Furnace grant. She’s a contributing member and sometimes performer with the band MEN. Her most recent project, Ecstatic Resistance, consisted of an ambitious line-up of events with ‘simultaneous sister shows’ held at Grand Arts, in Kansas City Missouri and X Initiative in New York City. And Emily will also be participating in this year’s Whitney Biennial. Please join me in welcoming Emily. [applause]

EMILY ROYSDON: Hello. [pause] Great. Hi. Thank you for inviting me, Ann. I’m primarily going to talk about LTTR, as that’s the most relevant project in my recent history, to our discussions today. But I thought it could be a little interesting, being that this is a bit of an academic conference, to talk about how this came to be in my own life. I originally was sort of studying international politics, inspired by this person named Eqbal Ahmad, and then I discovered the language of psychoanalysis, and began to make art. And all this is as an undergraduate. Went to New York. Having made one project, I went to the Whitney program—never taken an art history class or anything like that—and sort of learned a lot really fast. Made some friends [laughs] and traveled. Returned, and we started LTTR. So it was very much— All of this to say I grew up in LTTR— both personally, politically and aesthetically.

This is the first issue. Called LTTR, of course. [laughs] And the acronym changed each time. This first one, we called Lesbians To The Rescue. And that’s actually my own image that graced the first cover. The project was started by myself, K8 Hardy and Ginger Brooks Takahashi. And we produced 1,000 copies. We originally thought that we would make 250, but when we realized with offset printing, to make 200 is the same as making 1,000, we just sort of upped the ante. And all of the artists who were producing handmade multiples for the magazine all of a sudden had to make, you know, a few extra. [laughter] And those were fun days. Soon I’ll show you lots of pictures. But from very early on, the main organizing principle of LTTR was this broad sense of community and collectivity. So it wasn’t just one artist who ended up having to make, you know, 750 more of their project, but many people collaborated on those projects.


So a quick overview is, we made five issues in approximately six years. As I mentioned, we started it with Ginger and Kate. And then for issue four, Ulrike Müller and Lanka Tattersall joined the editorial group. We functioned as an artist group and as a collective, and that was the basis of our decision making process. We, sort of later on, you know, were approached to become 501(c)(3)s and to sort of formalize as a journal, get as ISBN and things like this. And that never really meshed well with our working process, which was— We were a consensus-based group, and we continued to identify it as an artists project.

Why we started LTTR is significant in trying to convey our working process, because we really— We wanted to treat the work that we saw our peers making as well as we thought it deserved to be treated. So it was very much a localized project at that point. And we wanted to assert a gender-queer-feminist politic. And we wanted to formalize the dialog that was happening, that we saw happening, sort of intercoastally and sometimes internationally, but basically, amongst a peer group, a community and a constituency. And so we wanted to formalize that and literally create an archive. We were very conscious of the effort to document the work that we saw happening around us that wasn’t getting a lot of attention otherwise. Part of that is that we did see ourselves within a significant lineage and as part of a history of queer, feminist, AIDS activist groups, magazines like Heresies and these kinds of things; that we wanted to assert a continued project and to represent that legacy.

As part of that, it’s also important to say that LTTR was very conscientious of the history of those groups, sometimes seeking out people who had participated in those projects and trying to learn the lessons of what happened to artist groups and collectives and activist groups. You know, you hear the stories of what happens. Even when people collaborate for several years, you know, sometimes there are good endings and [laughs] often times there aren’t. And so a lot of our decision making processes kept this in mind. Not that we— It’s not like we were entering a relationship in which we promised to never hurt each other or something like that. [laughter] But we wanted to be very conscientious and to keep this relevant history close to us, so that we didn’t necessarily make the same mistakes and create the same dramas.

So I wanted to talk a little bit about the process of LTTR, since we— it’s important to say we functioned as a consensus-based group. In order to do that, it was all about trusting each other. We worked on an ability and an availability basis. So it’s like we each just did what we had time to do. We didn’t ever really have a very formal structure within the group. We were friends and collaborators, and we spoke to each other that way. You know, we didn’t have a hierarchy or anything like that. And very important to say, also is that it was— our focus was really based in the pleasure that we all had in working together. I have said in the past, as it’s still very true, is one of my greatest pleasures in my life so far has really been these meetings we had with LTTR when we got together and we had— We took very seriously all of the submissions. So we sat around for days. You know, sometimes in our underpants and just, like sweating and going through submissions for, you know, fourteen hours a day. And those were some of my favorite times. So the project was really driven by this shared pleasure and this collectivity and the direction that we all felt. So I sort of tried to outline that quite explicitly, because sometimes it will look like I’m painting a very rosy picture of something that at this point, isn’t functioning anymore. But I want to say that it was a lived experience, and that the way that we could work together in such an unstructured, amorphous and enthusiastic way was because we had this trust and pleasure.

So I can’t talk about LTTR without trying to give an image of how many people participated. I said the names of the editors, but the project always felt like it was rooted in a much, much larger constituency—also called community for some people. And I moved in and out of feeling comfortable with that word. So these were the artists in the first issue. And that is actually an excerpt from my intro to the first issue.

Okay, now I want to sort of say the— I’m going to go through four major things here, which is, like the open call structure of the journal, how the events became so significant to the identity of the project and the community—and then the changes that the group went through. So this is just a collage. Somebody was making a book and— Actually, I don’t even know if it ever got published. But this is a collage. And you can see in the top left corner, it’s from when we were first hand letterpressing the first issue, and we silkscreened everything. So it was very— it was a hands on project from the very beginning. And here, in an incredibly illegible way, are the first two open calls. The open call is very significant to the structure of the project. Each issue was initiated through an open call. We would sit around and brainstorm and talk to each other about what we felt like was important in the world around us, what we wanted to tease out and highlight and get the dialog going about, and then we would write an open call. We tried very hard to have it be something that expressed a wish for a discourse, but also let people respond in a variety of ways. One of the things with LTTR and the open calls over the years is each time we would get sort of a— Well, later on, especially, with more visibility—sorry—we would get a bit of a critique, you know, that it was either too loose or too academic. And we were really— We thought it was hysterical that people thought it was academic, but— So this is some of the images from the early release.

This is the second issue. It’s called Listen Translate Translate Record. It’s in an LP sleeve. And it has an audio CD included. And the text is on a poster-sized paper. It unfolded. And part of the inquiry of this particular issue was that we were really curious if people could relate to text and language projects as they do certain visual images. Like, if you hung it up in the bathroom, would you always look at the same five words? Or would you jump around? And just to sort of try and change the format of reading and that interaction with text. I think it was midway through the second issue where we started to realize that people weren’t treating the issues as poorly as we wanted them to. We really wanted them to be used, and people started to cherish them. [laughs] So for example, I didn’t go over to people’s house and they had it in their bathroom; you know, they had it archivally displayed on their shelf. You know— [laughs] So we still— We tried. Like with later issues, you know, we tried to encourage people to rip out pages. And you know, that didn’t happen either. So the open call, I wanted to mention as the consistent structure for the whole project, even when we were doing— we came to do film and video projects. Yeah. This is issue two.

The events originally started as the release parties for the magazine. And the very first one, in Brooklyn, we just had a friend stand up on a chair and say why he was a feminist. And then as the events sort of moved— the release parties, they got more and more elaborate. Eventually, with the second issue, we were including works that couldn’t be fitted into the printed page, so we would have people— you know, dance projects and bands and all kinds of things. And then this being issue three, it was called Practice More Failure. This was our largest event, up to the point. It was three weeks of nearly three or four events a week, at Art In General, in New York City. I think they— their offer originally to us was that we could use their downstairs space for two weeks. And we were like, How about we use every floor of the gallery for, every day, three weeks? [laughter] And they were like, Okay. But they gave us the same budget, which was $200. So people flew up, but— [laughter] I’m serious. [laughs] The people flew themselves in from all over. We had some Canadians coming and people from the West Coast, and everybody who could participate who, you know, had the resources to fly themselves there, did. And—this is issue three, too—it was really incredible. There was so much energy happening around the group at that time. We made posters and we, you know, put them up illegally all over town. And it’s a bad story, that I was the police watch and I nearly got my German friend deported. [laughs] But she didn’t get deported, but she did get a ticket. And we were just really feeling like a lot of energy in the city, and we were able to— This is work by A.K. Burns, Aisha Burns, called Decorated Soldier. So the issue, the pages unfolded. Every other page unfolded into these poster-like—

This is the poster for the event. The issue was called Practice More Failure, and the event was called The Explosion. Part of the project here was we really wanted to put things next to each other that usually wouldn’t be. So Gregg Bordowitz, who’s a Chicago resident and artist and writer, he gave a lecture about love and war, right next to Janet Pants, who is a dancer from L.A. and Portland. And each night was these, like hybrid mash-ups. We also did a project at Art in General during that time. Oh, this is the collating party. That’s Luis Jacob, J.D. Samson, Klara Liden. So we were still putting the magazine together while we were in the space. This is Megan Palaima outside the storefront at Art in General. She’s doing a performance, and she ended up blocking traffic for an hour.

But so what we did in this downstairs space was we took artists who didn’t necessarily know each other, but whose work we knew and thought that they could have an interesting dialog, and we gave them— I think it was, like four or five days in the space to work together. So it was these unknown collaborations. This is— Virginia Puffpaint, is a Toronto-based performance group. Oh, my God! I have, like a hundred slides left. [laughs] That’s Ulrike Müller and— So we had these— other people made these banners in the background, “Practice More Failure.” Eileen Myles. Carrie Moyer, Allison Smith, Sheila Pepe. This is the storefront space where we mentioned the collaborations. So not only did two people work together that didn’t know each other, but none of the work was ever removed from the space, so it just got layered. Each person just worked on top of the last group that had been there.

This is issue four, Do You Wish To Direct Me?. This was the first time that we took a title or a theme that already existed—it’s from a Lynda Benglis video. Here was the first time we tried to make an issue—we called it the subway issue—that you could put in your pocket. Images flipped from one side; text, if you turned it over, from the other and met in the middle. This is a bookmark we made in— Oh, issue four was the first time, also that we had an external publisher, and Printed Matter gave LTTR a book grant. So this, Lesbians Tend To Read, which still, I think, is great. Bookmark was for an event that we did at Printed Matter, called the Read-in. Somebody sent a picture, a photograph of themselves, they got this as a tattoo. They sent it to the LTTR info address. We opened the email and we were like, Whoa! [laughter] That’s dedication. So for issue four, we had a block party and a— it was called Radical Read-in, at Printed Matter. And those bookmarks, people would come in and they would mark them on the shelves. So by the end of the summer or our residency at Printed Matter, you would walk in and you would see all these sort of annotated interactions with the collection of Printed Matter, by people coming in and saying, “I really liked this thing on page 57.” And the bookmarks were stuck in. So this is Printed Matter, in the old space, maybe their third space. Maybe? Was it? Fourth. [laughs] This is a little display. We also, you know, were constantly making t-shirts and bags. We sold LTTR for ten dollars; later, you know, making it fifteen. [laughs] This is Stanya Kahn and Harry Dodge performing at a release event in Los Angeles, at Fritz Haeg’s Sundown Salon.

This is issue five, Positively Nasty. I want to— I need to quickly go through two things, so you can’t cut me off. [laughs] The community aspect of LTTR, that there were so many ways for people to participate in either the events or by making submissions. And for many, many years of the project, it felt like we never really had an audience, but like a— just that the collective was really big. Later, when we started to get a lot more visibility, the project, it did start to feel like there became people who wanted to watch. And that changed the dynamic a lot. We really felt that. And also at around the same time, our invitations were sort of piling up and the projects were changing a little bit. We always tried to be very careful about choosing what we wanted to do, not responding to invitations. But even in that process, there were confrontations, experiences that we learned from. For example, going to Vienna to do a project with the Generali Foundation. This is us making pillows in Ginger’s studio, that later turned into this, A Wave of New Rage Thinking. And we had a slide show going, and we did a Radical Read-in there. So it was sort of taking the strategies that we were using in New York, queer politics and, in our experience, was moving on from a representational identity-based politic and was more collaborative and interdisciplinary, and taking on lots of other issues. And that didn’t translate to other contexts. And so our politic and our strategies seemed quite irrelevant there. So we had really, really incredible conversations for days. And I sort of felt like I was defending a dissertation that I hadn’t written and didn’t know [laughs] needed defending. And it was a really, really interesting, challenging, and very productive experience. So at this time, we felt a lot of changes happening. We were getting so many invitations. This is an installation at the ICA in Philadelphia. It could have become a full-time job. I wasn’t able— Well, I didn’t want to work anyway, but I didn’t have a job because I was traveling so much with LTTR. And we were all sort of trying to make it work in different ways. But the group never accepted money. Any money that we got, like those $200 we got from Art In General, we dispersed to all the participants. So each person got, what? Five, ten bucks. It only matters in terms of philosophy and good will; it wasn’t significant payment, obviously. But so the financial factor of the group and the way that we had chosen to operate— This was our classic installation. We would just set up a reading table with issues of the journal, and usually many other books and throw an ax into it. We did this at the Generali, we did it at the LACMA in Los Angeles. This was a poster we made. Oh, sorry. So yeah. So that was really important.

I just want to say that one of the reasons, a significant reason that the group ceased to work was we came to a point in our collaboration and in the project, where we realized that we either had to change the structure we were working with, or we had to say it lasted this long and it was great. We chose to say it lasted this long and it was great. Because the structure of not accepting funds, and the relationship with the broader constituency, and the open call and all these things, visibility that the group was getting, we became— like from inviting institutions, we became more of like a performance art group. They wanted us to come and put on a show and, like bring all of the queer feminists in their city out. And it filled all of their quotas. And we did all the work, and we weren’t getting any money. So it became an unsustainable project. [other panelist says: "its always like that"] Yeah. [laughs] So we made a long, difficult decision to say we really loved it the way it was. We can’t recommend this model, necessarily to anybody else. It was about finding our way in our own time, how to make a project work. But it wasn’t something that could be replicated, or necessarily even continued. It definitely reached its limit. So I guess, since I went over time, that’s it.

This is— I’ll briefly say, this was a project I recently did, which— it’s called Ecstatic Resistance. I started the project wanting to make a book. Before the book could happen, I was given the opportunity to make it an exhibition, which opened in Kansas City and New York City. So I’ll just show you these slides. This is Sharon Hayes. It’s without much context, but ecstatic resistance is a phrase I made up in order to talk about the impossible and the imaginary in politics. I have a few of these little pamphlets. Hey, Jeanine Oleson. What’s up? It’s Jeanine’s project. She’s right there.



This is a performance by Ian White called Democracy. My Barbarian, a Los Angeles performance group doing really amazing work. A performance by Matthew Lutz-Kinoy. A talk by Leah Gilliam. Oh, there’s Jeanine again. And Julianna Snapper. Dean Spade and Craig Willse gave an excellent presentation called “Free State Epitaph,” in which they sort of suspended you in a strange temporality—you weren’t sure if it was the recent past or the coming future—where they talked about the end of the United States. Neither of whom identify as artists. One is an academic, finishing his PhD; and the other is an activist and a lawyer. And this is a performance is called PIG, Politically Involved Girls. It’s Wu Ingrid Tsang, Zackary Drucker, and Mariana Marroquin, cribbing text from a Warhol film, Women in Revolt, and a fifties sort of educational video, in which they talk about the monstrosity of trans-sexual identities.

So that’s what I’ve been doing recently. I just wanted to throw that in on the end to say that as an artist, I make my own work, but it’s always been very important for me to interact with my peers and to think publicly and intellectually with a larger group of people. So working for many years with LTTR and then now collaborating with all these other artists to produce these events and these exhibitions and. So thank you very much. [applause]


BUTLER: We have just a few minutes for questions. What I’d like to do is to open it up to the panel first, and to ask you guys if you have questions for each other. And if you don’t, we’ll open it up to everyone else.

WOMAN: I’d like to ask, for all of you, how your audiences have materialized, and what efforts you’ve made, if any, to expand or to court certain— Anyone?

ROYSDON: I could say that with our open call structure and our nascent relationship to a very productive community, it was very localized and focused. We never have to think about it. It was born into the concept of the project. It was particularly serving a known group of people. From there, the audience expanded rapidly. The open call, you know, in the first year, was perhaps— You know, you really had to cajole people. Like, No, we really are going to make this thing; you should send us something. And later we got hundreds of submissions from all over the world. So it sort of proved itself in the first and second issues, and then it really got dispersed quite widely.

ELMS: I guess because we’ve been doing distribution for the last four years, it’s pretty standardized book distribution. Before that, WhiteWalls Inc. had limited distribution and a localized audience, had an actual community organized by ourselves. WhiteWalls had a subscriber base, we had people that the issues went to. Once WhiteWalls Inc. got into book production and distribution, the organization kind of lost that notion to really get a sense of who the audience is. I guess what WhiteWalls Inc. has tried to do is be more tactical in how to think of who’s out there. So when Whitewalls Inc. releases a book, that book is going to be available in exactly the same way with the same resources, thanks to the University of Chicago Press. With this knowledge, WhiteWalls Inc. can try to convince the distributor to orient it towards these kinds of bookstores rather than those. I try to make sure that WhiteWalls Inc. publications can get into the hands of the viewers that who will be interested. That said, one thing, of course, I hope for is that the audience bleeds through a little bit; still there’s no fooling myself that someone who’s interested in, say Prisoners’ Inventions, a book that has a collection of inventions prisoners make in their cells, is necessarily going to also be interested in Sun Ra or vice-versa. But I try to present the materials clearly enough and have a little description for each, so that maybe there’ll be some bleed for those who are amenable and open. And I just try to be more proactive in how a book goes out, rather than, you know, waiting for or hoping to hear from the returns. Trying to make each title as technically and constantly available as possible; hoping that this pays off eventually.

HOFF: I think Primary Information also shares much with WhiteWalls, in terms of having a major distributor. It sort of has a built-in audience in and of itself, in many ways. We were set up— we think of ourselves as sort of an educational organization, and we’re here to serve artists, particularly young artists, we have in mind, and students and educators and researchers. And one way we’ve tried to support that mission is through a low price point and through using our website as a free source of distribution and free material. And the website recently has been a big help with us. We’ve hired a tech person that does our website, and it also has many ties. We ended up partnering with Ubu Web and other organizations online to sort of help foster and cross-pollinate our audiences in many ways. And this technician is also extremely gifted in knowing where and how to post things in various places, which I’m not. And so he acts as kind of an odd PR distributor of our online material for us. And so that’s helped out a lot for us. It’s been very odd, because we work out of our bedrooms; we don’t have an office of any sort. It’s very odd to go to Europe and meet people who are very familiar with your work, and to sort of realize the reach that your projects do have in this world through mass distribution. It’s been a big surprise for us, anyway.


BUTLER: One last question? [inaudible voices]

WOMAN: What do you think, because there’s two[?] [inaudible] similar, in some sense, in what you do, in terms of [inaudible] projects and then— and like the harvest[?] project. Do you think there are inherent differences in what the history of both sides will be, in terms of, let’s say LTTR’s [inaudible] is artist produced; like, the artist-produced project, and then distribution [inaudible]? I just am curious to see if the three of you have ideas about what the pros and cons are of those two different models. You know what I mean [inaudible]?

ROYSDON: Do you mean the difference between—

WOMAN: Like an artist-produced project as publication and [inaudible].

ROYSDON: Is the implication in the definition of an artist-based project that it isn’t organized and distributed in a—

WOMAN: Well, it is. And I think that’s part of the pros and cons. Like, do you have any thoughts about that? Is that a weird question?

ELMS: I can try to answer. For myself, I guess I’ve always been involved in the art world of LTTR, these kinds of self-organized events. Being based here in Chicago, I’m sort of already at an obvious disadvantage for getting materials out to more international reviewers, publishers, and institutions. For this reason, I guess I was willing to clear-cut and sever the ties with a local self-organized audience that was deeply tied, and that deeply supported the organization in a public way and in a very interactive way, for trying to be stupid enough to say, take things like LTTR or in my case Prisoners’ Inventions or the Filler 7inch, something like that and print a thousand, 3,000, 4,000 copies, and see if I could sneak this material into a bookstore that doesn’t want this type of material. [laughter] See what happens on that shelf.

I was thinking, “Well, I’m feeling sort of ghettoized in not getting any attention for these materials outside of the 200 of us that really care about this stuff here in this space that we gather every couple months.” I care about this stuff and I think someone else should care about it. Personally, I was more interested in giving up the internal workings, what you could say is like the more positive, better-feeling discussions to have with a community of peers and invested individuals, people you’re working with, and try to talk to the book buyers of stores never visited and try to talk to the advertisers and marketers, and try to talk to the book review editors, and see if every once in a while I can sneak one of my titles somewhere new. Try to fight, just slightly, that fight. We’re still talking about a small scene, in the big scheme of things, even if WhiteWalls Inc.’s biggest selling book right now is close to 9,000 copies. That’s a drop in the bucket, when you consider the spread of the book buying public. But at the same time, it’s close to 9,000 copies; most of them in the hands of people I’ve never met and I have no idea who these people are. I am more interested now in trying to see what little toehold can be made for artist generated materials in the general marketplace, rather than maybe making the material interaction as direct or as positive a experience. You know, making it sort of generic. Right now a lot of people in Chicago don’t really know what WhiteWalls Inc. does anymore. They ask, “So are you doing anything? Have you done anything?” Because the activity has dispersed. It’s just one title at a time. It’s an activity that’s hard to judge together because it is hard to see. It’s out there and it’s on a shelf. I bump into it in Paris, I bump into it in London. Yeah. It feels good to know that someone might have stumbled across these publications and, you know, given up twenty Euros to give it a shot.

ROYSDON: Can I say something? I just want to say real quick that the pros and the cons of each of those things is something that I try to balance within my own practice, right? So some of the things— like, within— the difference between sort of focusing on creating my own projects and then collaborating and thinking publicly with others, I think having that as the basis of my practice, that I do all do those things, I get different things out of it each time. So I am really interested in potentially, one day making a book out this Ecstatic Resistance project. It does have a very different presence than an exhibition itself, and can be more textual and critical and have lots of other elements. But the exhibition was crucial to getting to that point. And you know, I just try to find that balance within the projects.

HOFF: I would say, looking at both models— I, too also make artist books of my own and I’ve worked in collectives. And I would say that there’s challenges to both that aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive and that are mutually exclusive as well. I mean, the problem is that there’s frustrations with both models. You know, hand distributing your books throughout the country, throughout the world is an extremely frustrating process. Particularly when, you know, you need to collect the money to do the next book. But you know, getting your books delivered to a distributor can also be a very frustrating process, as well. So I think that they both have their own benefits and they both have their own frustrations. Not that that’s a very great answer to your question, but I’ve felt the pain of both models, I would say. But the institutional model that I now work in with Primary Information seems to be a little bit less personal, in a way, because it’s an organization. And because of that, we don’t have some of the conflicts of— not necessarily conflicts, but the sort of ongoing creative dialogs that can have possibility for conflicts that you were sort of alluding to in your talk. Which makes life a lot easier, in many ways, emotionally and mentally, I would say. But it doesn’t make it as thrilling and exciting personally.

BUTLER: I think that’s all we have time for. The transcript of this session will be posted on the AS-AP website, probably within the next two months or so, for those of you that want to go back and read it. Thanks for coming.

ROYSDON: Thank you.

HOFF[?]: Thank you.

[applause; END]