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Artists' Publications

In the se­cond half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, ar­tists mo­ved bey­ond the art-im­ma­nent space to crea­te, sup­por­ted by mass-me­dia tech­ni­ques, pu­blis­hed art­works. The­se works chal­len­ged the tra­di­tio­nal sys­tem of art and the clas­si­fi­ca­ti­on sys­tem of mu­se­ums. In the 1950s and 1960s, gra­phic collec­tions only oc­ca­sio­nal­ly had re­cord of such works, and mu­se­ums in ge­ne­ral ten­ded to ra­re­ly note them. Their roots can be tra­ced to the avant-gar­de of the 1920s, such as Fu­tu­rism and Da­da­ism.

Ar­tist­s’ pu­bli­ca­ti­ons in­clu­de all forms of ex­pres­si­on en­dea­vo­r­ed by ar­tists with po­ten­ti­al mul­ti­pli­ca­ti­on in mind—re­leased eit­her by the ar­tists them­sel­ves, that is, through self-pu­bli­ca­ti­on, or by a pu­blis­her using au­to­ma­ted pro­duc­tion me­thods.
The term “ar­tist­s’ pu­bli­ca­ti­ons” is used as an um­brel­la phra­se for all forms of pu­blis­hed art­works. It com­pre­hends all works by ar­tists that are re­pro­du­ced, re­leased, or pu­blis­hed. Thus, ar­tist­s’ pu­bli­ca­ti­ons are, at the same time, also ma­ni­fes­ta­ti­ons of in­for­ma­ti­on and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on. Here, the book or the re­cord, for ex­amp­le, may be­co­me the me­di­um of ar­tis­tic crea­ti­on for the ar­tist. It goes to fol­low that ar­tist­s’ pu­bli­ca­ti­ons com­pri­se over 20 dif­fe­rent gen­res:

ar­tist­s’ books, mul­ti­ples, book ob­jects, ar­tist­s’ news­pa­pers and ma­ga­zi­nes, ephe­me­ra such as pos­ters and in­vi­ta­ti­ons de­si­gned by ar­tists, pho­to edi­ti­ons, post­cards, stamps, sti­ckers, gra­phic art­works, Xe­rox co­pies, stamp art­works, sound art (on re­cor­ds, cas­set­te tapes, au­dio CDs), ra­dio art, mul­ti­me­dia edi­ti­ons on CD-ROM and DVD, ar­tist­s’ vi­de­os and films, net art and com­pu­ter art.

Of fo­cus here are art­works that, in the ar­tist­s’ view, en­joy the same sta­tus and ar­tis­tic va­lue as a pain­ting or an in­stal­la­ti­on. The low pri­cing of the­se works has ac­tual­ly been in­ten­tio­nal, sin­ce an­yo­ne in­te­rested should have the op­por­tu­ni­ty to ac­qui­re a work of art. The pri­ce should not erect a bar­ri­er but ins­tead en­cou­ra­ge peop­le to start an “art collec­tion in mi­nia­tu­re.” Works from all ar­tis­tic cur­rents da­ting from the 1950s can be dis­co­ve­r­ed throughout the world—ran­ging from the Flu­xus mo­ve­ment, to mail art, pop art, vi­su­al and con­cre­te poe­try, land art, and to com­pu­ter art of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry.

Star­ting in the 1950s, ar­tists set out to pur­sue new ar­tis­tic paths and to de­fi­ne al­ter­na­ti­ve pre­mi­ses for their ar­tis­tic work. They star­ted im­ple­men­ting mass me­dia in the crea­ti­on of art­works and using re­pro­duc­tion me­dia like co­pi­ers as ar­tis­tic tech­ni­ques. Pro­cee­ding from cor­re­spon­dence art, and ba­sed on the achie­ve­ments of mail art, the ex­ch­an­ge go­ing on among ar­tists led to an in­ter­na­tio­nal net­work tra­ver­sing all po­li­ti­cal bor­ders. The­se ar­tists were up­set­ting tra­di­tio­nal ide­as about art, in­te­gra­ting the view­er, and aban­do­n­ing the spaces tra­di­tio­nal­ly as­si­gned to ar­tists, which si­mul­ta­neous­ly led to the crea­ti­on of nu­merous ar­tist­s’ pu­bli­ca­ti­ons. With their hap­pe­nings and ac­tions, ar­tists were con­que­ring pu­blic space. They were foun­ding—in­de­pen­dent of con­ven­tio­nal mu­se­ums and gal­le­ries—their own ac­tivi­ty spaces, gal­le­ries, re­stau­rants, pubs, ar­chi­ves, and ex­hi­bi­ti­on spaces. Ar­tists hence suc­cee­ded in es­ta­blis­hing self-in­itia­ted pu­blic space, or even a coun­ter­pu­blic sphe­re. The or­ga­niza­t­i­on of the pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­ti­on, and sa­les of re­pro­du­ced art­works was rea­li­zed with ar­tis­tic in­de­pen­dence, the au­to­no­my of the ar­tist be­co­m­ing the de­cla­red goal. The con­cept of art as in­for­ma­ti­on was fo­cal to their work. So­cie­tal vi­si­ons be­ca­me ma­ni­fest in the de­hier­ar­chiza­t­i­on and de­mo­cra­tiza­t­i­on of art. This new con­cep­ti­on of art was, for one, con­cen­tra­ted on the re­jec­tion of the ori­gi­nal, and on the pro­duc­tion of re­pro­du­ced art­works ai­ming at af­forda­bi­li­ty for ever­yo­ne. In ad­di­ti­on, co­ope­ra­ti­ve working struc­tu­res like col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve art­works, as­sem­blings, and ma­ga­zi­nes were cha­rac­te­ris­tic for lar­ge re­alms of ar­tis­tic work.
The ar­chi­ves ori­gi­na­ting du­ring this pe­ri­od were of fun­da­men­tal im­port­an­ce. This was the only place whe­re do­cu­ments and pu­bli­ca­ti­ons were com­pi­led and stored that re­flec­ted the crea­ti­ve, non­con­for­mist po­ten­ti­al and the quest for ar­tis­tic in­de­pen­dence ap­pa­rent sin­ce the 1960s. The­se ar­chi­ves came into being through an ex­ch­an­ge of ar­tist­s’ pu­bli­ca­ti­ons on an in­ter­na­tio­nal le­vel, kept ac­tive by the ar­tists, ir­re­spec­tive of po­li­ti­cal bor­ders, up into the mid-1980s. This com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on net­work enab­led ar­tists li­ving in po­li­ti­cal­ly iso­la­ted coun­tries to ac­tive­ly par­ti­ci­pa­te in art ac­tivi­ties across the world.

In the mid-1980s a pa­ra­digm shift in the de­ve­lop­ment of ar­tist­s’ pu­bli­ca­ti­ons ma­te­ria­li­zed. Now, due to ar­tist­s’ ten­den­cies toward in­di­vi­dua­liza­t­i­on, spea­king of a con­text of ar­tis­tic cur­rents is no lon­ger ap­p­lica­ble. The net­work of mail art, for in­stan­ce, came to lose its func­tio­nal ef­fi­ci­en­cy, and con­cre­te and vi­su­al poe­try be­gan to dis­in­te­gra­te as a li­tera­ry and ar­tis­tic cur­rent.
Whi­le the 1960s and 1970s were dis­tin­gu­is­hed by the con­cept of “in­ter­me­dia” as rai­sed by Dick Higg­ins, sin­ce the 1980s a cross­over in the ap­p­li­ca­ti­on of va­rious gen­res and me­dia has been evol­ving through ar­tis­tic in­spi­ra­ti­on. Of is­sue is no lon­ger the con­nec­ting, or mer­ging, of ar­tis­tic, mu­si­cal, and li­tera­ry di­sci­pli­nes and of the the­r­e­by new­ly crea­ted art forms, but ra­ther the li­ber­ty to fre­e­ly select from the­se now al­re­a­dy well-es­ta­blis­hed forms of ex­pres­si­on. The ques­ti­on of ar­tis­tic trans­gres­si­on is no lon­ger pi­vo­tal, for the ar­tists are working per se in­ter­di­sci­pli­na­ri­ly—con­tem­pora­neous­ly mo­ving wi­t­hin di­ver­gent re­alms in a na­tu­ral way.
The ar­tist­s’ ap­proach par­ti­cu­lar­ly lies in selec­ting me­dia for their ar­tis­tic po­si­ti­ons in or­der to high­light the he­te­ro­gen­ei­ty of ar­tis­tic work, thus coun­ter­ac­ting ra­pid misap­pro­pria­ti­on or ar­tis­tic clas­si­fi­ca­ti­on. In this way, too, they are mir­ro­ring ex­pe­ri­en­ces from so­ci­al rea­li­ty, which can no lon­ger be per­cei­ved as uni­form due to its com­ple­xi­ty. That which ori­gi­na­ted in the 1960s un­der the la­bel “in­ter­me­dia” through the over­lap­ping and con­nec­ting of gen­res has, sin­ce the 1980s, sta­bi­li­zed and be­co­me “sui­ta­ble for art,” has be­co­me es­ta­blis­hed, so that ar­tist­s’ books or ar­tist­s’ ma­ga­zi­nes now num­ber among the tra­di­tio­nal ca­non.


Dr. Anne Thur­mann-Ja­jes