Sunday, September 24, 2017

To Steve McCaffery from Dick Higgins

A February 1977 postcard from Dick Higgins to Steve McCaffery, from the Granary Books Steve McCaffery Archive.

The card reads:

"Dear Steve -

Karl Young wants to look at the Filliou/bpN/SMcC/dh book when it's ready for his Membrane Press - okay?

Love to you and Maggie, & to bp,


The book Higgins refers to is called Six Fillious, and is co-authored by Filliou, Higgins, McCaffery, bpNichol, George Brecht and Dieter Roth. See earlier post, here, for details.

To Steve McCaffery from bpNichol

From bpNichol to Steve McCaffery, April 27, 1977, from the Granary Books archive:

"From the hand of bpNichol, "his left hand knows what his right hand is doing"


worth noting in regard to the CONTINUITY QUESTION is our long discussions about whether to put out an album (i.e. frozen state when what we deal with is shifting — our preference then for LIVE IN THE WEST as more obviously documentary of an occasion & time) & our ongoing discussion of electronic elements as it relates to this question of energy interface. i.e. its human energy not electric we’re dealing with[.]


To Steve McCaffery from Bob Cobbing

Bob Cobbing to Steve McCaffery, October 13, 1990, from the Granary Books archive:

“Unexpectedly printed your The Entrift for a Writers Forum launch last weekend...It makes a nice little book. I read it at the launch and it went down well with the audience. Because I did it in a hurry, I didn’t check for errors, apart from correcting the ones you already marked — there are a few, I think, so I’ll ask you to do a proof read and let me know what to correct, in time for the second edition. (I did only 60 copies of the first edition, and they'll soon go."

To Steve McCaffery from Dick Higgins

Dick Higgins to Steve McCaffery, April 17, 1976: 

“Dear Steve McCaffery, 

Curious as to what you do. I hear your name from people and places I respect - and would like to know the work. 

Separately, I'm sending some of my writings: hope you will enjoy them. If you could send me something of yours, I would be very interested. 

So few sound poets on this continent! I’m in touch with some of the European ones, but besides Nichol I don’t like any in North America. Seems to [sic] often to affect a false naivity [sic] (Bissett, Lurie, the Harlemans, etc.).

Seems I'll be teaching at Milwaukee next spring: will surely cover sound poetry. 

Very bests, 

Dick Higgins”

This letter seems like quintessential Dick Higgins: curious and candid (note the dig at Bill Bissett, who surely would've moved in the same circles as McCaffery at the time). I used to correspond with Higgins and he often offered blunt assessment of the work of his fellow Fluxus artists. The letters were all marked "not for publication" at the top and bottom of the page. 

For more correspondence with Steve McCaffery, visit the archive at Granary Books, here

To Steve McCaffery from Robert Filliou

A postcard from Robert Filliou dated September 2nd, 1978 that reads:

“Greetings from Iceland, Steve. Thank you for your last letter. Your definitions of FUTILITY & UTILITY show a way out of the dilemma of gay vs dismal science (utility & freedom, that’s poetical economy). As for the corkscrew I've taken, I'll use it to open new bottles, to drink the new wine therein. I do hope you'll be in Europe this spring....Unfortuntately I have no suggestions as to paid performances. I suppose that's why I've been teaching here for a month. Love RF."

Also above: a collage dating from the same time that features both Filliou and McCaffery, though it's unclear who produced it, or if it were made in collaboration.

For more examples, visit the Steve McCaffery archive at Granary Books, here.

Steve McCaffery Archive

Steve McCaffery is a Toronto poet and scholar, who taught at York University and currently holds the Gray Chair at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

Born in Sheffield, England on January 24th, 1947), McCaffery lived in the UK for most of his youth. After graduating from the University of Hull, he moved to Toronto in 1968, where he sought out fellow poet bpNichol. Together with Rafael Barreto-Rivera and Paul Dutton (now in CCMC with Michael Snow and John Oswald) they formed the influential sound poetry collective The Four Horsemen. Considered the country's first sound and performance poetry ensemble, the group released two 12" vinyl records, two cassettes, and three print collections. They remained active for almost twenty years, until Nichol's death in 1988.

McCaffery and Nichol also collaborated on the Toronto Research Group, a 1973 group which “critiqued established forms, values, and meanings via exuberant performances of fragmentation and dispersal; and they applied poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theory to poetics to expose underlying socio/cultural assumptions.” (Pauline Bunting and Susan Rudy).

He is the author of countless books and has twice been nominated for Canada’s Governor General’s Award.

The Steve McCaffery archive has just been acquired by Granary Books. It comprises over sixty boxes of correspondence, manuscripts, journals, sketchbooks, address books, flyers, lecture notes and audio and video tapes.

For more information, visit Granary Books, here. The five or six posts that follow will feature examples of postcards and letters sent to McCaffery from concrete poets, Fluxus artists and others.

"When I came from England the only poet that I really wanted to meet in Canada was bp Nichol, whose concrete poetry I’d become acquainted with through little magazines. When we first met we realized we had both been working in relative vacuums, and two people interested in the same thing naturally led to collaboration.

After the Four Horsemen formed in 1969, bp and I started the Toronto Research Group, dedicated to investigating alternative forms to the standard expository or critical essay.

Later came my correspondence with Dick Higgins, which led among other things to Six Fillious—a collaboration with Filliou himself, bp, Dick Higgins, George Brecht and Diter Rot (a predominantly Fluxus gathering of poet-artists).

Later followed the collaboration with Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Ray Di Palma, and Ron Silliman that resulted in Legend. All of these collaborations came out of pure chance (on my coming to Canada, on bp living in Toronto rather than say Vancouver, Dick Higgins contacting me by mail, etc.). Yet they were all informed by the common, fundamental desire to get away from that romantic ideologeme of the lyric self. The sheer energy of collaborative writing exceeds isolated subjectivity, for one is always in collision and in cooperation with another; the creative primal scene here is both community and alterity. It’s interesting that the collaboration with bp Nichol involved integral destructive elements, i.e. we would freely delete each other’s words and phrases substituting are own. (I talk about the dynamics of dictation and transcription that governed so much of the TRG collaboration in the Introduction to Rational Geomancy.) By contrast, the five-way collaboration on Legend was very structured and clean; it was based on discrete accretions with a high integrity placed on distinct contributions. When I started collaborating by deleting other people’s lines and phrases it created a certain amount of opposition."

-  Steve McCaffery, to Ryan Cox, 2007

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Kettle Bells
Toronto, Canada: Nothing Else Press, 2016
Sizes and weights vary
Unlimited edition, signed

Very sad at the announcement today of the dissolution of VsVsVs, my favourite art collective in the city. The group moved out of their shared warehouse space (which might have been their greatest artwork - an elaborate sculpture, installation, social experiment, etc.) late last month, in order to allow the members to pursue individual projects.

I had the pleasure to work with them a few times - most notably for Edmonton's Nuit Blanche - and have heap loads of fond memories.


Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Fluxus, 1963
85 x 61.7 cm.
Edition size unknown

A letterpress poster designed by Willem de Ridder for a festival he organized that took place in June of 1963. Presented at the Hypokriterion Theater, it featured "theatre compositions, street compositions, exhibits, and electronic music."

Friday, September 22, 2017

Marc Bijl poster for the Friends With Books fair

The Friends With Books fair opens tonight in Berlin.

Each year the organization commissions Berlin-based artists to create fundraising editions to help ensure that the entry to the fair remains free to the public.

For the occasion of the 2017 fair, Friends with Books has commissioned Marc Bijl, Smokescreen, 2017, please see edition details below.

The Friends with Books Poster Editions are commissioned as an ongoing series; 200 from each edition are available for 2 € each.* 25 of each poster edition are signed and numbered by the artist, available at a special price of 50 €.* Poster Editions include Marc Bijl, Monica Bonvicini, Annette Kelm, Michaela Melián, John Miller, Jonathan Monk, Roman Schramm, Heidi Specker, and Erik Steinbrecher.

To purchase Friends with Books editions, inquire at Tables L1/2/3, or at the Friends with Books Information Desk A, located in the museum foyer, or email info[at]

For more information vist the website, here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Erik Kessels signing

RVB Books is hosting a book signing with Dutch artist, designer and curator Erik Kessels, tomorrow at noon, at Unseen Amsterdam. Best known as a book publisher "specializing in absurdist found photography" (Sean O'Hagan, The Guardian, Nov 2015), Kessels is also the the creative director of the Amsterdam based advertising agency KesselsKramer, whose success presumably funds his interest in vernacular photography.

For more information, including an interview the artist, visit Unseen Amsterdam, here.

12th annual NY Art Book Fair opens tonight

"Printed Matter, Inc. presents
September 22-24, 2017
Preview: Thursday, September 21, 6-9pm

Printed Matter presents the twelfth annual NY Art Book Fair, from September 22 to 24, 2017, at MoMA PS1, Long Island City, Queens.

Free and open to the public, the NY Art Book Fair is the world’s premier event for artists’ books, catalogs, monographs, periodicals, and zines.

The 2017 NY Art Book Fair will feature over 370 booksellers, antiquarians, artists, institutions and independent publishers from twenty-eight countries.

Join us on Thursday, September 21 from 6 to 9 pm, at MoMA PS1 for our opening night preview. The evening will feature special live performances on the steps of PS1 by Upstate Music, BLONDES and Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip).

Entry to the Preview will cost $10, proceeds going to support NYABF17. The first 2,000 visitors to pre-pay online or to pay at the door (while supplies last) will receive a Ticket Edition by Emma Kohlmann.

Entry may be paid at the door or booked online at until 12 noon on September 21st, 2017. If purchased online, you’ll receive your Ticket Edition when checking in at the Preview.

This year’s NY Art Book Fair will included an ever-growing variety of exhibitors – from the zinesters in (XE)ROX & PAPER + SCISSORS and the Small Press Dome representing publishing at its most innovative and affordable, to rare and antiquarian dealers offering out-of-print books and ephemera from art and artist book history, plus the NYABF-classic Friendly Fire, focused on the intersections of art and activism.

NYABF17 will host an array of programming and special events, including: The Classroom, a curated engagement of informal conversations, workshops, readings, and other artist-led interventions, for the eighth year running, as well as The Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference (CABC), in its tenth year, featuring two full days on emerging practices and issues within art-book culture.

Preview Thursday, September 21, 6-9 pm
Friday, September 22, 1-7pm
Saturday, September 23, 11am-9pm
Sunday, September 24, 11-am-7pm

MoMA PS1 is located at 22-25 Jackson Avenue on 46th Avenue,
Long Island City, NY"

- Press release

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Claudia de la Torre | Ten (unknown) Gasoline Stations

Claudia de la Torre
Ten (unknown) Gasoline Stations
Berlin, Germany: Backbone Books, 2012
12 pp., 14.8 x 21 cm., saddle stitched
Edition of 500 numbered copies

Part tribute, part mystery novel, this title pays homage to Ed Ruscha's iconic first artist book, which is now 54 years old. Whereas Ruscha listed the location of the stations in his photographs, these images are anonymous - found online, uploaded by a man seeking help in identifying them.

Available for 15 EUR from the publisher, here.

PLEASE NOTE: Backbone Books founder Claudia de la Torre has offered that 100% of all sales today will be donated to organizations responding to the devastating earthquakes in Mexico.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Katie Paterson | Fossil Necklace Postcard Edition

Katie Paterson
Fossil Necklace Postcard Edition
Glasgow, Scotland: Self-published, 2013
342 pp., 14.3 x 19 x 9 cm., boxed
Edition of 100

Fossil Necklace consists of 170 carved, rounded fossils, spanning and representing geological time. Each fossil on the necklace, excavated from around the world, represents a major event in evolution. For a full listing of each stone, visit the artist's website, here.

The clothbound boxed postcard set features a micro lens portrait of each bead, with the relevant information printed on the verso. It is available for £250, here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Meredith Monk | Key

Meredith Monk
San Francisco, USA: Tompkins Square Label, 2017
12" LP, 36:42
Limited edition. Edition size unknown

Meredith Monk Awarded 2017 Gish Prize

Record store release of the reissued classic, originally from 1971 (Increase Records) and later available via Lovely Music.

Monk's debut record contains her earliest compositions for voice, composed and performed between  1967 and 1970. The disk features vocals from Fluxus artist Dick Higgins and photography by Peter Moore.

“In Key I wanted to create a constantly shifting ambience. Each song dealt with a different vocal character, landscape, technical concern or emotional quality. I was trying for a visceral, kinetic song form that had the abstract qualities of a painting or a dance. I knew that I didn’t want to set music to a text; for me, the voice itself was a language which seemed to speak more eloquently than words. I chose certain phonemes for their particular sound qualities. In a sense, each song became a world in itself with its own timbre, texture and impulse.”

- Meredith Monk

Monk has just been awarded the quarter million dollar Lillian Gish Prize, which will be honoured during a ceremony at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on October 26. She was chosen from among more than sixty-six finalists in the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, and arts administration. Previous recipients of the award include Trisha Brown, Laurie Anderson, Frank Gehry, Peter Sellars, and Bob Dylan.

“I am humbled and grateful to receive the Gish Prize,” Monk said. “It’s exceptional for being a prize that a great artist decided to give to other artists, and even more special for the values that Lillian Gish expressed when she said it should recognize contributions to ‘the beauty of the world.’ I believe, as she did, that art can be a healing force, a source of light during dark times. With boundless admiration for her, and profound respect for the artists who received this prize before me, I am thrilled to have been chosen for this one-of-a-kind award.”

- Meredith Monk

Friday, September 15, 2017

Endre Tót | Total questions by Tot

Endre Tót
Total questions by Tot
Berlin, Germany: Edition Hundertmark, 1974
16 pp., 21 x 14.7 cm., softcover
Edition of 300

Reproduction of the questionnaires answered by Marina Abramovic, anonymous c/o Marylin Monroe, George Brecht, Jacques Charlier, Hervé Fisher, Ken Friedman, Dick Higgins, Pierre Restany, Takako Saito, Mieko Shiomi and Wolf Vostell, and not by Marcel Duchamp.

A second edition from 1982 is available from the publisher, here, for 16 Euro.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pierre | David Nuancier

Pierre David
Paris, France: RVB Books, 2015
96 pp., 28 x 6 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

Brazilian anthropologist Gilberto Freyre wrote in 1933 that race was uniquely insignificant in Brazil, that the country was the world's only true “racial democracy”. Generations of miscegenation, he argued, had made skin tone irrelevant.

This became a point of pride for Brazilians, and as late as the 1950s, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) funded research into Brazil’s racial relations, hoping to discover “an alternative model for the racial conflicts found worldwide.”

The notion is considerably more contentious now, challenged by both activists and academics. Examples can be found here, here and here.

But for some, the central premise is still worth exploring. French artist Pierre David moved to Brazil in 2009, and was struck by the variety of skin colours, and Freyre's observations.

“Brazil has a better attitude to skin colour than other developed nations,” he told The Guardian,  “There’s no doubt, because the concept of skin colour difference was recognised very early in their history. Now, it even appears on identity documents. In France, it is forbidden to define someone by his colour; in Brazil, that’s not the case. Everyone can claim his skin colour and be proud.”

Produced while in residence at the Museum of Modern Art in Salvador da Bahia, his colour chart book Nuancier documents the skin pigmentation of forty employees of the museum. David took photographic scans of 15cm of skin from the back of each member of the installation crew. The scans are presented as a fanned book of swatches, with topless portraits of each on the verso.

The artist also worked with the paint manufacturer Sikkens and to industrially produce each of the men’s skin tones. The forty paint cans were displayed alongside the colour chart, and the museum walls were painted with their colours.

Nuancier is available from the publisher, here, for 28 €.

Watch the book unfolded on Youtube, here, and hear the artist speak about the project (in French) here.