| Luis Jacob|
Artists' Collaboration and Exchange in the 1970s
Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto at Mississauga
October 31 - December 15, 2002
[ 10,8482 words ]
Golden Streams: Artists' Collaboration and Exchange in the 1970s is an exhibition featuring the work of four artist groups that worked in Vancouver and Toronto: Image Bank, General Idea, Banal Beauty Inc., and the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver.
The 1970s were a time of remarkably energetic and innovative artistic activity in Canada, when many artists explored new models of production and dissemination — models that diverged in significant ways from the traditions associated with the artist's studio and the art gallery. Particularly active in these explorations were artists working in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, including: Dana Atchley, Anna Banana, Warren Knetchel, and John Jack Baylin. These artists drew inspiration from the example of Ray Johnson, who formed the New York Correspondence School in 1962; (1) Fluxus artists, particularly Robert Filliou, Dick Higgins, Emmett Williams, Geoff Hendricks, Dieter Roth, and Daniel Spoerri; (2) and Intermedia, founded in Vancouver in 1966, and active until 1972. (3)
While their work needs to be considered in the context of mutual exchange and collaboration with many other artists, Image Bank, General Idea, Banal Beauty Inc., and the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver were in several ways exemplary for redefining the artist's role in Canada during the 1970s. They worked collectively as groups and collaboratively between groups, often engaging in mutual appropriation of each other's imagery — thereby diverging from inherited ideas of originality and conceptions of visual-art production as individual, solitary work. They assumed artistic personae, elaborated mythological narratives, wore costumes, used props and other identifying devices — putting into question ideas of authorship, authenticity, and self-representation. They also engaged with alternative media and artistic forms such as correspondence art, artists' publications, performance art, Super-8 film and video. Exploring the potential in marginal art forms, new technical and 'non-artistic' media, they engaged with society and mass culture as a whole.
Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov (initially with Gary Lee Nova) established Image Bank in Vancouver in 1970. Image Bank initiated projects on the correspondence art network. It became a distribution nexus for the exchange of images between artists using the mail system and acted as an archival repository for these activities.
The correspondence art network (the Eternal Network) was a loosely configured, international group of artists communicating with each other through the postal system, producing and exchanging art projects by mail. Artworks were often completed collaboratively or cumulatively in their passage through the mail, outside of the artists' studios. Artworks were originally intended for mutual exchange, often bypassing entirely the art gallery system. As a consequence of this and the interests of the artists themselves, works of art took experimental forms: altered postcards; decorated envelopes; artists' stationary, postage stamps and rubber stamps; network personae; and image requests. The formats that correspondence artists used to exchange with each other often mimicked or parodied those used by conventional personals columns, pen-pal clubs, and fan clubs.
An important aspect of Image Bank's correspondence art activities, image requests were mailings to other artists on the network announcing that they were interested in receiving certain types of images. The often witty, ironic or parodical responses that were sent by artists from around the world would constitute the basis of an 'image bank' — a repertoire of recycled readymade or elaborated imagery and raw material for further reworking. Another important aspect of Image Bank was the production of publication projects. Legal Tender Image Bank Annual Report (1972) was a kind of corporate progress report assimilating the rhetoric of a financial banking institution, including various artists' correspondence art projects.
The aesthetics of administration and bureaucracy has long roots in twentieth-century art, especially in conceptual art from the English-speaking world. (4) The corporate-sounding names of Canadian artist groups from this period — with names like Image Bank, General Idea (a reference perhaps to General Motors, or General Electric), Banal Beauty Inc., and Ingrid and Iain Baxter's N.E.Thing Co. Ltd.— can be considered as part of this tradition, with its dual aspects of fascination and apprehension towards corporate culture. There exists as well a noteworthy impulse among artists to form archives-as-artworks, or museums-as-artworks, where the collection, cataloguing, and display of collections itself constitutes the work of art. (5)
Image Bank's Legal Tender Image Bank Annual Report conflates both the aesthetics of administration and the impulse towards museology. The publication included a progress report, image requests, and facsimile copies of correspondence art projects received. These were all collected, re-printed and distributed as a publication mimicking the type a banking institution would distribute yearly to its shareholders. International Image Exchange Directory (1972), another Image Bank publication, was a resource for use by correspondence artists internationally. The Directory was a book with an impressively long alphabetized list of mailing addresses for international artists on the network, including their various image requests. This functioned implicitly as an invitation for new people to join the Network.
Between 1969 and 1974, Vincent Trasov had occasionally appeared in costume as Mr. Peanut. In street appearances in Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax, New York and Los Angeles, the art-personality Mr. Peanut existed as 'a larger-than-life presence that created an event out of every appearance' (M. Morris and V. Trasov). Mr. Peanut was one of a myriad of alter egos, art personae and mythologies developed by network artists through their exchanges. (6) Image requests were often the means by which artists gathered raw material for their personal mythologies — material that was reworked and redistributed. Mutual appropriation of identifying devices played with the subtexts these personae embodied, adding to the layers of significance of each symbol. Costumes and props sometimes became the real-world counterparts to the images that flowed through the postal network.
Fellow artist John Mitchell had suggested to Trasov that Mr. Peanut could run in the 1974 Vancouver mayoralty race. Mitchell organized Mr. Peanut's campaign and Michael Morris suggested the campaign platform: an acronym for PEANUT signifying P for performance, E for elegance, A for art, N for nonsense, U for uniqueness and T for talent. In November 1974 Mr. Peanut ran an official, absurdist mayoral campaign against candidates Arthur Phillips, George Puil and Brian Campbell. The costumed mass-culture icon appeared at all-candidates meetings and on televised broadcasts, with Mitchell fielding questions while Mr. Peanut shook hands and tap-danced.
The structure of a political campaign is one that necessarily entails a collective effort. Testifying to the spirit of collaboration that characterized so much of the work in Vancouver at this time, the Peanut campaign was supported by the arts community at large and assisted by recently formed artist-run centres and groups. (7) The Mr. Peanut campaign was assisted by volunteers from these groups, supported in public by a chorus line called the Peanettes, (8) and backed up musically by Dr. Brute and the Brute Saxes. This expanded performance took the entire city, the municipal government — and most importantly, the media — as its stage, becoming an exemplary instance of a new genre of performance art: the media performance.(9)
Concurrent with their artistic explorations of the busily social, urban environment, Image Bank also initiated artistic activities in the context of the idyllic, natural environment. These were conducted at a place called Babyland — a piece of property purchased by Morris and Trasov(10) at Roberts Creek on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, two hours from Vancouver by car ferry. Utilizing the natural environment somewhat in the way they had utilized the urban environment during the Mr. Peanut for Mayor campaign, Babyland became 'a place to act out fantasies, to set up the props and pursue a culture / nature debate' (Keith Wallace).
With precedents such as the Monte Verita community in Switzerland at the beginning of the 20th century, Babyland became a meeting-place(11) for artistic production and conviviality within a natural setting. Visitors to Babyland during the early 1970s included artists, film writers, poets, art critics, and crafts people from Canada and abroad. (12)
One fascinating project conducted at Babyland was Colour Bar Research (1972-74), which consisted of the arrangement of an 'endless painting' composed of a thousand wood blocks painted in colour spectrums. These colour bars were arranged and rearranged in a variety of ways — as ziggurat patterns on fields, let loose in streams, and floated on a lake. Accompanied by nude or costumed visitors 'on the set' at Babyland and Lake Yogo, this endless painting was documented on film, slides, and photographs — in images suggestive of a youthful paradise where the physics of light and ever-changing colour combinations merges in a utopian vision of interpersonal playfulness and refracted possibilities for bodies and selves.
AA Bronson, Jorge Zontal, and Felix Partz (and initially Granada Gazelle) began working together in an informal manner in Toronto, eventually formalizing their collaborations as General Idea in 1969. 'General Idea is basically this: a framing device within which we inhabit the role of the artist as we see the living legend. We can be expected to do what is expected within these bounds' (General Idea).
Framing devices proved to be a strategy of lasting importance for General Idea. They became a means to synthesize a great variety of projects produced in different media. During the 70s and beyond, General Idea embarked on a series of projects that scrutinized society, mass culture and the art world for available formats. '__________ing formats' was defined as 'occupying the formats of mainstream communication and distribution, not to change them, but to alter them, to "stretch that social fabric"' (AA Bronson). These formats included beauty pageants, press conferences, and performance rehearsals. These available publicity structures were assimilated by General Idea and reworked as performances, videos, television broadcasts and publications. In each case an existing aspect of mass culture or the art world was mimetically inhabited, artistically elaborated and publicly disseminated.
Among General Idea's best-known instances of occupying formats were their Beauty Pageants, of which they produced two: The 1970 Miss General Idea Pageant (1970) was their first performance formatted as a rigged, televised beauty pageant; (13) followed by The 1971 Miss General Idea Pageant (1971), a media spectacle and video performance that took place at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. The 1971 Pageant was an ambitious undertaking wherein 16 pre-selected 'finalists' were each sent an Entry Kit by mail, much in the spirit of correspondence art. The kit contained various materials, including 'The Miss General Idea Gown'; replies were to include photographs of the contestant, or of a stand-in chosen by the contestant modeling the Gown. The thirteen responses received by General Idea were exhibited at A Space in Toronto where a panel of judges chose a winner. The panel consisted of three Canadian cultural personalities (14) who chose Marcel Dot (Michael Morris of Image Bank) as the winner for 'capturing glamour without falling into it'. To mark the occasion Marcel changed his name to Marcel Idea until 1984, as a long-term commitment 'to make the event real'.
General Idea's Pageants were a way to solicit the participation of many artists and creative people working in Toronto and beyond, and also a way to enlarge the audience for contemporary art in Canada. For seven years after the 1971 Pageant, General Idea produced a series of performances modeled as 'audience rehearsals' for 'The 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant'. The first of these performances was Blocking (1974), staged at the Western Front in Vancouver as a rehearsal for a television broadcast; this was followed by Going Thru the Motions (1975) at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Hot Property (1978) at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. These projects show General Idea's focused interest in the formation of an audience for contemporary art in Canada. Their ever-reiterated rehearsals for a faraway event contributed to the mythic status of the '1984' concept. This keen interest in constructing mythologies was shared by General Idea and their peers in Vancouver.
The periodical publication FILE Megazine (begun in 1972) was another instance of occupying formats, this time inhabiting the format of mass-circulation picture magazines like LIFE Magazine. The early issues of FILE became an important vehicle for the emergent contemporary arts community in Canada to see itself represented in the media, and in relation to a broader arts community internationally. Image Bank's compilations of mailing addresses and image requests of artists on the correspondence art network were published in the early issues of FILE. There exists a consistent interest in self-representation and mirroring in much of the work of General Idea and Image Bank, (15) accompanied by efforts to develop an infrastructure for artistic production and distribution.
General Idea's Beauty Pageants and FILE Megazine were exercises in occupying formats, while also being experiments in creating an art 'scene' in Canada. Their various audience rehearsals appear then as parodical attempts to 'make real' an arts audience while keeping this audience constantly postponed.
Eric Metcalfe and Kate Craig assumed the personae of Dr. Brute and Lady Brute in 1970, as a decision to inhabit their alter ego personae as their art — forming their collaboration as Banal Beauty Inc. They started what became an extensive repository of leopard-spot imagery, documenting the various uses of leopard-skin prints in popular culture, tribal cultures, women's and men's fashion, kitsch decor, and other applications.
Kate Craig amassed a collection of leopard-skin clothing which she used to transform herself into Lady Brute. (16) Eric Metcalfe would wear a top hat and tuxedo and play his leopard-spot kazoo-saxophone, becoming the living persona of Dr. Brute. Each artist's relationship to these personae was different. For Craig, Lady Brute was something she could put on or off at will without transforming her identity, as well as a means of connecting with a culture of other women who wore that costume. For Metcalfe, Dr. Brute was a way of transforming himself, of helping to overcome his reticence and his performance anxiety, and to liberate his desires and his creativity. The notion of camouflage inherent in the leopard spots is present in both artists' attitudes. (17)
A group of artists made a grant submission to the Local Initiatives Program under the umbrella of Intermedia for salaries to staff Vancouver's new artist-run centres. One of the projects that received funding was Art City — a public-art project(18) to present artists' slide sequences in three outdoor kiosks. For his contribution to the project, Eric Metcalfe produced Leopard Realty (1971-72), a series of postcards of the Vancouver skyline showing the buildings becoming progressively covered in leopard spots. This project can be seen as the complement of Banal Beauty's gathering of leopard-spot imagery from around the world, but this time the leopard spots were taking over Vancouver, like an endless painting or an epidemic virus. These postcard images were presented as slide projections in public locations (outside of art galleries). In 1973, as part of the exhibition Pacific Vibrations, Metcalfe painted the façade of the Vancouver Art Gallery, covering it with leopard spots — the first in a series of murals called Endangered Species.
Kate Craig produced the performance Flying Leopard (1974), in which she flew in the air along a cable while wearing a leopard skin costume complete with 'Hand of the Spirit' wings. Exemplary of the spirit of exchange characteristic of the times, the 'Hand of the Spirit' was an image shared by several artists; it was frequently used by General Idea and Michael Morris. The Hand of the Spirit image was originally derived from a window display prop; (19) accumulating layers of meaning with each new usage by artists. (20) Kate Craig's 'Flying Leopard' participates in the evolution of the significance of the 'Hand of the Spirit', proposing its capacity to support while taking a flight of fancy or leap into the unknown.
By 1975 Lady and Dr. Brute became afflicted with a case of what various artists referred to as 'image bondage' — the feeling that one was stuck with the image one had constructed of oneself — and Craig and Metcalfe resolved to formally end their Brute personae. They organized the exhibition Spots Before Your Eyes (1975), a compilation /documentation of leopard material exhibited first at the Western Front, Vancouver, and later at A Space in Toronto. Craig produced the video Skins (1975), where her collection of leopard-print clothing and accessories were displayed in an array. During this performance video, Craig wore each item one by one, eventually trying on and putting away all the leopard items in her collection for the last time.
Glenn Lewis initiated the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver in the winter of 1970. (21) The name was formed as an explicit reference to Ray Johnson's correspondence art network: the New York Correspondence School, adding a regionalist inflection that asserted the Network's inherent decentralization. In the manner of an archetype, the word 'sponge' in the name suggests a reference to Robert Filliou's text, 'Whispered Art History'. (22) The word 'dance' in the name would resonate with the future Sponge Dance Swimmers and their synchronized-swimming dances(23) inspired by Esther Williams movies. The many-sided references in his chosen nomenclature manifest Lewis's personal interest in bringing together rather than isolating, and in encouraging involvement rather than excluding: 'The School was not a formal entity with a listed membership. People attended, took part if they felt like it' (Glenn Lewis).
One manner in which people attended the School was at Sponge Dance Swimming events. Everyone that participated at these events became the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver. The Sponge Dance Swimmers were a loose group of artists(24) who met once a week during regular public hours at the old Crystal Pool in Vancouver. This social and recreational group of artists was identified by its members' use of rubber shark-fin bathing caps — an identifying device made by Kate Craig using rubber truck-tire inner tubes. As they swam in formation, the shark fins would protrude from the surface of the water, playfully suggesting dangerous waters, but also forming an interesting metaphor for the crossing of boundaries, and the revealing upon a surface of that which exists underneath (the subliminal). Can the Shark Fin Swimmers be considered an art project? Yes. Can it be considered a recreational group? Yes. Indeed, the distinction between art and non-art was one of the boundaries that Lewis and his peers often sought to cross in order to make art enter the various realms of everyday life, and to make life itself assume the qualities of Art.
One early project by Glenn Lewis that articulated the birth of the Corres Sponge Dance School was the Sponge Step Alphabet (1971). (25) These silkscreen prints appear to have been produced by dipping a sponge shaped like a small foot into wet paint, using the foot-sponge as a printing block. The prints represented 'the first baby steps in art and a sponge dancer's first footwork diagram' (Michael Morris).
The trope of a diagram for performance is continued in Lewis's Mondo Artie scripts — a series of scripts formatted after a Peyton Place script given to Lewis by Michael Morris. These were ambiguous scripts that documented in fictional form actual conversations, meetings, events and performances by his peers. They suggest a script for something yet to become actualized while at the same time documenting events that had already occurred. They compose a history — but one woven with the threads of mythology and the memory of performance in cinema and theatre. Together with Kate Craig, Lewis became a founding member (in 1974) of the Luxe Radio Players, a group involved in the collaborative writing and production of radio plays performed before live audiences and broadcast throughout North America over community and campus radio stations.
Working as E. E. Claire, Lewis produced Mondo Artie, Episode No.1681 (1974), the script documenting the Decca Dance Awards Ceremony in Hollywood. Taking a cue from Filliou's announcement of the birth of Art in Whispered Art History, Dana Atchley, Lowell Darling and Willoughby Sharp conceived of the Decca Dance as a way to bring together as many of the people participating in the correspondence art network as possible. A celebration in Hollywood of the 1,000,011th birthday of Art, and modelled after the Oscars® and General Idea's Pageants, the Decca Dance was the largest ever meeting of Network artists. This ambitious international encounter, organized by Darling, Sharp, Image Bank and General Idea, was attended by more than 1,000 correspondence artists and their friends. (26) Attendees at the Decca Dance were treated to various slide projection sequences and performances, including a Shark Fin Dance performance by men in tuxedoes wearing Shark Fin Bathing Caps and holding Hand of the Spirit wands. Mondo Artie, Episode No.1681 documents the proceedings of the awards ceremony at the Decca Dance. [Toronto's Coach House Press published a version as IS. 17, edited by Vic d'Or and designed by AA Bronson (Fall 1975).]
In 1973 Lewis had placed a request on the network for submissions to The Great Wall of 1984, a large-scale mural project for the National Science Library in Ottawa, consisting of 365 plexiglass boxes containing submissions sent by artists from all over the world, forming a kind of time-capsule of Network activities and exchanges of that time.
The Great Wall of 1984 references, of course, the Great Wall of China — an ancient attempt to define the limits of an empire by the construction of a massive defensive wall. As well, it makes reference to George Orwell's famous novel 1984 — a dystopic vision of a future engulfed by an inhuman and totalitarian bureaucracy. Canadian concerns with national identity resulted in the formation of a state-sponsored funding system for non-commercial culture. The Great Wall of 1984 touches on fears over the bureaucratization of artist-initiated activities. However, due to the method in which the project was carried out — as an open, non-juried, non-hierarchic call to include anything and everything that was submitted — The Great Wall of 1984 also stands as a monument to the spontaneous and decentralized activities of artists communicating through their own networks. Simultaneously dystopic and idealistic, fluid and museological, this project commemorates a remarkable moment in artists' experiments in collaboration and exchange.
Golden Streams: Artists' Collaboration and Exchange in the 1970s presents the work of these four artists' groups. We can detect today a fascinating bi-directional flow in their work. Artists strove to mimic the cultural and commercial world around them, assimilating its images, its various media, formats and structures. And they strove to project themselves onto the world around them, transforming it in their own image. The exhibition shows these artists' groups employing strategies of camouflage, assimilation, impersonation, inhabitation, and idiosyncratic digestion in relation to the structures and stream of images in mass culture. The exhibition also shows these artists twisting, fetishizing, infecting, and disseminating their own reworked images and mythologies back onto the world around them, forming what Image Bank termed a 'cultural ecology'. These are the Golden Streams: you drink from the stream, digesting; you pee, forming streams; you drink again, you pee again, forming an ecology with others. (27)
Within a social context that steers artists towards individuated and competitive work, these artists' strategies functioned to develop communities working with mutually shared references, and systems of mutual support working against the specter of the lonely, starving artist. They also encouraged artistic participation in what have traditionally been non-artistic activities, engendering new roles for the artist as publisher, as media-technician, as archivist, and as arts administrator. Image Bank, the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver, Banal Beauty Inc., and General Idea played an important role in the formation of artist-run institutions in Canada — establishing and running Vancouver's Western Front and Toronto's Art Metropole.
Partly as a response to artists' initiatives such as these, there was established during the 1970s a Canada-wide network of 'parallel' (non-commercial and artist-run) art galleries and production centres. (28) Needless to say, during their histories all of these artist-run institutions have had to contend with issues of bureaucratization, stagnation, mutual competition, limited resources, cooperation, and revitalization — trying out various strategies and evolving models for dealing with these issues.
I live and work as an artist and curator in Toronto. My work arose in this city during the 1990s, a time that saw the development of a multitude of artists' collective projects. (29) Some of these collectives existed for only one project, although many held more than one exhibition; several of them published zines and catalogues to document their work. All of these collectives seemed to be intended as temporary and provisional groupings, which nevertheless continue to define the artistic landscape of Toronto. These collectives were followed in the new decade by collective or individual initiatives such as: Jennifer Papararo and Jinhan Ko's multifaceted Instant Coffee; Rupen's Natural Light Window; James Carl's balcony-railing space, The Balcony; Lulu De L'Amour's A_Level apartment gallery space; Sandy Plotnikoff and Jim Munroe's Laundry Line running between their apartments; Germane Koh and Phil Klygo's Weewerk; and Barr Gilmore's Solo Exhibition street-level display window.
Golden Streams was presented as an homage to the continuing tradition of artist-initiated networks and culture in Canada — a tradition that is sometimes vexing and always inspiring. The exhibition is organized non-chronologically around various clusters, each cluster developing a theme or documenting a specific project. This publication accompanies the exhibition and gathers together — in the words of the artists themselves and their critics — short texts that introduce and illuminate each cluster.
The exhibition is not intended to represent a comprehensive overview of the art scenes of Vancouver and Toronto during the seventies. (30) In many ways the early work of Image Bank, General Idea, Banal Beauty Inc., and the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver, finds resonance in the production of artists working today — artists interested in exploring the imagery and structures of mass culture; the construction of identities and communities, real or virtual; the publicness of art outside of the art gallery or museum; the possibilities for networking afforded by email and the Internet; and the processes of relational, collaborative and collective production.
The works in Golden Streams are for me the results of various artists' experiments in engaging with the social world. These artists' groups elaborated their own networks for communicating with each other, and for representing each other. They developed venues for artistic production and presentation, often mirroring existing structures. They digested in their own idiosyncratic manners the imagery of mass culture. And they projected their collective visions onto the urban and natural environments. Together, these collaborative experiments represent an animated engagement with the social world — a world beyond the artist's studio and the art gallery.
COLLABORATION AND EXCHANGE
'When Robert Filliou developed his concept of 'The Eternal Network', he was thinking of the human condition rather than of art. Filliou held that the purpose of art was to make life more important than art. That was the central idea of the Eternal Network. In the years since Filliou coined the term, it has taken on a life of its own. The Eternal Network has come to signify a global community of people who stand for many of the ideas that Filliou cherished. This community is fluid, comprised of people who may never meet one another in person, and who do not always agree on their concept of life and art . . . From the early 1960s, using the postal system, the Eternal Network foreshadowed other networks that would become possible later through the use of such technologies as computer, telefax and electronic mail.'
— Ken Friedman. 'The Eternal Network', in Eternal Network: A Mail Art Anthology, 1995.
'Perhaps one of the most important byproducts of the "artworks" generated by the (Network] methodology is that the work is defined by the artists themselves and does not necessarily depend on more traditional forms of validation from museums, the conventional art market or art history. The network activity began as an experiment in communications on a creative level, correspondence by mail proving to be the most convenient, accessible and inexpensive means available. It led, inevitably, to a wider understanding of the use of media.'
— Art & Correspondence from the Western Front, 1979.'
'Rising interest in the new technology being developed by the media and "communications" industries led to the formation of Intermedia. Intermedia, envisioned by a group that included Arthur Erickson, Jack Shadbolt, and Iain Baxter, was to be a college where artists and other creative individuals could receive training in new image-making technologies . . . Intermedia never became a college, partly as a result of the aesthetic of process and provisionality it was built on. Intermedia engendered the notion of collaboration — the belief that art activity should displace the central role of the artist in making art.'
— Scott Watson. 'Terminal City: Place, Culture, and the Regional Inflection', in Vancouver: Art & Artists 1931 - 1983, 1983.
'Intermedia made one of the first contributions anywhere in the world — and certainly in Canada — to a particular kind of collaborative avant-garde. The element of collaboration was rooted in a strong, functional democracy that demanded a loose-limbed, flexible, less-structured, co-operative approach to artistic endeavour. Even if faulty, this was a structure worth examining and emulating in the world at large, and one that led us to redefine rigour to include the more amorphous realm of ideas translated not into objects but into action.'
— Alvin Balkind. 'On Ferment and Golden Ages,' in Vancouver Forum: Old Powers, New Forces, 1992.
'The pedagogue in me has always wanted to break the notion of the singular artist as cultural hero making inimitable artifacts into a recognition of how nothing we make as human beings is actually made by ourselves. Take the simple instance of artists' paint and canvas — not to mention all the intellectual ideas, visual ideas.'
— Roy Kiyooka, 'Personal Perspectives', in Vancouver: Art & Artists 1931 — 1983, 1983.'
The art junkie's habit is founded on image. Image is virus. The image carries its own realities within it, harbouring subliminal connections in its interstices in a manner that defies concepts to gain control or apply definition. The image gains territory, holds a foot in the door of art, leaving a space for ideas, defining contours negatively . . . . Image Bank moves within the arena of our affliction . . . and re-establishes correspondences as an operational method of accounting for everything and banking on the future. Image Bank began in many ways with rubber stamps. Rubber stamps are a habit. They are a method of invasion easily available to the subliminal intruder . . . Many people have commented on the proliferation of pseudonyms in Image Bank and the mailing network . . . . These names are recorded "history", concerns and events recorded in names to provide contextual information. This is very similar to rubber stamps. Eventually the names proliferate in a manner that provides a system of referencing and cross-referencing of concerns and events within the system. In many ways much of what Image Bank is doing is providing, initiating, reinforcing a cross-referencing system of discreet items of description, the terms of a system of correspondences.'
— AA Bronson. 'Image Bank', extract from 'Pablum for the Pablum Eaters', originally published in FILE Megazine, Vol. 2, #1/2, May 1973, and reprinted in Museums by Artists, 1983. '
The correspondence school was at its height when we bought the [Western] Front . . . A number of people, when they heard what was going on, just arrived: Willoughby Sharp, Robert Filliou, Marien Lewis and D-Anne Taylor who were organizing the Women's Film and Video Festival in Toronto. The place was packed right from the start. The endless paperwork required to maintain an artist-run centre, the bureaucracy, has always been a problem . . . . Certainly there is the issue of the amount of time required for organizing events, and working for others: it obviously gets in the way of your own work. But you also have to understand my attitude . . . . It wouldn't make sense to me to work on my own. I don't relate to the world in that way. I consider working on videotapes with other people very much part of my work. It's the ideas that are exciting, the production. I have no intention to be famous; it doesn't interest me . . . . How one organizes one's life is political . . . I know with my own work . . . it's not so much a critique as it is an alternative, a way of dealing with one's life 24 hours a day, how one relates to the outside world or to one's own community.'
— Kate Craig. 'Personal Perspectives', in Vancouver: Art & Artists 1931 - 1983, 1983.
'This is the story of General Idea and the story of what we wanted. We wanted to be famous; we wanted to be glamorous; we wanted to be rich. That is to say, we wanted to be artists, and we knew that if we were famous, if we were glamorous, we could say we are artists, and we would be. We never felt we had to produce great art to be great artists. We knew great art did not bring glamour or fame.'
— General Idea 'Glamour', FILE Megazine, Vol. 3. #1, 1975.
VANCOUVER AND TORONTO
'There was a sense that Vancouver was an outpost, a frontier, and that we had to re-invent everything — including, and most importantly, a context for ourselves and our work. The Vancouver Art Gallery under the directorship of Doris Shadbolt and Tony Emery was supportive, as was Alvin Balkind at the Fine Arts Gallery, UBC. Both institutions provided venues, but there was a sense of commiseration that I wasn't sure about, and they didn't have budgets. The federal funding for Intermedia had dried up and a lot of its members were becoming more concerned with brown rice and babies. Doug Christmas's Ace Gallery — which we had put on the map and had given us all some economic independence — pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles, leaving us without commercial representation. And the Canada Council under the directorship of Suzanne Rivard seemed to distance itself from our activities and experimentation in general. Times were grim, to put it in a nutshell.
'All that was left to keep the wolf from the door were the Local Initiative Program [LIP] grants, which had a sense of desperation around them due largely to the scare of Quebec separation Internationally, things were not any better with Nixon in the White House and the Vietnam War rolling on, polarizing the States. This was fertile ground for the seeds of change to take root, and feminism and gay lib were emerging painfully from the ashes of the hippie movement.
'We felt we had to create a context to live and make art that was independent from the museum and the market place but nonetheless would address issues and the public in totally new ways. What we didn't realize is that was exactly the direction Art as a whole concern was taking — and that we were truly part of the international Zeitgeist. We did have a couple of new tools of communication — the Portopak video and rapid offset printing — to help with the dissemination of our intentions, and some new strategies we were developing, such as intervention and appropriation. I think the personas and mythologies were a necessary step in making such a radical break with the existing roles and traditions: they created for us a world where the serious ground we were breaking could be taken as "business as usual".'
—Michael Morris, email correspondence with Luis Jacob, July 15, 2002.
'Toronto was a cultural centre when we began, but not for the visual arts. Other than the Painters 11, whom we considered hopeless (with the exception of Michael Snow, who was in NYC), there was no art community, and no contact with the rest of the country or the world. There were three good galleries (Isaacs, Lamanna, and another whose name escapes me at the moment), and a little later the Pollock Gallery did good shows. The Art Gallery of Ontario was just beginning to emerge from the doldrums, with chief curator Mario Amaya. The exhibition The New Alchemy in 1970 was a taste of what was possible there, although it never really materialized. artscanada magazine was a hopeless bore under Ann Brodzky, after a brief intellectual flurry in the late 60s.
'At the same time, Toronto was an international counter-cultural center, with Rochdale College, and all the people that passed through there (people like Allen Ginsberg) and an excellent underground paper, which later transformed in an odd round-about way, into A Space. Coach House Press and Gronk Press fostered a very lively literary community, centered on Ward's Island. And small-theatre activity was just beginning to blossom in 1970 with Theatre Passe Muraille (where Jorge, Felix and I met), and was jump-started with the International Festival of Underground Theatre in 1971 (bringing to Toronto the Bread and Puppet Theatre from New York, the Cockettes from San Francisco, etc etc etc . . . it was amazing!) The first Sony Portapak arrived in Toronto in 1970, at Trinity Church, for use for "alternative"-type activities. That single machine eventually transformed into Trinity Video as we know it today
'So it was not the art scene we were involved with, but rather the alternative literary / educational / theatre / social action community. We wanted an art scene, a real art scene, and we knew we had to start with what we had before us: a theatre scene a literary scene, a music scene, and so on. We also knew that we wanted to be connected across Canada and to the world at large (remember, we were brought up on McLuhan), and so we were very aware of connecting with other communities and artists and creating an infrastructure that would hold together over time. This was a lesson we learned from Warhol: so much of his work was contextualized by the Factory community, which he built around him. He was very much a scene builder and we knew that we had to be too . . . but on a larger scale. (We did not realize at the time that Warhol had copied this method of working from [filmmaker] Jack Smith, who operated out of a storefront in the East Village through the 60s).'
— AA Bronson, email correspondence with Luis Jacob, June 6, 2002.
COMMUNITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE
'Our collaborative events, such as the Miss General Idea Pageants, were a way of involving and assembling a range of existing audiences, melding them into one community of a sort . . . . Image Bank was involved in very similar thinking, and as their Image Request Lists grew, FILE became a natural medium for extending them — from a sort of private mail-art club, into something that moved through news-stands and bookstores as a sort of parasitic structure on the mainstream distribution systems. [General Idea] started FILE in 1972 with that in mind, and it was initially a sort of cross-Canada connector, which quickly grew to incorporate a broader geographical perspective. Most of all we wanted to work in mass media, but as parasites on mass media — hence publications and television (rather than video) were our primary interests. The performances were seen as television events . . . . [We wanted to] occupy the formats of mainstream communication and distribution, not to change them, but to alter them; 'stretch that social fabric'
'[The impulse behind starting artist-run institutions such as Art Metropole and FILE was] to access distribution networks to other artists, and enlarge the flow of artists materials into the world. Specifically at that time [we wanted] to bypass the value-based world of art galleries and museums and collectors, and create a way of producing, participating in and consuming art which was not based on dollars. In a way this was an outgrowth of the whole hippie thing of the 60s, and the big interest in communes and cooperatives, especially in Canada, during that time. If you want to get more historical, you can go back to radical Jewish and Communist thought in Winnipeg from the 30s on (Felix came from Winnipeg, and I went to University and was involved in lots of counter-cultural stuff there), and Canada's strong and intellectual anarchist movement
'Publishing was a primary means of building a connective tissue with the rest of the world, and also of acknowledging our own existence as artists (since we were not being acknowledged by the art world). We were not looking for legitimization from the art world, and we thought of ourselves as infiltrating the museums and galleries, rather than working with them. But we were very aware of our peers — locally, nationally and internationally — and it was to them we looked for acknowledgement. And I suppose something like the Decca Dance performance (as an awards ceremony) demonstrated that we all wanted a form of alternative legitimization.
'It's worth thinking about the questioning of authorship in the 60s. Coach House Press, for example, did some projects anonymously, and often gave away free copyright as a matter of course. Similarly General Idea was involved in an anti-copyright stance We were specifically against the idea of the individual genius which dominated the art scene at the time (still does, largely). This all came out of the hippie movement which was idealistic about the sharing of information and of capital and property.'
I also feel that it is no accident that various forms of therapy, especially group therapy and Gestalt therapy, emerged in the 60s . . . Vancouver was a major centre, as was Victoria, when Fritz Perls set up shop there. I was involved in an alternative therapy context and was involved with a man who travelled to communes and cooperatives across the country, carrying out free group therapy sessions for them (me as his apprentice for awhile). The public desire for connection and connectedness was all around us, and what we all did was just an outgrowth of that. (Simon Fraser University opened its Communications Centre in 1969 or 1970 — the first in the world — where Iain Baxter was on faculty, and where culture and the new therapies were merged with communications theory).'
— AA Bronson, email correspondence with Luis Jacob, June 6, 2002.
LIFE AND ART
Michael Morris interviewed by Luis Jacob at [Glenn Lewis's] Fragrant Flora, Sechelt, B.C., July 4, 2002.
MM — We were into props. Our studios were in our suitcases because we were moving around all the time. So we were using things as props — like the mirrors and the colour bars. All sorts of items that are meant to be used communally and collaboratively — for other people to use as departure points and to do their own thing with. The aesthetic was very strong. All of these things were real. They were living things that people lived with which became part of their daily lives. They weren't things that they'd seen in a gallery somewhere. They were things that people rubbed shoulders with, that they knocked about.
I like art that has a space where it is actually living. That is actually how (the art] stands up. Too much stuff is made in an ivory tower and it goes directly into a museum, and there is absolutely no interaction with a community of people. We were very much working in that spirit. That had come from our Intermedia experience, but also from the necessities of our ideas and where they were taking us. You couldn't go to a gallery and say this is what you were doing.
Things like the Mr Peanut [Mayoral] Campaign really did something amazing to the whole community. It was really a milestone in terms of art in Vancouver. It became part of the social planning of 'Art City'. Vincent [Trasov], Gary [Lee Nova] and I — and everybody else to a certain extent — had this idea of an Art City, where we could go out and do guerilla projects all around town. For instance, Gary took the numbered streets in Vancouver and photographed all the houses that had the address '1984'. We put this in a slide carousel and we'd drive around and project it on the side of a building downtown at night. They were interventions, and it all lead up to the Peanut project and running the Peanut for Mayor campaign. All these interventions were really important in terms of using the city as a canvas.
We didn't feel that there were venues to take our work, to the museum or the Art Gallery. We were redefining where art was going and what it was about. So we had to make our own venues, and we made the venues in the street. Eric [Metcalfe] got to paint the [Vancouver] Art Gallery with leopard spots, to camouflage it.
LJ — Talking again about Art City, I think that at the time there was an amazing sense of possibility, of what you can actually do to change things. You can run for city mayor — and be a real candidate. You can form your own artist-run centre — you can form the Western Front, Art Metropole. You can start an art magazine - you can start FILE. This sense that 'Our activities can change the world'.
MM — It was a critique, a parody — and then actually doing it. You know, there weren't really any choices at that time. There weren't any alternatives. Everything had to get redefined, restructured, and realized. We were all in Canada [at a time] when things stopped looking like they came from somewhere else, and they started to be from here. We were the first generation of artists that said, 'Art is part of our generation and we're going to make it.' We were not sitting around until we're told that we're artists. When I went to art school, I remember Jack Shadbolt taking us to a Harold Town exhibition, and saying. 'One day maybe one of your works will be hanging here' We really did go about putting all that aside.
The time was right. We found that the Baxters were like that . . . People like Tony Emery and Marguerite Pinney at the Vancouver Art Gallery were extremely supportive. And also Alvin Balkind at the University of British Columbia Fine Arts Gallery. There was a happy circumstance. The older artists like Jack Shadbolt, Gordon Smith, and Roy Kiyooka were very supportive of Intermedia. As things progressed, of course, certain people that were at the Vancouver Art Gallery withdrew their support for the art gallery. The collector Ian Davidson was very embittered and withdrew his support from what Tony [Emery] was doing. Tony feels very defensive afterwards, but he thinks it was great to have the gallery be community-oriented.
Vincent Trasov and Michael Morris interviewed by Luis Jacob at The Edge, B.C.: July 7, 2002.
VT — We were in business. It was business. Business as usual.
MM — Unusual. We were trying to do editions, do pieces. We were the venues. It was business as usual. It was very laborious, all the typesetting. It was an horrendous amount of work. And nobody got paid. But we were really trying to be professional about it
VT — Michael's idea of the artist as 'curator of the imagination' [meant that] you were no longer just an artist, you were everything. You were responsible for absolutely everything in realizing these projects.
MM — I wrote one article [for artscanada] called 'The Artist As Curator of the Imagination', which lays out what we felt you had to do to be an artist. You had to create your own context. You had to go out and create a context to work in. This is the Intermedia part of our backgrounds. FILE Megazine is very much a context for the Network to present itself and make evidence.
LJ — Was there an interest not only in creating a context for the work, but also in creating an infrastructure for production and distribution?
MM — There was a lot of energy spent on infrastructure. The infrastructure is what makes the situation, the context, real. This was a period of real pioneer work in every area.... You were reinventing the gallery how you approach artists, and how you made art. You have copyright issues coming in; you have artist fees being made as an issue. These really changed the way that art is dealt with.
VT — Business as usual.
MM — Business as usual. It's really just the Warhol aesthetic, and of course how that applies to superstars, and films, and living art. Warhol is at the root of all of that. And then it gets much more into Fluxus, and Filliou — and a deeper, more profound 'living art' [idea] — taking an aesthetic approach to what you do in life, treating it as your art. You can do it whether it's only on a one-to-one level, that's still your commitment to being an artist.
o Michael Morris's Light On bookwork produced for the National Film Board of Canada.
o Michael Morris, Vincent Trasov, and initially Gary Lee Nova, establish Image Bank as a repository for mail art and collaborative projects, and a distribution centre for the exchange of images and ideas among artists.
o Eric Metcalfe creates the persona Dr. Brute as a 'metaphysical sculpture'.
o Ace Space Notebook is published by artist Dana Atchley (working as Ace Space Co.) in Victoria, British Columbia. A compilation of correspondence items redistributed to artists on the network, Ace Space Notebook included contributions from Ray Johnson, General Idea, Image Bank, Michael Morris (Marcel Dot), Vincent Trasov (Mr Peanut), Eric Metcalfe (Dr Brute), Terry Reid, Gary Lee Nova, and others.
o General Idea's image request Manipulating the Self: 112 responses are later published in a bookwork (1971); and 61 responses are included in an offset lithograph print (1973). Five copies of the print are altered by the publisher, Roger Bellemare of Galerie B in Montreal, with the approval of General Idea. Bellemare crosses out the word 'Self' in pencil, and writes 'Scene', so that the print's title is rendered as Manipulating the Scene.
o The 1970 Miss General Idea Pageant at the Festival of Underground Theatre. Toronto. This is General Idea's first performance scored as a rigged beauty pageant. The winner was Miss Honey [Novik], who was crowned by former Miss General Idea, Granada Gazelle.
o Inspired by Ray Johnson's 'New York Correspondence School', Vancouver artist Glenn Lewis forms the 'New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver', initiating several collaborative mail-art projects and performances.
o Glenn Lewis and Michael Morris collaborate on a work for the Realisms exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario — a live cow is presented inside a gallery, surrounded by landscape paintings.
o January — Ace Space Co.'s Space Atlas: a publication assembling approximately 100 mail-art contributions from over 120 participants working in seven countries. No copies of Space Atlas would be made for sale, as only its contributors would receive copies.
o Victoria, B.C. artist Anna Banana begins corresponding with members of the mail-art network and undertakes several correspondence, publishing and performance projects.
o AA Bronson visits Vancouver and collaborates with Image Bank and Michael Goldberg of Intermedia in Fire Mirror video.
o June 1971 — General Idea, with Paul Oberst, begin shooting Light On in southern Ontario.
o October — The 1971 Miss General Idea Pageant at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Submission entries were exhibited at A Space in Toronto, and were judged by a panel of 'experts': Daniel Freedman, Canadian actor; Dorothy Cameron, noted art consultant/dealer; and David Silcox, former head of the Visual Arts Department of the Canada Council. The winner was Marcel Idea, who, according to the judges, 'captured Glamour without falling into it'.
o October 13-30 — Image Bank Postcard Show, Fine Arts Gallery, University of British Columbia. The show consists of 80 postcards designed by correspondence artists to mark the 100th anniversary of the picture postcard. Coach House Press of Toronto publishes a large-run edition of the postcards.
o November — the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver begins weekly swim meetings at the Crystal Pool, Vancouver. Sponge Dance Swimmers include Glenn Lewis, Michael Morris, Vincent Trasov, Eric Metcalfe and Kate Craig (who made shark-fin bathing caps for the Group).
o January — Legal Tender Image Bank Annual Report, published by Intermedia Press, Vancouver.
o Image Bank and Granville Grange's Art City project, a series of artists' fantasy visions of the city of Vancouver. Eric Metcalfe produces Leopard Realty postcards showing the progressive leopardization of the city's buildings.
o March — Michael Morris, Vincent Trasov, and Glenn Lewis visit New York City as Marcel Dot, Mr. Peanut, and the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver. They meet various New York Correspondence School members, including May Wilson, Albert M. Fine, E. M. Plunkett, Geoff Hendricks and Dick Higgins. While in New York, the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver hosts a banquet at Gordon Matta-Clark's Food restaurant.
o April 15 — General Idea publishes the first issue of FILE Megazine. The inaugural issue pays special homage to 'Sugardada' Ray Johnson as 'the forerunner of international exchange'. Image Bank's 'Image Request Lists' are regularly reproduced in the early issues of FILE. Twenty-six issues of FILE appeared between 1972 and 1986.
o Summer in Babyland: a sixteen-acre property located in the Sunshine Coast co-owned by Mick Henry, Image Bank and Carole Itter. In its first year, Babyland is visited by Victor Coleman and Stan Bevington from Coach House Press; Marien Lewis of A Space; General Idea; Lowell Darling and Robert Cumming from Los Angeles; Tom Dean from Montreal; Ant Farm from Texas and California, Robert Filliou from France; Robert Fones (Candy Man) from London, Ontario; Eric Metcalfe and Kate Craig (Dr. and Lady Brute); Glenn Lewis (Flakey Rose Hips); Willoughby Sharp from New York's Avalanche magazine, John Jack Baylin from Chicken Bank; Dr Dirt; and Estelle Friend.
o Image Bank's International Image Exchange Directory published by Talon Books, Vancouver. The directory lists the names and addresses of hundreds of artists around the world, along with their specific requests (or images and correspondence).
o Glenn Lewis begins the Great Wall of 1984 correspondence-art project for a permanent mural commission at the National Research Library in Ottawa
o March 7 — Image Bank's 'Marcel Duchamp Fan Club Cultural Ecology
Project' image request for 'piss pics for Barbara Rrose'.
o March 15 — Founding of the Western Front in Vancouver by Kate Craig, Eric Metcalfe, Michael Morris, Vincent Trasov, Glenn Lewis, architect Mo Van Nostrand, writer Henry Greenhow and composer Martin Bartlett. The Western Front quickly acquires a national and international reputation for its innovation and activities. Robert Filliou, French Fluxus artist and founder of 'the Eternal Network', visits during its first year in operation. Other Fluxus artists, including Dick Higgins, Emmett Williams and Geoff Hendricks, participated in residencies and produced performances and videos.
o Summer — Image Bank Colour Bar Research Project (second version) at the New Era Social Club in Vancouver. 1,000 colour bars were painted. Using the paint that had been mixed for the colour bars, Dr. and Lady Brute work on a set of Leopard Realty Triangles for use outdoors as a socially-interactive artwork.
o September — Leopard Realty: the façade of the Vancouver Art Gallery was painted in leopard spots by Eric Metcalfe, as part of the exhibition and performance series Pacific Vibrations.
o Fall — General Idea founds Art Metropole in Toronto. It functions as a non-profit centre dedicated to the collection and distribution of artists' multiples, magazines, publications, videos, correspondence and ephemera.
o Art's Birthday and the Hollywood Decca Dance, in Hollywood, California. The Decca Dance and the celebration of the 1,000,011th anniversary of Art, organized by Lowell Darling and Willoughby Sharp, with Image Bank, General Idea and the Western Front organizing the Canadian contingent. A celebration of what Robert Filliou called the Eternal Network, the Decca Dance took place in the splendid ballroom of the former Elk's Lodge on MacArthur Park in Hollywood. Robert Filliou's declaration of the 'Birthday of art' is staged as a mock Academy Awards® celebration to present the Sphinx d'Or Awards. The event is attended by more the 1,000 mail-art network artists and their friends
o February — Anna Banana, relocated to San Francisco, publishes the first issue of VILE Megazine. Described by her as a 'response to [General Idea's] FILE Megazine's recent put-downs of mail-art', VILE provided mail-art network artists with another forum for collaborative projects and discussions. Seven issues of VILE appeared between 1974 and 1980. 'About VILE' was a history of VILE published as a book in 1983.
o Kate Craig and Glenn Lewis become founding member of Luxe Radio Players, a group involved in the collaborative writing and production of radio plays performed for live audiences and broadcast throughout North America over community and campus radio stations
o Byron Black's Images from Infinity: a weekly cable TV series of broadcasts by artists. The show is distributed throughout Canada by cable TV producers, and the series included work by Hank Bull, Patrick Ready, Kate Craig, Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov, Dana Atchley, and Byron Black.
o April 21 — Surfacing on the Subliminal at the Western Front: a report on the Decca Dance and premiere of the film documenting the event by Kerry Colonna; live performances by (among others): Michael Morris, Annie Segal, Hank Bull, Andy Graffiti, Dr. Brute, Kate Craig and the Shark Fin Dancers. The Dr. Brute cut-out props and the Image Bank fan were produced for the evening by Michael O'Donnel and Keith Donovan.
o June 19 — General Idea's Blocking at the Western Front. The audience's part, including entrances, exists and reactions, was fully choreographed as part of the performance, and scored as a televised rehearsal for the 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant. Music by Hank Bull. A film of the event was shot by Byron Black and edited by Vincent Trasov.
o June 26 — Kate Craig's Flying Leopard performance. Garbed in a leopard-skin costume with 'Hand of the Spirit' wings, Craig flew along a cable stretched from a beached freighter to the shore at Al Neil's residence near Deep Cove. The event was captured on video by Eric Metcalfe. Byron Black produced a special on Flying Leopard called B.C. Wildlife for his cable television show Images from Infinity.
o Glenn Lewis initiates the Western front's video programme with a Portapak. The Western Front produces video documentation of readings, performances, and other events — and produces artists' videos, including work by Vincent Trasov, Paul Wong, Gathie Falk, Dana Atchley, Robert Filliou, Glenn Lewis, Hermann Nitsch, Tom Sherman, Susan Britton, and many others.
o October 26 — Art Metropole officially opens its door to the public in Toronto.
o November 1-20 — John Mitchell and Vincent Trasov's 'Mr. Peanut for Vancouver Mayor Campaign'. William Burroughs endorsed the campaign at a public reading: 'Since the inexorable logic of reality has created nothing but insoluble problems, it is now time for illusion to take over. And there can only by one illogical candidate — Mr. Peanut.' Two videos were produced: My Five Years in a Nutshell and Off-the-Air Coverage of the Peanut Campaign. The book The Rise and Fall of the Peanut Party is published by AIR, Vancouver in 1976.1975
o Eric Metcalfe resolves to end the Dr. Brute persona. Dr. Brute and Lady Brute organize Spots Before Your Eyes, a compilation / documentation of leopard material. Dana Atchley later produces a video mock-documentary called Spots Before Your Eyes (1977).
o General Idea's Going Thru the Motions at the Art Gallery of Ontario, with Vic d'Or replacing Marcel Dot as the outgoing Miss General Idea. The 'VB Gowns' make their first appearance as costumes for the contestants, with architectural mock-ups for the '1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion'.
o Image Bank Network Sampler: A boxed publication including twenty publications, multiples, prints and ephemera, documenting individual and collective ideas, fantasies and other events over the previous five years
o May — Image Bank Post Card Show: conceived as an exhibition designed for the mail. Image Bank collects postcard designs from 48 artists and publishes them as a boxed set. This is the second Image Bank postcard edition. Distribution and sale of the postcards is hindered when a New York company with the name Image Bank threatens a lawsuit against Morris and Trasov.
o General Idea's Pilot, a video produced for TV Ontario.
o September 8 — General Idea's Towards an Audience Vocabulary at the Masonic Hall in Toronto. An 'audience' of 36 performers (all Toronto personalities) seated on a stage is rehearsed by General Idea in various standard audience reactions: applause, standing ovation, laughter, boredom, booing and hissing, falling asleep and emergency fire exit. The 'real' audience gives a standing ovation for the performing audience's rendition of standing ovation.
o General Idea's Hot Property, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery This performance added a new element to the 'audience rehearsals': panic during the burning of the Pavillion as the judge's decision was about to be announced.
Alain-Martin, Richard and Clive Robertson, eds, Performance au/in Canada 1970-1990 (Quebec: Editions Intervention, 1991)
Art & Correspondence from the Western Front (exhibition catalogue), Western Front, Vancouver, 1979
Baylin, John Jack, Fanzini Goes to the Movies (Vancouver, Self-published, 1973)
Bronson, AA and René Blouin, Peggy Gale, Glenn Lewis, eds, From Sea to Shining Sea: Artist-Initiated Activity in Canada (Toronto: The Power Plant, 1987)
Bronson, AA and Peggy Gale, eds, Museums By Artists (Toronto: Art Metropole, 1983)
Canyon, Brice, ed, Live at the End of the Century: Aspects of Performance Art In Vancouver (Vancouver, Grunt Gallery, 2000)
Fischer, Barbara, ed, General Idea Editions 1967-1995 (Mississauga: University of Toronto at Mississauga, 2003)
Lewis, Glenn with photography by Taki Bluesinger, Bewilderness — The Origins of Paradise (exhibition catalogue) Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, 1978
Hand of the Spirit: Documents of the Seventies from the Morris / Trasov Archive (exhibition catalogue), The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at UBC, Vancouver, 1992
Image Bank, International Image Exchange Directory (Vancouver: Talon Books, 1972)
Mitchell. John and Vincent Trasov, The Rise and Fall of the Peanut Party (Vancouver: AIR, 1976)
Morris / Trasov Archive (publication) Morris / Trasov Archive, Berlin, 1990
Morris / Trasov Archive: Colour Research (exhibition catalogue), Plug In editions, Winnipeg, 1994
New Media: Artworks from the 80s and 70s in Vancouver (exhibition catalogue), Visual Arts Burnaby / Gallery at Ceperley House, Burnaby, 2002
Ray Johnson (exhibition catalogue), Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, UBC and Morris / Trasov Archive, Vancouver, 1999
Return to Brutopla: Eric Metcalfe — Works and Collaborations (exhibition catalogue), Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, 1992
The Search for the Spirit: General Idea 1968-1978 (exhibition catalogue), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1997
Vancouver: Art and Artists 1931-1983 (exhibition catalogue), Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, 1983
Wallace, Keith, ed. Whispered Art History: Twenty Years at the Western Front, Vancouver, Arsenal Pulp Press, 1993
Welsh, Chuck, ed, Eternal Network: A Mail Art Anthology, Calgary University of Calgary Press, 1995Luis Jacob is an artist and curator-in-residence of the Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto at Mississauga.
Text: © Luis Jacob. All rights reserved.
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