EVERY INNOVATIVE NEW-MEDIA PUBLISHING VENTURE
by the Editors
On the errant histories of flip books, cassette tapes, and online publishing.
is born obsolescent. No sooner has an editorial initiative laid claim to a new technology than some newer
technology arrives, turning its predecessor into an outdated curio. The numerous attempts to create alternatives to the print magazine using other forms of distributable media—cassettes, floppy disks, laser discs—are now considered with a combination of nostalgia and archaeological fascination. By the time Triple Canopy was founded three years ago, it had long been clear that the Internet is subject to the same cycle of novelty and anachronism. Nevertheless, it seemed equally clear to us that, amid the succession of short-lived formats, a tradition of new-media publishing had emerged that could inform our use of the Web.
Andrea Merkx, The Russian Desert: A Note on Our State of Knowledge, by Douglas MacAgy. Peter Simensky, The Realistic Manifesto, by Naum Gabo. (All images from The Invisible Grammar, the NY Art Book Fair, MoMA PS1, November 2009.)
Over the past several months, Triple Canopy has produced a series of public programs designed to investigate our own underlying assumptions about online publishing. The projects included in issue 9 are the outcome of talks, conversations, and performances that position Triple Canopy’s approach to the Web within a broader historical context. By charting a critical genealogy of new-media publishing, we hope to identify some of the undercurrents that have defined and enriched each successive “new” medium. Beyond exploring those properties specific to the Internet, the projects presented here gesture toward art practices and aesthetic strategies that will remain relevant long after the current iteration of the Web goes the way of dial-up.
When we first began discussing what Triple Canopy could be, a frequent touchstone was Aspen
magazine, which published ten issues between 1965 and 1971. Aspen
was not a bound compendium of printed material but rather a box filled with disparate media, from film reels to flexi-discs to flip books. As part of last November’s NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, Triple Canopy organized The Invisible Grammar
, which invited artists and writers to respond to the contents of 1967’s double issue, Aspen
5 + 6. Edited by the artist and critic Brian O’Doherty, the issue was both an anthology of works by minimal and conceptual artists and a multimedia guide to their diverse influences: phonograph recordings of readings by Marcel Duchamp, Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, and Alain Robbe-Grillet; films by Hans Richter and László Moholy-Nagy; musical scores by John Cage and Morton Feldman; and essays by George Kubler, Susan Sontag, and Roland Barthes, who contributed the never-before-published text “The Death of the Author.” From that event, we present here projects by Zach Rockhill, Andres Laracuente, and Caolan Madden and Paul Gordon Hughes, which take as their points of departure works originally published in Aspen
by Robert Morris and Stan VanDerBeek, Robert Rauschenberg, and Dan Graham, respectively.
Projects originally published in Aspen
clearly announced themselves as artworks (at least to a select subscriber base) and implicitly declared that the magazine, along with other distribution networks, might challenge the dominance of the exhibition space as a site of reception. Other works of that time declined to make things so clear. Artists such as Mel Bochner, Robert Smithson, and Dan Graham used the codes and conventions of journalism to “camouflage” artworks that appeared in the pages of large-circulation art publications. In February at the New Museum, Triple Canopy held The Medium Was Tedium
, a panel discussion examining how past artistic interventions in magazines have since been reconfigured in relation to today’s more diverse media ecology. (The panel shares its title with Triple Canopy’s first issue, as well as with a 1977 single released by the postpunk band Desperate Bicycles
about the heyday of DIY recording.) Bochner, one of the contributors to Aspen
5 + 6, situated his magazine pieces within the context of his practice in the 1960s and assessed their significance to his continued interest in painting. Daniel Bozhkov, who has often co-opted network television in the production and dissemination of his work, described Learn to Fly over a Very Large Larry
(2002), an enormous crop-circle portrait of Larry King that was eventually featured on the talk-show host’s program. Erin Shirreff, whose work explores how the experience of sculpture is altered by its representation through media such as photography and video, spoke about the Internet-based project she was developing for Triple Canopy. The three debated how painting and sculpture might figure into a wider network of media that includes the Web, television, and the press. In this issue, we include excerpts from the panel and new contributions from all three artists. A recording of the panel in its entirety is available on Rhizome
Kate Shepherd, Serial Project, I (ABCD), by Sol LeWitt, 1966.
and related print-based experiments have long since been canonized, historical accounts of many later new-media publishing ventures remain thin. One such publication clearly warranting further critical attention is the audio-cassette-based magazine Tellus
(1983–93), which included sound-based works by a considerable cross section of the downtown New York scene. Triple Canopy highlighted these unwritten histories by organizing a live conversation between Dan Visel and Bob Stein, one of the few gray eminences of electronic publishing, in collaboration with The Public School New York. Stein, the founder of the Institute for the Future of the Book, described the projects he worked on during the years immediately preceding the popularization of the Web, when he published the first e-books and founded the Criterion Collection. The questions that Stein grappled with throughout his career—about the nature of publishing, intertextuality, and authorship—echo those raised concurrently by artists and critical theorists working on the cusp of the Internet age. This issue also includes an interview with Jordan Crandall, whose magazine, Blast
, charted the intersections of art and network culture in the early 1990s. Blast
paid homage to Aspen
(it was published as an unmarked box containing various forms of artwork and texts) while presciently dissolving the line between user and producer (readers were encouraged to exchange in conversations about the magazine with the editors, via fax).
The artists, publishers, and writers whose work appears in this issue were often among the earliest adopters of new formats and novel platforms. Yet the initial sense of promise they saw in each alternative to print or challenge to the gallery system quickly gave way to critical detachment. A common impulse to work against the obvious potential of a medium underlies these projects and represents a point of departure for Triple Canopy. Surveying the prehistory of online publishing reveals models for using the Web as a vehicle for cultural production without losing sight of its ultimately contingent status as new media.
Adam Helms, Seven Translucent Tiers (After Mel Bochner), 2009.