“Nulla est verae creationi Patria.” Mass and Individual Moving and Pioneer, 1981-

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Mass and Individual Moving, Detail from the Poster Prospectus for Pioneer, 1981

 

In 1981 the Belgian-based art group Mass and Individual Moving debuted their newest project at the ICC Antwerp – a large, wooden, solar-powered printing press named Pioneer. Ten poets were invited to contribute poetic slogans, which were printed in high letters on large broadsides. The first slogan printed off of the press was the latin phrase “Nulla est verae creationi Patria”, which ORAS on the Mechano-Art website translates as “genuine creation is stateless.” My Latin is rusty and was never that good to begin with, but I believe that the phrase could also have an additional connotation suggesting that the political homeland cannot be created, or is impossible. The broadside bearing this statement was exhibited at later actions by Pioneer, and it draws attention to the truly radical nature of the project.

While the history of portable printing presses is a long and complex one, such as the use of printing presses on trains following the October Revolution, or the portable printing presses used by armies in the US Civil war, this technological advance usually was used for ideological or state-based means and connected the infrastructure of the state or army. (An exception is the artistic uses which the mimeograph machine was put to in the Mimeograph Revolution, when it was used to create work to respond to the rapid political changes of the 1960’s, such as the Motherfuckers printing broadside retorts to Bill Graham in New York at the very town hall meeting at which he was speaking). The solar power source of Pioneer is so radical in an ecological sense because it doesn’t rely on political infrastructures, making it a stateless work, an aspect reinforced by the peripatetic nature of the project in later years, as it traveled to France, Germany, and finally to Mechra-Ben-Abou, where it was used to print broadsides at the edge of the Sahara.

The impact of the work is reinforced by its size. Instead of subscribing to the trend of miniaturization that is so inextricably linked with portability in our technological age, Pioneer makes a different sort of impact due to the large size and weight (350 kg) of the press, and the oversized banners which it printed – an aspect of the work reinforced by the size of this poster documentation of the work.

Pioneer is still intact, and now rests at the Verbeke Foundation.

Mass and Individual Moving, and its antecedent group, Mass Moving, were one of the most radical art groups of the postwar period, but they are almost completely unknown in the US, and their works seem to be very poorly represented in US museums and libraries. Part of this may be due to the scarcity of printed works which are exant – Mass Moving is famous for having burnt much of their output upon the dissolution of the group.

Pioneer seems even more relevant today then in the decade in which it was created, and it would be amazing to see the monolothic printing press on the move again, or for a contemporary group to create a work that is as revolutionary as Pioneer was.

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Mass and Individual Moving, Poster Prospectus for Pioneer, 1981

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The Burning Rag: Le Torchon Brule, 1970-1973

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Detail from the cover of Le Torchon Brule No. 3

 

Le Torchon Brule was one of the most important feminist periodicals published in France in the 1970’s, which was an early and indispensable part of the second wave feminist movement in the country in the aftermath of the events of 1968. Iissue zero was published as an insert in the Libertarian newspaper L’Idiote Liberte, complete with dotted lines so the reader could cut and assemble the first issue.

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Le Torchon Brule, Issue No. 0

The periodical ended with the sixth number, though there was also a special Mother’s Day supplement, which was issued with no. 5 but is not often seen. 

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Le Torchon Brule, Mother’s Day Supplement to No. 5

The title of the periodical, which could be literally translated into English as “the dishcloth burns” is a French euphemism for domestic strife, with the connotation of an ongoing or running battle. Le Torchon Brule was a group project and radical with regards to content and format, with each issue being created by a different group of women.

Claire Duchen’s eloquent appraisal of the periodical is so good it deserves quoting at length:

“The Torchon’s aim was to reflect the MLF’s increased diversity and share opinions and experiences, to break women’s silence, leave an imprint on paper and therefore in history. There was desire to produce polished journalism, but instead to avoid the division between those who can write and those who read and to encourage women to write whether they thought they could or not. Women wrote about themselves, their life histories, their anger and their feelings about the MLF. The texts are often difficult to read, as they lack structure and coherence – thoughts ramble, ideas are repeated, sentences are unfinished. The reader’s expectations are constantly arrested in the process of reading and then suspended; there was no censorship, no editorial policy, no columns on the page, no rubrics; on the page, drawings, pictures, handwriting and typescripts, all in many colours, jostled for space. Articles were written anonymously, both to show that names belonged to fathers and husbands and to avoid the creation of a star system. . . “ Duchen, pp. 11-12.

From a design perspective, Le Torchon Brule is remarkable for the extent to which the lack of a unified graphic design across the numbers seamlessly and successfully became the design itself, always provocative and involving the reader with each line and image – an achievement which has few parallels in the era.

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Le Torchon Brule

 

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Le Torchon Brule

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Le Torchon Brule

Claire Duchen’s book  Feminism in France: From May ’68 to Mitterrand, from which the above quote is taken, is an indispensable account of the milieu out of which Le Torchon Brule emerged, and has been our companion in reading through the periodical.

No. 0: 4to, 24 pages [including covers], offset printed on newsprint with two color cover. Numbers 1-5: Tabloid format, offset printed on newsprint in color. With supplement to No. 5: 4to, [8] pages, folded, unbound sheets offset printed in blue on newsprint.

The Poetic Exploration of the Swarming Possibilities in American Life

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Detail from Harry Martin’s cover illustration for Set #1

In the first issue of Set the editor was clear about the lofty aims of the magazine, as he laid out in the poem manifesto in the first issue;

“This magazine is about the poetic exploration of the swarming possibilities (some occult, unused) in American life, urban & local (the rural is no longer available to poetry; to life?) here & especially now.”

What is truly remarkable about Set is not just the fact that it accomplished those goals, but the generous and various way that it accomplishes them, mirroring the generosity of Lansing’s own poetry, which joins the erudite and the accessible with such a light touch that it casts doubt upon any hierarchical distinction between the two.

The best magazines are intersectional rather than exemplary. Plenty of periodicals give the flavor of a like-minded school of poets, but the particular genius of Set was the way in which it sounds a resonance between disparate writers, just as the color red aligns and raises the three letters of the title out from the jostling mass of black lettering on the Harry Martin cover for issue no. 1. Set included poets associated with the Bay Area Renaissance, the Boston Scene, the New York School, and even one Fra Perdurabo – aka Aleister Crowley. The first issue prints three excerpts from The Book of Lies.

Set at Division Leap.

Set #1 and Set #1 are both hosted as pdf’s and available to read for free at the Pennsound website.

The Octopus with the Look of Silk: Pedro Leandro Ipuche, Isidore Ducasse, and Borges

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Woodcut of Maldoror as an Octopus

 

After a long search I recently tracked down a copy of one of the most obscure studies of Isidore Ducasse, this obscure and exuberant booklet by the Uruguayan poet Pedro Leandro Ipuche in 1926. Ipuche was a friend of Borges during his ultraist period, and around this time collaborated with him on the little magazine Proa. Readers of the fictions of Borges may remember a character of the same name cited in the story ‘Funes, el Memorioso’.

 

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Ipuche appearing in the Borges story “Funes, His Memory” [trans. Andrew Hurley]

The present pamphlet is dedicated to the Guillot Muñoz brothers, “y por cuyo libro fui al Libro del Furioso Desolado” – presumable a reference to their work Lautréamont et Laforgue, which had been published the year prior. It was through the brothers that Ipuche became one of the small handful of people (the others being Jules Supervielle and Mendez Gabariños) to examine the daguerrotype of Isidore Ducasse given to the Guillot Muñoz brothers by Mrs. Jean-Julien Ducasse, before it was seized by the Montevideo police during a raid and disappeared. According to the account by Enrique Pichon-Rivière, Ipuche thought that in the photograph Ducasse had the air of a young Montevideano, and it was perhaps out of this inference that the present work was conceived.

It was from this photograph that Gabariños based his two etchings of Ducasse upon. to Pichon-Rivière’s account suggests that those who were familiar with the photograph thought that there was little similarity between the etchings and the portrait, and suggests somehow that some sort of madness visited Gabariños as a result.

The book is illustrated with a single plate bearing a striking full page woodcut entitled” “Poulpe au regarde du soie”, a reference to the passage in Maldoror in which the protagonist turns into an octopus in order to consume God. The woodcut is unattributed, and we can’t determine whether it was made specifically for this work or appropriated from an existing source. If you know, please get in touch.

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Montevideo, 1926

Ipuche, Pedro Leandro. Isidoro Luciano Ducasse (Conde de Lautréamont). Poeta Uruguayo.

Montevideo: Peña Hnos, 1926.12mo, 16 pp, saddle-stapled wraps. Illustrated with a single woodcut. Previous owner’s signature to the title and dedication pages, and elegant annotations throughout in ink.

Rare. OCLC locates only two holdings, and none in North America.  

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The Imprint of the Pilgrimage: John Carswell’s Coptic Tattoo Designs

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Earlier this year, thanks to a bookseller in a distant seaport town I tracked down a copy of a book I’d been looking for for many years – one of the 13 original copies of John Carswell’s Coptic Tattoo Designs. I’d first heard of the existence of it while I was a student of religion at Reed College in the 1990’s, in professor Michael Foat’s class on the Coptic Language. While doing background reading for that class I came across a copy of the second, expanded edition of the book. The colophon of that copy had a tantalizing note which stated that the original edition was published privately in Jerusalem by the author in an edition of only 13 copies. I’d been looking for it ever since, and had almost given up on ever seeing a copy before this.

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Sometimes discovering a book after such a prolonged search can be anti-climactic, but it wasn’t in this case. What the colophon of the second edition didn’t note was that this first edition is essentially a different work. The second edition is offset printed, and while being a beautiful and historically important work and sought after in its own right, is essentially an academic study. The 1956 edition is a bound collection of 71 original prints made directly from the wooden blocks which the Razzouk family uses as template guides, at least one of which dates back to 1749, and was published in Jerusalem, rather than Beirut.

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The book has a remarkable auratic quality like no other book I’ve seen. The paper still bears the indentations of the original blocks, which can be felt by running one’s fingers over the verso of each page. Feeling the imprint of these ancient blocks, it is impossible not to imagine the generations of pilgrims whose skin these blocks touched, many of whom have long since passed on from this world. In many ways books become a stand-in or metaphor for the human body, the terms used to describe books often anthropomorphic – the spine, the crown, the foot. In this book, the each page seems to almost become a reverse extension of the skin of the pilgrims, preserving the very imprint of a tradition that, being mostly inscribed on more mortal skin, would otherwise pass from our memory. 

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The second edition is a scarce and coveted work in it’s own right, but this first edition is of near mythological rarity. The first example we’ve seen in ten years of searching. OCLC locates no holdings; KVK locates one holding, at the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority).

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The colophon of the second edition states that this first edition was limited to ten numbered and three lettered copies. This example bears no colophon or imprint information, but the one page forward here matches the brief description of the first edition in Carswell’s foreward to the second edition. It is unknown whether this copy has been rebound without the limitation page, and furthermore, since we’ve been unable to compare this with any other example, we’re unsure whether or not this example is in the original binding or not, though we suspect that this is an early rebind, or perhaps a later binding of sheets from the first printing. We welcome anyone who has seen an example of the first edition to get in touch for comparison.

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J. C. [John Carswell]. Coptic Tattoo Designs.

[Jerusalem]: [John Carswell], [1956]. First edition. 4to, offset printed title page and 1 p. introduction, signed “J.C.”, followed by 71 prints from the original woodblocks on 56 leaves. Bound, possibly at a later date in red leatherette, and titled in gilt at the spine.

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Fado, Saudade, and the Destruction of Borders and Property

Pinto de Carvalho’s Historia Do Fado is the first published book length study of the musical genre, and according to João Silva, “Still a valuable source for fado historiography, especially when addressing the relationship between popular music and national character and how the vernacular is appropriated.” [Silva, p. 166). The book is of particular value in that Carvalho explored the relationship of the music to the culture of the fadista, to the Lisbon underworld of taverns and prostitution which nurtured the music, to fashion, and to the Mouraria district, using the figure of Maria Severa as a key. A striking reproduction of a drawing of her graces the front wrap, beautifully printed in slightly metallic blue ink which seems to float off of the page.

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For those of us without a great grasp of the Portuguese language, the book is also rewarding for the thirteen additional striking illustrations, mostly drawings and photographs of people associated with Fado, including Conde de Vimioso, D. José de Almada e Lencastre, Conde de Anadia, Marquez de Castello Melhor, Manoel Gonçalves Tormenta, Ambrosio Fernandes Maia, Antonio Euzebio O Calafate, O Ribeirinho, João Maria Dos Anjos, José Joaquim Emygdio Maior, and A. Albertina.

 

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Finally, the book is valuable for the many complete fado lyrics included in the book, including an untitled socialist fado on page 262.

 

“Um de Maio, álerta! álerta!

Soldados de liberdade!

Eia ávante, é destruir

Fronteiras e propriedade.”

 

Carvalho describes this as a new genre, and in a tantalizing footnote says that there are many such songs, which, if there are a number of them extant, would make a great anthology. I’d be grateful to anyone who can point me in the direction of others.

 

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Carvalho, Pinto de. Historia do Fado. Lisboa: Livraria Guimaraes, 1903. First edition. 8vo, 270 pp, rebound at a contemporary or early date in marbled paper overboards backed in green buckram titled in gilt at the spine, with the original pictorial wraps bound in. Previous owner’s private, small ex libris bookplate tipped onto ffep. Illustrated with 13 photographs and drawings. Text in Portuguese.

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The Book is the Weapon Part II

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Five years ago I wrote an essay about one of my favorite books, Uwe Wandrey’s Kampfreime,  which in 1968 was designed and published as a weapon for self-defense following the death of Benne Ohnesorg in the ’68 protests. In the years since I’ve not been able to find any more references to books designed as weapons, until a few months ago I opened a package from Berlin and to discover a second book that is a weapon – this one also German.

50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte appears to be an artists’ book by Künstlergruppe AV`88, consisting of a shredded xerox copy of Johan Most’s Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften” (1875) – the famed German anarchists rare instruction manual for the manufacture of bombs. According to the printed title sheet, the shredded book has been censured in advance by the group, which also notes that smoking the material within could be dangerous for health of the state. Presumably, the strips are to be used as tinder, metaphorically or physically.

Most’s work has become largely obscured these days, and I admire the inventive way that it references a work published more than 100 years earlier. I don’t know much about other works by the group, if there are any, and welcome any information.

Neither OCLC nor KVK locate any holdings.

Künstlergruppe AV’88. 50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte. Ein Projekt der Künstlergruppe AV`88. [Frankfurt]: Verlag Edition AV 88, [1988]. Sealed plastic bag filled with xeroxed and shredded strips from Johann Most’s book “Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften”, with printed red title sheet sealed within.

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Telepathy, Power, and Lonko Kilapan in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

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The first and only edition of this obscure and strange work concerning telepathy and the proposed Araucanian heritage of Bernardo O’Higgins. The book plays a significant part in the unfolding of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666, where the character Amalfitano, who had been given it as a joke, reads it. In his reading Amalfitano – with reference to Julio Cortazar’s concept of the active reader – begins to suspect that Lonko Kilapan may be a pseudonym for an unnamed Chilean politician, or perhaps even Pinochet. Moreover, Amalfitano decides that telepathy may have been what allowed the Mapuche to resist the Spaniards, and concludes that he himself may be a telepath – a conclusion which reassures him in the face of the voices that have been following him in the previous pages of the novel, and will play an important role in the narrative.

On first reading 2666 we were certain that this book must be fictitious, but it is the second book which plays a pivotal role in the novel which actually does exist – see the previous DL post on Rafael Dieste’s Testamento Geometrico.  To the best of our knowledge, there’s not yet been a study of this strange sort of intertextuality in the novel or Bolaño’s work. Here’s hoping somebody takes up the challenge.

Kilapan, Lonko. O’Higgins es Araucano: 17 Pruebas, Tomadas de la Historia Secreta de la Araucania. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 191978. First edition. 8vo, 61 pp, perfect bound in wraps. Inscribed by the author at the first blank. With the rubberstamp of the Instituto O’Higginiano de Chile at the first blank and index page, and with the business card of Sergio E. Lopez Rubio laid in, with a holograph message at verso.

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Chris Marker’s Petite Planète Series: Germany

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Chris Marker’s Petite Planète series, which he founded for Editions Seuil and which he directed for the first 19 books, have received a lot attention lately, with articles and exhibitions drawing attention to them. The attention is well-deserved. It is hard to think of a more profound déternoument of a by-then moribund literary format, the travel guide. With their inventive layout, playful irony, and mixture of found images with original photography – by Marker himself, as well as friends such as Agnes Varda – they rank among the most interesting publications of the 20th century. The anecdotes are well-known – the fictional guide to Mars in the Resnais and Marker documentary Toute le Mémoire du Monde, the influence on William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You in New York – but what is less known is that English translations of some of the volumes exist, published by Vista Books in London in 50’s and early 60’s. The English editions largely preserve the format and layout of the French originals, giving the English readers a chance to enjoy them. In the coming days we’ll be profiling several of these, beginning with one of the best – Joseph Rovan’s Germany, which was originally published by Editions Seuil as the 7th book in the Petite Planète series. Marker also contributes 11 of his own photographs to the book.

 

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This was likely an important volume for Marker in the series, as it was written by his close friend Joseph Rovan, who was Marker’s employer at the Centre national de documentation de la culture populaire, and was also involved with Travail et Culture and Esprit, the magazine in which Marker published his first stories, poems and travelogues.

 

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Rovan spent his youth in Germany, and during the war was imprisoned at Dachua by the Nazi’s for his activities in the Resistance. After the war he spent time in French-occupied Germany engaged in educational activities, part of an effort at postwar reconciliation between the two nations which was a passionate cause for Rovan. Marker sometimes accompanied him on these trips, which he recounted in an essay in Esprit. Rovan’s autobiography, Mémoires d’un Français qui se souvient d’avoir été Allemand, contains some beautiful reminscences of Marker, playing piano one of these German trips, and also sleeping on the table at the DOC offices in the 50’s when he was young and had no place to sleep. Rovan’s book is an amazing work in its own right, and deserves a translation into English. I am very grateful to Catherine Lupton’s excellent study of Chris Marker, Memories of the Future, which is where I first read of the passages about Marker in Rovan’s book.

 

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Rovan, Joseph [Chris Marker]. Germany. London: Edward Hulton, 1959. First edition thus. 12mo, 192 pp, photographically illustrated wraps. Translated into English by Margaret Crosland.

Books related to Chris Marker available to purchase from Division Leap.

Agnes Varda and la côte d’azur

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Lately I’ve been making a systematic effort to read through the volumes of Chris Marker’s Petite Plànete series, and marveling all over again at what a profound détournement of the by-then moribund travel guide format they are. With the exception of William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You, there seems to have been very little that has been influenced by them, or bears much an affinity with them, at least that I’ve been able to discover. A notable exception is this remarkable travelogue as photobook by Chris Marker’s friend, Agnes Varda.

The inventive layout, sly humor and mixture of Varda’s own photographs with found imagery from advertising and historical ephemera is remarkable. There is even a Giradoux quote in the foreward.

One reason for the obscurity of the title might be the fragility of the binding. Most copies seem to have detached pages. Perhaps someday someone will reissue the book. In the meanwhile, track down a copy to put on that lonely shelf with all of your little planets.

 

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