15 Dec

Seth Siegelaub’s Xerox book

“The Xerox Book,” Seth Siegelaub and John W. Wendler. First edition, 1968. Edition of 1000.

Our latest discovery—strongly recalling the original binder from Mel Bochner’s “Working Drawings…”— is a copy of Seth Siegelaub’s seminal Xerox Book.

It was so named because it was comprised of page-size copies of works by Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, and Lawrence Weiner. Or, considering the project, I should really say “the works” are the reproductions themselves.

In any case, it ended up being a bit of a misnomer since, at the time, to produce this number of volumes with a Xerox machine ended up being prohibitively expensive, so the usual offset lithography was used. Siegelaub, largely remembered for his cultivation and promotion of Conceptual Art, was at the time what Kosuth referred to as a “curator at large,” and this book typifies his attempts to extend the field of curation beyond the physical boundaries of a gallery.

It also was an early example of the Art Book taking on aggressively contemporary forms of practice—a development which, it seems to me, has been especially fruitful lately (as can be witnessed at the six-year-old New York Art Book Fair, hosted by Printed Matter and PS1 and numerous brilliantly scrappy imprints like Nieves).

This volume has an inscription from Kosuth—longtime SVA faculty—to SVA’s founder Silas Rhodes.

In A Brief History of Curating, the indefatigable Hans Ulrich Obrist discusses the project with Siegelaub:

Hans Ulrich Obrist In 1968, you curated the “Xerox book” project? Was this a “group show” in bookform?

Seth Siegelaub Yes, the first “big” group show, if you like. This project evolved in the same way as most of my projects, in collaboration with the artists I worked with. We would sit around discussing the different ways and possibilities to show art, different contexts and environments in which art could be shown, indoors, outdoors, books, etc. The “Xerox book” — I now would prefer to call it the “Photocopy book”, so that no one gets the mistaken impression that the project has something to do with Xerox — was perhaps one of the most interesting because it was the first where I proposed a series of “requirements” for the project, concerning the use of a standard size paper and the amount of pages the “container” within which the artist was asked to work. What I was trying to do was standardize the conditions of exhibition with the idea that the resulting differences in each artist’s project or work, would be precisely what the artist’s work was about.

It was an attempt to consciously standardize, in terms of an exhibition, book, or project, the conditions of production underlying the exhibition process. It was the first exhibition in fact where I asked the artists to do something, and it was probably somewhat less collaborative than I am now making it sound. But I do have the impression that the close working relationship with the artist was an important factor of all the projects, even when I was not particularly close to an artist, as for example, Bob Morris.

Carl Andre

The twenty-five pages included by Andre show a multiplication of tumbling tinted boxes, which suggests to me he is posing the process of its creation against both the sequential page-turning of the act of reading (box box box) and the multiplied layering possible in using a Xerox machine for compositing.

In fairly stark contrast to the catch-as-catch-can works in the Bochner binder, the contributions to the Xerox Book were often heavily engaged with the constraints, or “site-specific” variables of their medium. Kosuth’s contribution lists the whole book’s components in order (XEROX MACHINE’S SPECIFICATIONS, on one page; COMPOSITE PHOTOGRAPH OF ARTISTS AND DIRECTOR OF PROJECT) as if attempting to contain it in words, or rather to demonstrate how such a containment is impossible.

Sol LeWitt’s title page opposite Kosuth’s final page

LeWitt enacts one of his variable geometries across his 25 pages.

Robert Morris

“Earth Art,” presumably.

15 December 2011
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