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Friday Finds: 955,000 — An Unconventional Exhibition Catalogue

With its tattered and sad looking manila envelope marked only by a hastily written exhibition description, this exhibition catalogue has a very unassuming appearance in the context of an entire shelf of fine, hardbound art catalogues. Expecting to open the envelope to find a fits-in-your-palm-sized catalogue, I was instead delighted to find the unexpected: 138 […]

With its tattered and sad looking manila envelope marked only by a hastily written exhibition description, this exhibition catalogue has a very unassuming appearance in the context of an entire shelf of fine, hardbound art catalogues.

Expecting to open the envelope to find a fits-in-your-palm-sized catalogue, I was instead delighted to find the unexpected: 138 unbound index cards representing one of the most important avant garde art exhibitions of its time, titled 955,000. Taking place at the Vancouver Art Gallery from January 13 to February 8, 1970, this exhibition—containing conceptual art, process art and land art—was organized by Lucy R. Lippard.

Prior to the 955,000 exhibition (the number 955,000 was derived from the approximate population of Vancouver in 1970), Lippard curated and organized 557,087 (the approximate population of Seattle in 1969) for the Contemporary Art Council of the Seattle Art Museum at the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion from September 5 to October 5, 1969. This catalogue originated with the 557,087 exhibition in Seattle, consisting of 95 10cm x 15cm index cards, and in light of its continuation into the 955,000 exhibition in Vancouver, 42 new index cards were added to the collection.

Despite its unbound, randomly ordered and aesthetically uniform (hand and typewritten text printed in black on index cards) characteristics, this catalogue is peculiar because each artist in the exhibition was not only asked to contribute their artwork but they were also encouraged to make/design their own index card(s) for the catalogue. In theory this publication still functions, despite these abnormalities, as an exhibition catalogue because it represents the artists and their ideas. And while it’s not a rarity for an artist to make and submit his or her own text, image or artwork for a catalogue, it does seem rare that their contributions would not be collected and placed into the context of a book page.

Although this catalogue is far from revolutionary in terms of materials and format, I was simply drawn to the concept it presents because it completely surpasses the need for a designer and the processes so inherently paired with designing art-related catalogues (such as developing typographic systems and grids, sequencing, pacing, templating and even the process of preparing images and illustrations for high-end reproduction).

In essence, it could be argued that this catalogue (and the model it represents) comes closer to communicating the ideas of each artist and their raw proposals and is more authentic than traditional art catalogues that tend to remove or filter out certain nuances by way of such restrictions as page sizes and counts, the process of editing available content and even designer preference. And regardless of the fact that this catalogue is void of the parts and systems that many of us enjoy and expect from more traditional approaches, it reveals itself in an equally as intriguing way as catalogues that are defined by comprehensive and thoughtful orderliness.

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According to The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art (www.ccca.ca):

“ The catalog consists of… index cards in random order including [101] cards compiled by the artists themselves, [21] text cards by [Lucy R. Lippard], [3] title page cards, 1 acknowledgements card, 2 lists of the council members and officers, 1 forward by the council president, [2] list of artists, [5] selective bibliographies, 1 list of films shown, [and] 1 addenda to [the] artists.”

There were 71 artists from North America and Europe participating in 955,000:

Vito Acconci, Carl Andre, Keith Arnatt, Richard Artschwager, Terry Atkinson, John Baldessari, Michael Baldwin, Robert Barry, Rick Barthelme, Gene Beery, Mel Bochner, Bill Bollinger, Jon Borofsky, Daniel Buren, Donald Burgy, Rosemarie Castoro, Greg Curnoe, Hanne Darboven, Walter de Maria, Jan Dibbets, Christos Dikeakos, Rafael Ferrer, Dan Graham, Hans Haacke, Alex Hay, Michael Heizer, Eva Hesse, Douglas Huebler, Robert Huot, Stephen Kaltenbach, On Kawara, Edward Kienholz, Robert Kinmont, Joseph Kosuth, Christine Kozlov, John Latham, Barry Le Va, Sol LeWitt, Roelof Louw, Duane Lundon, Bruce McLean, Robert Morris, N. Y. Graphic Workshop, N.E. Thing Co., Bruce Nauman, George Nikoliadis, Dennis Oppenheim, John Perreault, Adrian Piper, Robert Rohm, Alan Ruppersberg, Ed Ruscha, Robert Ryman, Fred Sandback, George Sawchuk, Richard Serra, Randy Sims, Richard Sladden, Robert Smithson, Keith Sonnier, Jeff Wall, Lawrence Weiner and Ian Wilson

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