Aleksandra Mir

In Numbers

By Holland Cotter, New York, January 2010

Serial Publications by Artists since 1995
10 December 2009 - 31 January 2010
X Initiative, New York

As part of its last hurrah before closing as planned after a year of existence, X Initiative is offering a survey of serial art zines, alternatives to the publishing world somewhat in the way X Initiative itself has been an alternative to the commercial gallery world: that is, not necessarily a radical departure, but definitely a different way to go.

The show, organized by Andrew Roth and Phil Aarons, and expanded on in an excellent book, displays examples of nearly 40 titles. They range from Wallace Berman’s 'Semina' in the 1950s, to '0 to 9,' edited by Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer in the 1960s, to recent and ongoing serials like Maurizio Cattelan’s 'Permanent Food.' Some serials, like Eleanor Antin’s '100 Boots' and the fabulous, labor-intensive 'Art for Um' by Buster Cleveland (real name: James Trenholm), have been short-term, single-artist affairs. Others, like the edited boxed sets published by North Drive Press, involve many artists and several editors.

Scott Hug’s 'K48,' CD-size and desktop-designed, covers the cultural waterfront. The punkish 'J.D.s,' originally printed by its editors Bruce LaBruce and G .B. Jones on a photocopier in Toronto, is directed toward a queer subculture. The zines in the show come from North America, Europe and Asia. The content can be naughty ('Artpolice,' issued by Frank Gaard in Minneapolis from 1974 to 1994, wanted to be as censor-baiting as possible) and nice (Living and Loving, which consists mostly of interviews with everyday people conducted by the artists Aleksandra Mir and Polly Staple, is odd but sweet).

Self-published and self-distributed, these serials, as a genre, technically represent some kind of last bastion of art with minimal commercial strings attached, though many, like those on view under glass in the show, are now precious collectors’ items. Maybe, in the end, digital publication, floating out there in the ether, instantly edited and re-edited, almost endlessly distributable, may be the real serial frontier.

More than odd and sweet, the Living & Loving series is replete with the violence and embarrassment of real peoples actual lives.