Smithson on the Magazine

In the Collected Writings, there is a short unpublished piece by Robert Smithson entitled Hidden Trails in Art where he riffs on the experience of reading a magazine: 

"If you read this square magazine long enough, you will soon find a circularity that spreads into a map devoid of destinations, but with land masses of print (called criticism) and little oceans with right angles (called photographs). Its binding is an axis, and its covers paper hemispheres.  Turn to any page between these hemispheres and you, like Gulliver and Ulysses, will be transported into a world of traps and marvels.  The axis splits a chasm in your hands, thus you being your travels by being immediately lost.  In this magazine is a series of pages that open into double terrains, because 'we always see two pages at once' (Michel Butor).  Writing drifts into stratas, and become buried language."

Smithson's Strata:  A Geophotographic Fiction, from Aspen No. 8, edited by Dan Graham, immediately comes to mind as do a host of other magazine appearences of Smithson's.  This then gets me thinking about magazines and collecting.  You could put together a great (and cheap) collection of little and art magazines featuring the journalism/art of Smithson, Dan Graham, Mel Bochner and others.  Stuff like A Tour of the Monuments of Passiac, New Jersey (Artforum December 1967) or The Domain of the Great Bear (Art Voices, Fall 1966). 

Such a collection would be incredibly enlightening in the same way collecting Burroughs's cut-up magazine pieces provides a unique insight into Burroughs' practice.  Collections like The White Subway and the later The Burroughs File are all well and good but reading The Coldspring News in a non-site context like the anthology is quite a bit different than reading it in The Spero (1965), the site, or again as a separately but contemporaeously issued broadside excised from the magazine.

The same holds true for Smithson's explorations of art criticism, art practice, new journalism, and alternative art space.  The Collected Writing of Robert Smithson provides photocopies of the original articles, which is great but I would love to see read that 1967 issue of Artforum from cover to cover to get the full experience of this particular expression of Smithson's art.

I get the feeling that Smithson and Burroughs read magazines in much the same manner.  It is all coincidences and juxtaposition.  What Burroughs does in the C Press Time, Smithson explores in the unpublished short piece Look from 1970.  Smithson read the July 28, 1970 issue of Look in a truly Burroughsian fashion.  I would bet that getting a hold of that issue and then returning to Smithson's essay would be fascinating.  I know that the C Press Time was never the same after I read the November 30, 1962 issue of Time. 



Post a Comment