The Archaeology of Deep Storage


Going along Route One in Maine between Searsport and Belfast (home of Eat More Cheese), there is an oasis of a bookstore, Penobscot Books, which specializes in art monographs.  My father dragged me through this store for years, long before I had any interest in art books.  Back then I had no time for art and music.  I was a serious reader and I did not wander through museums or sit in my room with headphones.  I did not realize that you could read art and not just look at it.  Nowadays I find art criticism to be some of the most interesting and innovative material out there.  I eat this stuff up like a rich triple cream.  So when I am in Maine, Penobscot Books is a must-stop for books, just like Blueberry Hill outside of Ellsworth is THE place for soft serve ice cream or Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard is THE place for a lobster roll.  Stopping off at the yellow building has become a tradition.

Now I am not going to lie, Penobscot Books is an incredibly frustrating place.  Art books that are still in print and widely available online are marked as “As new” or “Still in Shrink Wrap” and then marked up needlessly.  More often than not I find the shop a great place to perform some shameless showrooming (a horrible practice I know, but one I am definitely guilty of), but if you dig around and spend the time you get rewarded with a great find or two.

This is just what happened when I saw a softcover edition of Deep Storage:  Archiving, Storing, and Collecting in Art, which accompanied a traveling exhibition that originated out of Germany in the late 90s. See here.  Like many art related books, this title has become rather expensive, but in my opinion it is worth the expense.  The book traces a trend in post-WWII art that obsessively unpacked the philosophy of Walter Benjamin and the art of Marcel Duchamp into new configurations that I personally find absolutely riveting and inspirational.  The book collector of true ambition and creativity comes out of this tradition, not those who stockpile books as financial investments.

With this in mind for my purposes, the companion books to Deep Storage are Gwen Allen’s Artists Magazines (here) and Clive Phillpot et al. In Numbers (here).  It is no surprise that several of the magazines listed in the checklists and indices of these now essential and seminal works on the little magazine have links to the artists featured in Deep Storage.  The little magazine is all about archiving, storing and collecting.  A while back I wrote that the little magazine should be examined in terms of RAM and storage and an exhibition like Deep Storage does nothing to shake a belief has fast become a conviction.  See here.

The philosophy and theory that provides the most interesting insights into the publications of the Mimeo Revolution spring like a rabbit out of Duchamp’s suitcases and boxes and and are available for windowshopping in Benjamin’s Arcades Project.  For me, Duchamp and Benjamin are the prime movers around which the great little magazines revolve.  An archaeology of the sites of those who built on their foundations, from Foucault to Warhol, only helps dig the act of collecting more deeply.

I highly recommend Deep Storage to anybody interested in what I hope will continue to develop as an area of study:  the archaeology of the little magazine. 



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