Traffic : Conceptualism in Canada

International Conference at the University of Toronto
Presented by the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery | 26-28 November 2010

Abstract: Constellation and Correspondences : Networking Between Artists, 1970-1980

Independent publishing by artists paralleled experimentation in electronic media, such as video, from 1970 to 1980. Artistic practices became increasingly ephemeral and performative, as they were no longer tied to a physical place a key concern was distribution through alternative networks. Printed matter served as a means for information transmission between artists and could be considered a significant contributor to the early development of parallel galleries in Canada. In his mythic narrative, AA Bronson refers to publishing as the “connective tissue” in the emerging trans-Canada art scene. Documents (correspondence, newsletters, magazines, artists’ books and other ephemera) were the platform for the communication of art, ideas and affinities across the geography of the country and beyond national borders. What drew together this constellation of disparate elements that correspond through space and time?

This presentation will address a selection of publishing by artists drawn from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives (including the Art Metropole Collection). Through bibliographic methods a communications circuit can be traced between author, publisher, printer, distributor and reader. These examples demonstrate a networked structure emerging from artists collectives such as Image Bank (Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov) and General Idea (AA Bronson, Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal); parallel galleries such as Western Front (Vancouver), A Space (Toronto), Véhicule Art (Montreal); magazines such as FILE, IS, or Parallelogramme and artists such as Roy Kiyooka, Tom Sherman, Tom Dean, or Tanya Mars. Relationships between parallel galleries and literary small presses may also be discerned.

At a time when only two art magazines Canadian Art and Vie des Arts were published in Canada, what were the original use values of these publications? How should they be read from the perspective of the present?

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