In Numbers is a survey exhibition of the often-overlooked genre of serial publications produced by artists around the world from 1955 to the present day at the Institute of Contemporary Arts
from 25 January to 18 March 2012.
From the rise of the small press in the 1960s and the correspondence art movement of the early 1970s, to the DIY zine culture in the 80s and early 90s, professional artists have always seized on the format of magazines and postcards as a site for a new kind of art production. In large part these are young artists operating at the peripheries of mainstream art cultures, or are established artists looking for an alternative to the marketplace. These are not publications that feature news items, criticism, or reproductions of artworks, but are themselves art works, often collaborative and idiosyncratic. This survey is the first to define a neglected art form that is neither artists book nor ephemera, but is entirely its own unique object.
The survey begins with Wallace Bermans Semina and continues through Joe Brainards C Comics, Eleanor Antins 100 Boots, Robert Heineckens modified periodicals, Ian Hamilton Finlay's Poor.Old.Tired.Horse, Fluxus, Art-Language, Raymond Pettibon's Tripping Corpse, Maurizio Cattelan's Permanent Food and contemporary examples such as North Drive Press, LTTR and Continuous Project.
Approximately 60 publications are surveyed in total. The diversity of the list is reflected in the backgrounds of the producing artists and in the wide range of techniques, nationalities, and media; the survey does not attempt to be exhaustive, but simply to define the genres contours and identify certain thematic threads.
The selection of publications for In Numbers was made by Andrew Roth and Philip Aarons and previously shown at X in New York, an experimental and temporary non-profit arts initiative that ran for one year only in 2010. The exhibition is accompanied by the publication In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955, edited by Andrew Roth and Philip Aarons (New York: PPP Editions, 2010). The book documents the history of each publication and includes essays and interviews by experts, among them Clive Phillpot, Nancy Princethal, Vince Aletti, William S Wilson, and Neville Wakefield.