Artpool40Active Archives and Art Networks

International Conference of the Artpool Art Research Center

February 20–21, 2020 Museum of Fine Arts, Schickedanz Hall, Budapest

Agustina Andreoletti | Zdenka Badovinac | David Crowley | Katalin Cseh-Varga | Mela Dávila Freire | Lina Džuverović | Meghan Forbes | Daniel Grúň | Sarah Haylett | John Held | Roddy HunterJudit Bodor | Jasna JakšićTihana Puc | Klara Kemp-Welch | Kaja Kraner | Emese Kürti | Karolina Majewska-Güde | Lívia Páldi | Henar Rivière | Sven Spieker | Kristine Stiles | Katalin Timár | Tomasz Załuski | Elisabeth Zimmermann

Mela Dávila Freire [Biography]
“Constructive Contact between Us”: Other Books and So by Ulises Carrión


In the 1960s and 1970s the Mail Art movement, with practitioners in many Latin American and European countries, managed to construct a broad network of collaboration on both sides of the Atlantic. Significantly, one of its main promoters, Ulises Carrión, split his life between Mexico and Holland, in the heart of Europe.

Ulises Carrión was born in the Mexican town of San Andrés de Tuxtla (Veracruz) in 1941 and, after studying literature in Mexico and England, in the early 1970s, he settled in Amsterdam, where he lived until his death in 1989. Carrión’s work as a writer and artist expands across different media: theoretical writings, interviews, criticism, essays, notes, translations, poetry, narrative, “bookworks,” projects, drawings, language performances (combining experimental poetry, sound art, and conceptual theatre) and videos. His work spans a period of 24 years of production, from his early experiences with writing to his role as a publisher. He began as a fiction writer, then turned towards experimental poetry, developed his “bookworks” concept (set out in his influential essay “The New Art of Making Books,” 1975), started to publish of magazines, and in the 1980s conceived projects compiling materials and making videos about them.

Ulises Carrión’s practice also involved the bookshop he managed, the art exhibitions he set out or curated, the international and personal networks that he successfully built, and the massive archive that resulted from all of these activities.

Upon his arrival in Amsterdam in 1972, Carrión founded three alternative art spaces: first the In-Out Center (1972–1974), then the Other Books and So bookshop (1975–1979) and, after closing down the bookshop, the Other Books and So Archive (1979–1982/1989). The Other Books and So Archive became the final recipient of the various materials that Carrión gradually put together, thanks to his constant exchanges with artists as well as to his own artistic and organizational activities.

The Other Books and So Archive included a collection of artist’s books and “bookworks,” numerous dispatches of Mail Art, multiples, magazines, and the correspondence accumulated during Carrión’s years while in charge of the three art spaces he ran. In these spaces, Carrión showed not only his own works but also curated exhibitions about artist’s publications, “Mail Art and Stamp Art,” among other projects.

Between 1977 and 1978, Carrión published the magazine Ephemera (Amsterdam, 1977–1978). The eleventh issue was devoted to Hungary and included contents selected by György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay, both of whom were involved in running Artpool, a similar artist’s initiative to Carrión’s, resulting in a relevant archive. However, Other Books and So Archive, unfortunately, had a very different fate to Artpool’s archive.

This presentation will recount the history of Ulises Carrión as a “network builder” and “art agitator.” He continuously established links between Latin America, Western and Eastern Europe, as his many activities and correspondence attest. The primary focus of this presentation will be on the connections between Carrión’s Other Books and So and the alternative art scene in Hungary in the 1970s and 1980s.

(The quote in the title comes from a letter sent by Árpád fenyvesi Tóth to Ulises Carrión in the 1970s.)