“Electric Information Age,” was a survey of experimental paperbacks from the 1960s and 70s that took place Friday, August 21 at Project Space. The open studio was inspired by Vancouver Art/Book Fair exhibitor Inventory Press’ publication The Electric Information Age Book, and was curated by Jaz Halloran and Stephane Bernard. Books on view included Inventory Press’ titles The Electric Information Age Book, Above The Pavement: The Farm, Street Value, as well as such 1960s and 70s experimental paperbacks as Ways of Seeing by John Berger, The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, Mainmise Magazine, published out of Montreal, Grapefruit by Yoko Ono, Peter Max Paper Airplane Book by Peter Max, and US Magazine, published out of New York.
By Meichen Waxer
I’ll be honest, these types of books don’t often formally filter into my life or even hold a space on my bookshelf, but the familiar names of McLuhan and R. Crumb made appearances in this cozy, neatly lined up collection of books. It was a real treat to be able to casually encounter this archive with the more contemporary publications of the Inventory Books series. I was taken by the collection of Mainmise Magazine, which, like the other paperbacks, was on a small shelf restrained by a wire to maintain each book’s position and readiness to be flipped through. I was previously completely ignorant to this Quebec gem of counter-culture and magical thinking. The whole series was in publication from 1970-1978, consisting of 78 issues. Wishing my command of the French language was more adequate to delve into the text of these issues, I surrendered to what I could take in. The drawings, photographs and poems(for which my French sufficed), built an energy around a way of thinking and a way of seeing that sadly feel radical over thirty years later.
More and more I have been reflecting on how art can respond to what I see as a globally progressive and simultaneously regressive cultural and political climate. When Mainmise was active, Trudeau was Prime Minister, the FLQ (Front de Libération de Quebéc) kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross leading to the October Crisis, Parti Québecois became the official opposition, abortion was legalized, and the death penalty was abolished in Canada. The Vietnam War, Microsoft and Apple Computers were founded, Elvis died and the Beatles broke-up. It was clearly a time of political unrest and popular culture mania. As I leafed through issues of Mainmise I kept circling around two central questions. The first being why this sort of publication and format is no longer prevalent. I attribute this largely to the speed at and formats in which we consume information. Is the mass marketed book as effective as the independent publication? Is the time it takes to collect, produce and disseminate this material too slow now? And secondly, what will be our archive? How will a collection of links be encountered in 30 or 40 years?
If you missed it, archives of Mainmise can be found at mainmise.ca.
Images from various issues of Mainmise, and one courtesy of Project Space.