Historical Resource Roundup: Aspen Magazine



Long before there was McSweeney's, there was Aspen. Published by Phyllis Johnson intermittently from 1965-71, each issue of Aspen was a multimedia bonanza--a box filled with individual texts, photographs, audio recordings, posters, postcards, and for some issues a 16 mm film. Initially a proto-lifestyle magazine (the first issue had an article about the joys of cross country skiing, and the proceedings of the 1965 International Design Conference), by its third issue (designed by Andy Warhol and including submissions from Lou Reed and John Cale as well as flip books by Warhol and Jack Smith), it was almost completely dedicated to the practice of contemporary art. A quick perusal of the index reveals an unbelievable wealth of materials. Excerpts from Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage and the first printing of Roland Barthes' infamous essay, The Death of the Author, sit alongside a diary by John Lennon, a film by Hans Richter, and other gems too countless to mention. The diverse material nature of the periodical lent itself perfectly to the internet's multimedia structures, and in 2002 it was migrated/translated to the web by Stanford book publisher Andrew Stafford. Available via Kenneth Goldsmith's also impressive on-line archive of the avant-garde, UbuWeb, Aspen online is a beacon of accessibility--taking what was an extremely important, small-run, difficult to find, and now impossibly rare publication and making it widely available.

(image: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 'Wave/rock')