PRINT ISSUE #3
We are as gods and might as well get good at it.
-- Stewart Brand
FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS OF HOW A NEW IDEA STRIKES A PERSON UNPREPARED FOR IT and FIVE UNFINISHED NARRATIVES by Daniil Kharms
I AM FOR AN ART (excerpt) by Claes Oldenburg
ARE YOU SITTING UNCOMFORTABLY? THEN I’LL BEGIN by David Greene
INTERVIEW with JOHAN ZETTERQUIST
TECHNOUTOPIA? by Ashley Chadwick
SITUATIONIST THESES ON TRAFFIC by Guy Debord
PROJECT A119 by Leonard Reiffel
PRESIDENT NIXON’S STATEMENT IN THE CASE OF ASTRONAUTS STRANDED ON THE MOON by William Safire
STUDY FOR A MONUMENT by Kathryn Scanlan
- Friedrich Schlegel
In the early sixteenth century Sir Thomas More described the geography of an imaginary place called Utopia:
The island of Utopia is 200 miles broad in the middle, and over a great part of it, but grows narrower at either end. The figure of it is not unlike a crescent. Eleven miles breadth of sea washeth its horns and formeth a considerable bay, encompassed by a shore about 500 miles in extent, and well sheltered from storms. In the bay is no great current. The whole coast is as it were a continued harbour, affording the whole island every advantage of mutual intercourse. Yet the entrance into the bay, owing to rocks and shoals, is very dangerous.2
More’s craggy ingress protecting merciful waters suggests that Utopia might be too good to be true. While More’s meticulous description makes utopia sound plausible, its inaccessibility poses utopia as a non-place. With this dissimulation irony appears embedded in Utopia’s foundation.
Pastelegram’s third issue explores that paradox. Even imaginary places have borders, and even ideas have limits. Organized around Johan Zetterquist’s work, “Utopolis” contains a series of proposals that confront the fragile distinction between romantic visions of progress and absurdist chimeras.
Rendered in diagrams, sketches and maquettes, Zetterquist’s first Proposals for Public Art look functional. Yet familiar signs of civic improvement—highways and wind turbines—become useless. Feeding back into themselves, his systems poke fun at progress and the incentives that drive it. With Proposal No. 19 (Free Gas for Muscle Cars and Hot Rods) Zetterquist accelerates from schema to happening. Offering free gas to most handsome cars in Tierp, Zetterquist demonstrated the provisional feasibility of urban beautification.
Expanding on Zetterquist’s proposals, the issue continues with works concerning traffic and modern life. Guy Debord’s “Situationist Theses on Traffic” imagines an urbanism in which the automobile is a not a tool of labor but of leisure. Ashley Chadwick’s “Technoutopia?” describes three utopian architectural projects from the 1960s, each sug gesting a framework for future urban life. These works suggest that human civilization hovers on the brink of social transformation, and that even absurd ideas might be realized.
Proposal No. 14 (Hole through the Moon)’s epic gesture in outer space continues through writings by artist Allan Kaprow, political speechwriter William Safire, and (delivering a coup de grâce as far as outlandish proposals go) an unclassified 1959 post-Sputnik document from the U.S. Department of Defense on the methods and propagandistic advantages of exploding a nuclear weapon on the moon.
The issue ends with one of Zetterquist’s most recent works. Not a proposal for public art of future progress but a study for a possible commemoration, Study for a Monument (Zion Fence) memorializes the potential for social change with a fabricated ruin. Paired with Kathryn Scanlan’s eponymous work of short-fiction, both works prompt the reader to consider the nebulous location and expanse of the memorial. Not unlike utopia, Study for a Monument represents a state of motion, a state of potential, a state of mind.
- C.C. Marsh
I am for an art that is political-erotic-mystical,
that does something else than sit on its ass in a museum.
-- Claes Oldenburg
Johan Zetterquist (b. 1968) lives and works in Gothenburg. He has exhibited his work extensively throughout Europe and at select galleries in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, and is represented by the Andréhn-Schiptjenko gallery in Stockholm. He is a graduate of Hovedskou Artschool and of the Valand Academy of Fine Art in Gothenburg where he now teaches art to undergraduates.
C.C. Marsh is pursuing her doctorate in art history at the University of Texas at Austin. She lives in Los Angeles.
Pastelegram’s biannual print issue is an artwork-as-magazine, and offers an original work by an artist, art historian or art critic designed for the magazine format. Included in each issue is a collection of the work’s source material, which may include images by other artists or writings about other artists (some original, some reproduced), poetry or literature, theoretical texts, timelines or diagrams, advertisements or business letters, and so forth. Also featured in the magazine is an interview between our collaborator and an art critic or historian.
Pastelegram's print issue can be found at Domy Books (Houston and Austin), David Shelton Gallery (Houston) and Marfa Book Company. You can buy a subscription or donate here.