We speak to Johan Kugelberg, curator of Boo-Hooray’s latest expo, about the man, the mag and the ‘mad motherfuckers’…
“I dreamt that J. Edgar Hoover groped me in a silent hall of the Capitol.” This fragment of Allan Ginsberg’s poem, chanted in Jonas Meka’s film 'Guns of the Trees', was all Ed Sanders needed: in an inebriated post-screening buzz with friends from the 'Catholic Press', Sanders envisioned Fuck You / A magazine of the Arts. Production started the following day, a cumbersome one-man operation of stencil-making and hand-cracking copies with a mimeograph.
Another brilliant example of something that has just popped out of the treasure box in the recent resurgence of ‘little magazine’ culture (think the In Numbers book and expo, the popularity of RealityStudio’s Bibliographic Bunker column by Jed Birmingham, and the countless contemporary zines…), Sanders’ genius offspring and revolutionary organ is now the subject of the book Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (Da Capo Press) and its companion expo, Ed Sanders: Fuck You / A Magazine of the Arts 1962-1965 now showing at Boo-Hooray, NYC’s hotspot for countercultural art ephemera and photography.
With the collaboration of a couple of great minds, from William S. Burroughs to Andy Warhol, Carol Bergé and Frank O'Hara, Sanders' Fuck You Press spewed out free poetry, thoughts, manifestos and handbills. The message was of peace, sharing, social change, personal freedom, the legalization of marijuana and sexual liberation, in perfect synch with the mindset of his shabby Peace Eye Bookstore and the spirit of the Fugs, the band Sanders founded together with beat hero Tuli Kupferberg – a story permeated by FBI investigations, parties with Zappa and Hendrix, anti-Vietnam war protests, Pentagon exorcisms, shoving daisies into riffles and challenging the system. We spoke to Johan Kugelberg, the curator of the exhibition...
Dazed Digital: Let's talk about the Mimeo Revolution. What was it all about, and how did it start? What's the difference between the yesterday's 'little magazines' and today's zines?
Johan Kugelberg: I am not going to paraphrase the killer essay my pals at Granary Books have on their website, so check it out. I think there's a big difference, in that at the time the Mimeo revolution happened, it was an economic of necessity: It was the only way to afford to print a publication. With 'zines today, it is an aesthetic based on creating a tangible object, if it was only a matter of communication, then websites/blogs/twitter would be the norm.
DD: Back then, Life Magazine celebrated Ed Sanders as the leader of New York's Other Culture. What was this Other Culture, and how has his Fuck You Press and Peace Eye Bookstore cemented a bridge between the Beats of the 50s and the counterculture of the late 60s?
Johan Kugelberg: Ed Sanders publishing a mimeographed poetry 'zine in 1962 with this kind of editorial voice is peerlessly ahead of his time. I like to think of him and his crew as 'tough hippies' having set the stage for the light-weight hippies to come. Little Richard setting the stage for Pat Boone.
DD: What makes Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts so special? What inspired you to put up this expo?
Johan Kugelberg: I felt exactly the same irritation as when I staged the exhibit commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Velvets and Nico LP a few years back: This unbelievably important superb publication *should* be commemorated by the NYPL and MOMA and all those jive-turkeys. Mainstream cultural institutions however, have not caught up to the fact that the distinction betwixt hi-and lo- art/culture/kulchur has been efficiently eradicated in the past decade, and that the thoughts, arts and publications that will reverberate the most strongly in the 21st century are the ones most strongly anti-establishment. As no one else was commemorating the publication of Ed Sanders' important book on the era ('Fug You', out this month on Da Capo), I decided to Do It Myself. Could hear 'Pomp & Circumstances' playing in the background there for a moment.
DD: What's your favourite issue and why?
Johan Kugelberg: The 'Mad Motherfucker' issue with the Warhol thermo-faxed cover of a sex scene on the Factory couch is hard to beat.The content is (movie trailer voice) a non-stop thrill-ride: Ted Berrigan, Leroi Jones, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, all unrestrained and at the top of their game. The only unstapled copy of Warhol's cover in existence is in the show!
DD: Tell us about the ‘turned-on hieroglyphs’ that illustrate the magazine…
Johan Kugelberg: Ed Sanders was/is a classic scholar and a student of Egyptology, so it wasn't a far reach to execute some hep 'turned on' glyphs. I highly recommend Jon Beacham's publication 'Edward Sanders - Glyphs' which features some of Sanders' best ones printed letterpress in a signed edition of 250. It is available for sale at the gallery or at Jon's website, The Brother In Elysium.
DD: Why do you think zine culture has been enjoying such resurgence in popularity lately? What's the future for them, and for print publication?
Johan Kugelberg: Try to go to sleep in a relaxed fashion after reading whatever on the screen. Doesn't work too well does it? The way that the light messes with our head, with our thought process and our relaxation whether it is a laptop or a kindle or a ipad or whatever illustrates the suckiness of transitional technology, and living in the midst of a shifting paradigm. 'Zines rule cuz they provide a human dimension and an immediate communicative narrative. Books rule cuz they are calming, tactile, relaxing and illuminating. Bite-size website smorgasbords of knowledge dumb us down, our intellects nibbling on a bit of this and a bit of that taking us to the next next next chomp-down bite before we've digested the previous thought. Betcha five bucks that books will be around still when your great grand-children are practicing their chops on their hover-ultra-dimensional hoppi-copter skateboards.
If you'd like to read me meandering on and on (and on) this and other situationist riffs, you should plunk down a few shekels and pick up a copy of my essay collection 'Brad Pitt's Dog' which Zero Books are publishing in a few weeks.
'Ed Sanders - Fuck You / A Magazine of the Arts 1962-1965' is showing until the 8th of March at Boo-Hooray gallery, 265 Canal St., 6th Floor, New York, NY 10013