Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Sackner Archive

Ruth and Marvin Sackner own the world's largest collection of text-based art, which is housed in their Miami Beach home. Their collection began to take shape after the couple discovered a copy of the Something Else Press book "An Anthology of Concrete Poetry" on a dusty bookstore shelf in 1979, and now contains over sixty-five thousand works. Their walls are covered with framed pieces, but the bulk of the collection is ephemeral, housed in closets and drawers, meticulously catalogued, now digitally, but originally on index cards. Their system of classification consists of over a hundred different varieties of work, including artist’s books, typewriter art, experimental calligraphy, assembling periodicals, correspondence art, stamp art, sound poetry, performance poetry, micrography, ‘zines,’ artist envelopes, cassette periodicals, bookmarks, even pre-20th century pattern poetry (the rarely acknowledged precursor to Concrete Poetry).

The couple own work by well known visual artists (Dieter Roth, Timm Ulrichs, Tom Phillips, Carl Andre, Fiona Banner), experimental and conceptual writers (Kenneth Goldsmith, Georges Perec, Gertrude Stein), artists affiliated with Fluxus (Dick Higgins, Emmett Williams, Jackson MacLow, Ben Vautier), artists better known for their academia (Johanna Drucker, Richard Kostelanetz), and of course the usual suspects (Henri Chopin, Bob Cobbing, Ian Hamilton Finlay). The collection is international in scope, and includes at least a dozen Canadians including Steve McCaffery and the late bp nichol (both of the Toronto sound poetry ensemble The Four Horsemen), bill bissett, jw curry and the fully capitalized Derek Beaulieu from Calgary.

Ubuweb has just posted a feature-length documentary on the couple at www.ubu.com/film/sackner_concrete.html. It's a very loving portrait, made by a relative (Sara Sackner), but it is interesting to see the way a collection/archive takes shape, and how collectors live with their holdings.

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