New York: Black Mask, 11/1966-04/1968. 4 p.; ill.; 10 x 13.î Offset-printed in black & white. First edition. There are two copies of issue 2, one being very good, the other with stains. Issue #3 also has staining to cover and a tiny tear on third page (not affecting text). There are two copies of the final issue #10; one very good and the other wrinkled, else very good. Included is an ALS by Ben Morea, with his home telephone number. He writes, ìBrother, Would like to get together with you soonÖî Also included is a Black Mask broadside measuring 10 x 14,î with a photograph of a protest between the military and Black Mask members. They state their goal is ìto win, not merely to confront. LEARN, BABY, LEARN TO BURN, BABY, BURN.î We couldnít locate any copies of the newsletter in the trade as of 6/17.
5 of 10 issues of the journal of the Black Mask group. ìFounded in New York City in the mid-1960s by self-educated ghetto kid and painter Ben Morea, who designed the layout for every cover, the Black Mask group melded the ideas and inspiration of Dada and the Surrealists, with the anarchism of the Durruti Column from the Spanish Revolution. With a theory and practice that had much in common with their contemporaries, the San Francisco Diggers, Dutch Provos, and the French Situationistsówho famously excommunicated 3 of the 4 members of the British section of the Situationist International for associating too closely with Black Maskóthe group intervened spectacularly in the art, politics and culture of their times. From shutting down the Museum of Modern Art to protesting Wall Streetís bankrolling of war, from battling with Maoists at SDS conferences to defending the Valerie Solanas shooting of Andy Warhol, Black Mask successfully straddled the counterculture and politics of the 60s, and remained the Joker in the pack of both sides of ìThe Movement.îë (PM Press)
As an anarchist collective active in New York City between 1965 and 1968, Black Mask was engaged in a number of other practices including numerous protests against the art world, such as sending local homeless neighbors to an uptown gallery opening, shooting the New York School poet Kenneth Koch with a round of blanks, and various actions against museums.
Despite these attacks on the art institution, Black Maskís members were also involved in New Yorkís nascent expanded cinema and underground film and theatre scenes of the mid-1960s, through their collaborations with the Italian-American multimedia artist Aldo Tambellini. The juxtapositions found in their broadside reflect the practices of Black Mask as a group equally engaged with the political questions raised by anarchist activism and an increasingly radicalized Black Liberation movement as they were with the theoretical questions imbricated in these (mostly kinetic and multimedia) art practices of the mid-1960s. During this time, the city was undergoing a lengthy sanitation union strike, leaving the urban landscape in a state of literal decompositionó a condition that would inspire Black Maskís infamous action against Lincoln Center for which they hurled garbage at the buildingís decorative fountain. ìRevolution as Beingî thus ended by acknowledging that ìthe garbage heap affectionately called America by some, is disintegrating into its component piles of crap; it is a profound metaphor that the garbage workers refuse to collect the shitÖ . Being has begun to leave traces of its existence: strikes are now transcending their ostensible demands.î Printed in Black Maskís final issue, ìRevolution as Beingî signals the beginning of a program which could not be contained by explicit demands upon a system whose representational apparatuses already reinforced a banalization of social relations. The space of ìBeingî would be found in the garbage-strewn streets of an urban environment reaching, it seemed to them, a point of crisis.
Members of Black Mask, however, widely acknowledge that they stopped making artwork once the group gained momentum. For them, artís ability to support contemporaneous political struggles had to move beyond the mere representation of oppression. Ceasing the production of Black Mask in May 1968, the activists explained that they had ìtranscendedî the formation of Black Mask as an object that existed outside the real, as mere representation. Their explanatory letter read, ìThe reason is the direct result of our theory ñ The movement must be real or it will not be. Now the call is INTO THE STREETS.î The departure from broadside-production was thus conceptualized as a kind of lived critique of representation.
The closing treatise of Black Mask also demanded a kind of struggle that would inevitably exceed the confines of the page. ìThe Synthesis of Theory and the Theory of Synthesis,î written by Black Maskís more ìmysticalî anarchist Alan Hoffman, announced: ìWe are thru being assimilated: we will no longer make objects/our Art is life/our medium revolution/& in a world based on repression our only message is Liberation.î