Sunday, January 12, 2020

Utopian Networks and Correspondence Identities, 1997

Utopian Networks and Correspondence Identities
Stephen Perkins, 1997

The artist must realize also that he is part of a wider network, la Fête Permanente [Eternal Network] going on around him all the time in all parts of the world. We will advertise also, as alternative performances such things as private parties, weddings, divorces, lawcourts, funerals, factory works, trips around towns in buses, pro-Negro manifestations or anti-Vietnam ones, bars, churches, etc...
                          Robert Filliou, 19701
[originally published under the title — 'Artifacts of the Eternal Network', this text was included in the exhibition brochure for the University of Iowa, Museum of Art's exhibition 'Artifacts of the Eternal Network,' Sept., 6 - Nov, 23, 1997]

The first public announcement of the Eternal Network appeared in a poster published in April 1968 by Robert Filliou and George Brecht and subsequently mailed to their network of correspondents. The impetus for launching the Eternal Network and the context in which its conceptual structure was shaped are intimately tied to the closing of Filliou's and Brecht's "non-shop," the Cédille qui Sourit, located in a small fishing village in the south of France and in existence from 1965-68.2 About the purpose of the Cédille Filliou stated "we conceived the Cédille qui Sourit as an international center of permanent creation, and so it turned out to be. We played games, invented and disinvented objects, corresponded with the humble and mighty, drank and talked with our neighbors, manufactured and sold by correspondence suspense poems and rebuses, started to compile an anthology of misunderstandings and an anthology of jokes..."3 The Cédille was never commercially registered and was opened to visitors only upon request.

The manner in which the Cédille's activities were undertaken grew directly out of Filliou's concept of Permanent Creation (1963), an activity he later summarized as "whatever you do, do something else, whatever you think—think something else."4 This model for creative activity and its inherent capacity for self-renewal was grounded in Filliou's commitment to erasing the separation between artist and audience and "joining them in a common creation."5 The Cédille closed on its third anniversary because neither Filliou nor Brecht were able to pay the rent. Faced with the imminent departure of Brecht, both men felt the need to develop a means by which the Cédille's vision of the artist and non-artist collaborating together could be continued. Filliou wrote of this period, "we felt that we did not have to be on the same spot any more, in order to keep this spirit alive."6 Out of their discussions they developed the concept of the Fête Permanente, or the Eternal Network as they translated it into English.

An important feature in the dissemination of the Cédille's activities, as well as the means through which a number of its projects were realized, was the postal system. With the Cédille's closure and its supersession by the Eternal Network, this communication system became a pivotal medium through which this utopian model of creativity could be activated on an international scale.

The challenge that lay at the heart of the Eternal Network was to close the gap between the artist and his/her audience and, more particularly, art and life themselves. Implicit in this challenge was an invitation to participate in and widen this circle of inquiry and interactivity. In a few short years this idea would find fertile ground in an emerging and geographically dispersed network of self-identified correspondence artists. Rejecting the exclusiveness and competitiveness of existing art world institutions in favor of open and collaborative exchanges via the postal system, a community of participants slowly established themselves as a parallel counter-institution during the late 1960's and early 1970's. It is for these reasons that correspondence art, also known as mail art or postal art, has often been referred to by its practitioners, as the Eternal Network.

A defining feature in correspondence art's development was the emergence of the operational guidelines for exhibitions that were being organized with increasing frequency from 1970 onwards. These crystallized around the following: no fees were charged for submission, no jury or selection process, all works were to be exhibited, no works returned and documentation to be sent to all participants. Clearly, the egalitarian ethos embodied in these conditions was formulated in direct opposition to the norms that prevailed when artists sought entry into the established art world.

A practice that characterizes this early period of correspondence art, and which continues to this day, was the adoption of pseudonyms and official sounding institutional titles by individuals and groups. Stu Horn, a correspondence artist active in this early period, wrote about the possibilities offered through postal communication for the construction of network identities.

Correspondence gives the artist the opportunity to create a new, perfect identity for people to relate to. He can be whoever he wants to be&emdash;or nobody at all. The majority of correspondents either create corporate names (Image Bank, Daddaland, Dada Processing, Cow Studio, Gross Enterprises) or use aliases by which even their close friends know them (Anna Banana, Monte Cazazza, Arthur Craven, Woofy Bubbles). I like the anonymity of correspondence & the possibility of creating and giving reality to conceptual beings and institutions.7

One of the models for these network identities can be traced to Dada, one of this century's earliest avant-garde movements. Hostile to all institutions and cultural myths deemed responsible for the carnage of World War I, the Dadaists constructed satirical and iconoclastic identities as vehicles with which they attempted to explode these myths once and for all. The appropriation of this Dada strategy, by North American correspondence artists in particular, can be seen in the context of the political and cultural upheavals that had recently convulsed Europe and were continuing in the United States during the 1970's. In 1974, Anna Banana, a Canadian correspondence artist then living in San Francisco, published a 'manifesto' in which she addressed the contemporary resurgence of interest in historical Dada and her perception of the similarities in contexts from which she saw them arising.

Disillusioned masses, dissatisfied with the leadership, the unequal distribution of goods and services...revolutionary activity (S.L.A., for example) oppressive governments passing more and more oppressive legislation, hiring more and more police forces, higher postage rates, general inflation of currency etc, etc, etc. Alienation on the mass scale driving many into group-living situations, where members can clarify and express THEIR identities within an approving environment.8

As evidenced in this exhibition (Artifacts of the Eternal Network, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Sept. 6 - Nov., 23, 1997), many of the individual and group identities adopted were intended to criticize, through humor and satire, the authority invested in establishment institutions and to counterpose these with an array of alternative artistic and social identities. Anna Banana herself and her related 'banana' projects illustrates well the pervasiveness of this neo-Dada activity.

(cover of the 6 page exhibition brochure, 1997)

One particularly provocative network identity was the Adolf Hitler Fan Club, created by the British artist Pauline Smith. Initiated in 1974, the project developed because she was "struck by the way Hitler's description of decadent Austrian democracy immediately prior to WWI could equally well suit the last few British Governments."9 Vehemently critical of the government and the gentrification of the inner city in which she lived, the project was terminated with the last edition of leaflets titled Adolf Hitler Lives, when the police raided her apartment investigating a "possible contravention of the Race Relations Act."10 Smith continued her activities with the more neutral Corpse Club/Body Sculpture project. However, through her institutional identity, she demonstrated to her dissatisfaction that the "freedom to express ideas in this country is not as free as all that."11

A consistent feature in correspondence artists' promotion of their network identities has been the use of rubber stamps. This appropriation of an official and bureaucratic imprimatur in order to lend legitimacy to network identities is widespread. More generally, artists' adoption of rubber stamps as a part of their work gained momentum from the late 1950's onwards, particularly among the Nouveaux Realistes and more markedly within Fluxus. Their use divides broadly between the creation of experimental yet traditionally conceived art works and numerous examples which rely upon the replication of texts. It is the latter that predominates in the early years of correspondence art. The preoccupation with texts reflects the conceptual turn that work outside of the mainstream took during the early 1960's. Dispensing with the image, the text becomes the initiator of a mental image as well as the agency through which specific projects, events and instruction pieces were set into motion. Other genres which emerged within this potentially decommodified and multiple based activity include: visual and concrete poetry stamps that examined the construction of words and language and still other stamps created to instruct, protest and authenticate. Later in the 1970's correspondence art expanded the use of image-based rubber stamps.

Another institutional form that was appropriated from its official bureaucratic setting, and which has long been a part of the correspondence art landscape, was the postage stamp itself. Robert Watts, a member of Fluxus, was one of the earliest artists involved in the sustained production of artists' postage stamps. Having produced his first stamp sheet in 1961, he stands out as an innovator in expanding the potential of this ready-made emblem of communication. The development of a medium so steeped in constructs of nationhood and identity, coupled with their simultaneous re-insertion and re-distribution into the very system from which their form was taken, aptly illustrates the Eternal Network's utopian attempts at relocating artistic activity within the sphere of everyday life.

With postage stamps stripped of their official function, artists were at liberty to explore other uses tailored to their own priorities; often these were directly related to their network identities. One artist who personified this approach was the Italian Guglielmo Achille Cavellini. Propelled by his personal wealth and a prodigious ego, he relentlessly pursued his own 'self-historification' project. His aim was to insert himself into the pantheon of famous artists through the dissemination of copious amounts of books, postcards, stickers and artists' stamps, all of which extolled his greatness and individuality as an artist. Whether he had achieved his aim by the time of his death in 1990 is debatable, but without doubt he had succeeded in establishing a unique presence within correspondence art, due in no small part to his use of artists' stamps, all of which bore an endless succession of portraits of himself in various guises and with art historical references.

Any account of the development of correspondence art must take into consideration two important precursors whose use of the postal system has provided lasting and influential models. The first community of artists to systematically incorporate the postal system into their activities was Fluxus. This diverse and international grouping, which included Filliou and Brecht, coalesced during the early 1960's under the tireless organizational efforts of their New York based 'commissar' George Maciunas. The postal system played a central role in providing a medium for the dissemination of text-based event works, the means through which collaborative projects could be undertaken, as well as the development of an independent and alternative distribution network for anthologies of boxed objects.

One Fluxus artist, the Frenchman Ben Vautier, produced a work that is paradigmatic in its use of the internal mechanics of the postal system. Titled The Postman's Choice (1965), it is a blank postcard which bears on both sides the lines indicating where the sender is to write the address and in the upper right corners the rectangles for affixing postage stamps. To initiate the piece, the sender is required to write two different addresses on both sides of the card, accompanied by the necessary stamps for each destination, in this manner the role of the postman in determining the final destination of the postcard is activated.12 The humorous collaborative strategy which shaped this work reiterates the Eternal Network's commitment to joining the artist and public in a "common creation."13

The second precursor, who's presence permeates correspondence art to this day, is Ray Johnson and the postal activities he initiated under the rubric of the New York Correspondance School.14 A graduate of Black Mountain College, Johnson lived from the early 1950's in New York making his home the close-knit art world of that city. From this period onwards he refined his use of the postal system as the connective tissue through which he spun a network of relationships with members of New York's expanding art world and beyond. Typically his correspondents would be initiated into the New York Correspondance School upon receiving a cryptic envelope of collages, drawings, found texts and images which accompanied his letter. This material frequently contained oblique references to art world personalities and occurrences, most often extrapolated from incidents or conversations drawn from real or imagined relationships with his correspondent. A particular feature of many of his mailings was his request that the recipient add to his mailing (often specific items) and forward it to a third party. In this manner his correspondents became active participants in an expanding communicative web of relationships in which Johnson was the initiator and director.

Johnson's whimsical personality is present in many of the works in this exhibition, perhaps most noticeably his 'bunny' motif as well as references to the New York Correspondance School (the name was a pun on the 'New York School' of Abstract Expressionists and traditional Correspondence Schools). Always elusive and unpredictable in his dealings with friends and acquaintances, he was nevertheless able, through the medium of the postal system, to envelop countless artists, and non-artists, into the quirky and ultimately humorous play of chance and association that lay at the heart of his private world of correspondances.

A consistent feature in the topology of correspondence art is the presence of artists' periodicals. As common reference points for its geographically dispersed participants, they functioned as alternative spaces for exhibiting work, places where invitations for projects could be broadcast and coupled with the growing practice of listing contributor's addresses, initiators of community building. Equally important, they provided correspondence art with an image of itself, a momentary snapshot that illuminated the scope and breadth of its activities. Self-published in small print runs, utilizing available print technologies, these periodicals were distributed primarily through informal exchange and circulated almost exclusively within the participating community.

An early periodical that actively promoted and engaged the concept of Eternal Network was the Canadian magazine File (1972-89). Published by the Canadian group General Idea (AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal), it parodied the myth and mass media format of Life magazine. The following statement by General Idea locates File's beginnings.

We began File Magazine in 1972 as a networking publication. It functioned as an in-house organ for an art network of the early seventies, blurring the line between contributors and readership and authenticating fringe art activity as something really happening.15

Over the next two years File disengaged itself from correspondence art and concentrated on General Idea's own projects. Anna Banana stepped in to fill this void with Vile magazine, "I visualized a magazine that would look like Life, but on close examination, would reveal its true nature; subtle put-downs of mass media culture with nasty, dada 'up-yours'-type messages."16 Throughout its eight issues (1974-83), Vile dedicated itself to publishing work from the correspondence art network, as well as being one of a galaxy of similarly oriented 'dadazines' published by the Bay Area Dada group.

The relative ease with which North American correspondence artists could access affordable printing technologies, and within a climate that tolerated their publications, was not enjoyed by all members of this international community. In Uruguay, Clemente Padin published Ovum (1973-77), under very different circumstances and in direct response to "the needs of communication provoked by censorship and outrage at the dictatorship imposed in our country since June 1973."17 Similarly, Pawel Petasz in Poland started Commonpress. From its first issue in 1977, this collective project was premised on having different editors publish individual issues. After consultation with Petasz, prospective editors were given an issue number and were then free to choose the theme and format of their issue. By the time of its demise in 1990, fifty-one issues had been published by editors from fifteen countries, firmly establishing Commonpress as a new collaborative publishing paradigm possible only through a community of common effort.18

Another collective publishing strategy that was embraced by correspondence art was "assembling magazines." Named after a well known American example called, appropriately, Assembling (1970-87), this periodical relied upon contributors submitting a specific number of pages of original art work, which the editor then 'assembled' to create an edition. Particularly well suited to countries where access to print technology was restricted, such as Latin America and the former Eastern bloc countries, these periodicals with their open and participatory strategy had a mobilizing effect in literally 'assembling' the correspondence art community.

The continued existence of correspondence art, and the wider application of its communication model within present day computer networking is evidence of the endurance of the concepts underlying the Eternal Network. The artifacts gathered here are the most visible residue of ideas that took form in response to the Eternal Network's invitation for collective dialogue and exchange.

It's not incidental that Filliou was trained and worked as an economist, for it's clear from his writings that economic theory confirmed his conviction of the interconnectedness of everyday life and economic and political systems. It was this conviction that led him to research in the nature of creativity and it's resolution in the utopian, and essentially poetic and spiritual concerns, of the Eternal Network. The correspondence art community, through the most accessible of communication systems, embraced this collective attempt to forge a new ecology of human exchange. Art, Filliou believed, was to be incorporated into the "fabric of everyone's life, so that it becomes an art of living."19


1. Robert Filliou, Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts, Köln/New York: Verlg. Gerbl. König, 1970, p. 204.

2. A cedilla is a pronunciation symbol used in French and placed under the letter ç. Translated La Cédille qui Sourit means 'The Cedilla that Smiles.'

3. Filliou, Ibid.; 198. Equally involved in the Cédille was Filliou's wife Marianne and Brecht's partner Anna Lowell; although their participation is not detailed in documentation from the Cédille, their presence is evident.

4. Robert Filliou, "Transcript: The 'Gong Show' Tape," Centerfold, 2(4), 1978, p. 29.

5. Filliou, Ibid.; 7. On page 191 of this book Filliou describes how the idea of Permanent Creation came to him.

6. Filliou, Ibid.; 203.

7. Stu Horn quoted in: Carolyn Pinkston, "Correspondence Art," MA thesis, California State University, Northridge, 1973. Ken Friedman papers, Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts archive, University of Iowa, p. 37.

8. Anna Banana, "Manifesto," Intermedia, 1(1), 1974, p. 6.

9. Pauline Smith, "Corpse Club," in: Anna Banana, About Vile, Vancouver:Banana Productions: Vancouver, 1983, p. 59-60.

10. Smith, Ibid.; 60.

11. Smith, Ibid.; 60.

12. In 1978 the University of Iowa Museum of Art sent out a bulk mailing of this postcard in association with the exhibition Dada Artifacts. The reaction from the Iowa City post office was swift, the postcards were returned and the museum's non-profit mailing permit was temporarily suspended.

13. Filliou, Ibid.; 7.

14. The term, The New York Correspondence School, was coined by the artist EdwardPlunkett in the early 1960's to describe his correspondence art activities. Johnson adopted the name but changed the spelling of 'correspondence' to 'correspondance.' He did not, however, use this particular spelling consistently.

Source: Edward Plunkett, "Send Letters, Postcards, Drawings, and Objects...," Art Journal, Spring 1977, p. 234.

15. General Idea: 1968-1984, (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthalle, Basel, 1984, p. 38.

16. Anna Banana. About Vile. Vancouver: Banana Productions, 1983, p. 2.

17. Clemente Padin, "Assembling Magazines: Ovum's Saga," in Assembling Magazines (exhibition catalogue), Subspace: Iowa City, 1997, p. 29.

18. These figures from: Géza Perneczky, The Magazine Network, Köln: SoftGeometry, 1993, p. 121.

19. Filliou, Ibid.; 24.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary (1991-1999)

I have always been lucky. I have a body that is ideal for a performance artist. And I have always wanted to be a performer. When I was a kid, my younger brother used to get mad when people looked at me when he pushed me to the movies or to the teen club. He cried. But I liked people looking at me. That is what I mean I am lucky. I am lucky I am an exhibitionist in this body. One time, I was working out on the jungle gym outside of our house...a kid came by and asked if I was a monster. I just roared like a monster. It was fun...I started to see my body as a tool. I could get away with things that others couldn't.1

With incredible humor and an infectious smile Frank Moore (1946-2013) navigated the world in a body of which he had only minimal control. Born with cerebral palsy and unable to walk or talk he used a wheelchair his entire life. When he was seventeen, he created his own personal communication system by strapping a pointer to his head which allowed him to point to letters, words and phrases on a board, and thus he was finally able to break out of his isolation and communicate with the world.

But Moore did not let his disabled body hamper his path through life, and his obituaries detail the myriad creative activities that he was engaged with including a long career as a performance artist, a shaman, poet, essayist, playwright, painter, musician, Internet TV personality, a 2008 presidential candidate and co-editor of the zine The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary amongst a host of other activities.2 Along the way Moore also completed a BA in English (1972, University of New Mexico), an MA in Psychology (1976, University Without Walls, Berkeley) and an MFA in Performance/Video (1983, San Francisco Art Institute). Mention should also be given here to Moore's longtime partner Linda Mac and fellow collaborator Michael LaBash, both of whom were key partners, and collaborators in helping Moore realize his ideas and projects during his years living in Berkeley, California.

This text concentrates on only one thin slice of Moore's extensive activities and that is his role as co-editor with Linda Mac of The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, a zine that they published in Berkeley in nine issues (#0-8) between 1991-1999.3

Looking at the inaugural issue, it is interesting to note that the first piece of news in Moore's editorial concerns the recent publication of his book Cherotic Magic (1990), which is an introduction to the shamanistic apprenticeship that he was offering at the time. Moore admits to this "...shameless self-promotion...for my apprenticeship, for my 6-session course, for my performance art and videos and tapes, and who knows what else."4 Throughout the life of the periodical, Moore would use it as a distribution outlet for the varied products of his assorted activities.

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #0, 1991

About the magazine Moore states in the first issue:

TCR is a journal of the edge. TCR is an offensive movement or measure offering alternatives to the fragmentation, isolation, personal helplessness which is actively promoted by the combine of power systems. TCR is anarchical, based on personal responsibility to reshape reality into a more human, trusting, loving reality, full of fun and pleasure. TCR is not a reaction. It is a magical act of enjoying life. It is a journal of and for people who are doing this magical art....Now we magical misfits know we are not alone, that there are others out/in here/there feeling, thinking, trying, doing similar things. This just by itself should speed evolution up.5

Moore's desire that the magazine should provide a network of support for these 'magical misfits' is coupled with his larger vision of this movement, about which he states "I think it is very important that there be a Cherotic Movement, not unlike the so-called Sexual Revolution of the Sixties. This Cherotic Movement would be (or rather, is) a physical/spiritual movement that re-defines and expands sexual, spiritual, social concepts of reality."6 This latter statement outlines the core themes that would form the basis of all of Moore's work in various media, and they would provide the links to all of his different activities throughout his career. On the definition of a "cherotic (r)evolutionary" Moore wrote, "...Chero is the physical life energy. I created the word "chero" by combining "chi" and "eros". And revolution is the mutation stage/phase in the process of an erotic mutant for life!"7

The most direct way through which Moore offered interested people an experience of the cherotic was through his performances, in which the audience was invited to actively engage in what he called 'eroplay'. Eroplay is another word that Moore created to describe the experience of "...intense physical playing and touching of oneself and others. Eroplay is also the force of energy which is released as the result of such play". Moore emphasizes that "eroplay is not foreplay, even though foreplay is eroplay..." and further that "Foreplay leads to orgasm...eroplay leads to being turned on in many different ways in all parts of the body," and he concludes "Eroplay is the blissed-out, warm, relaxed, turned-on, totally satisfying feeling of a good head rub...eroplay is that intense feeling throughout the entire body".8 The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary would be one of the mediums through which Moore communicated his expansive philosophy of the cherotic, and he challenged his readers to become 'revolutionaries' in this radical movement to reshape, and expand our physical, spiritual and sexual lives.

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #1, 1992

In Moore's editorial for the second issue he expands upon his editorial position and in his desire to keep The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary an open and freewheeling place he states what the magazine is not going to do:

...we will never do theme issues such as poetry, gay, sex, women, etc. This is because the theme format is a great way for editors and galleries (etc.) to keep control of content, style, point of view, and the accessibility of the communication channels they manage. The theme concept also fragments both people and dialogue into labeled bits that can be shuffled in and out of fashion time. TCR will follow the magic wherever it non-linearly goes. We will print what we like, what interests us...9

Moore was always alert to the ways systems oppress and suppress, even within the context of magazine publishing, and all nine issues of The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary display a comfortably unruly aesthetic that embraces a wide variety of artists' works, poetry, writings by Moore and others, and reviews of his performances and publications.10

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #2, 1992
What's in a Name?
Before I explore the contents of the periodical there are two subjects that I want to address, and the first is the name of the periodical.  A look at all nine issues reveals that the periodical's name for the first five issues is The Cherotic Revolutionary and from the sixth issue the title has been changed to The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary. In editorials for issues #3 (1993) and #4 (1994), Moore spells the name of the periodical "The Cherotic rEvolutionary" with a lower case "r" and the title on the covers reflect this emphasis on the "R" by printing them with a screen that distinguishes the letter "R" from the rest of the word. By issue #5 (1995) the title of the periodical is The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary. In his editorial in issue #3 (1993) Moore explores the background around the eventual name change:

There are changes around here. Well, what do you expect from a zine with "revolution" in its last name? And that may be one of the changes...our name appears to be in the process of changing itself from The Cherotic Revolutionary to the Cherotic Evolutionary. A revolution is a mutation from the normal as-is reality, an experiment and adventure in newness. The purpose of a revolution, and any mutation, is to break new ground for prod evolution along.11

The second subject, and question that I want to explore is, what to call this periodical? In the first two issues Moore describes it as both a 'magazine' and a 'journal.' In the third issue he refers to the periodical as a 'zine' and by the next issue zine is used not only in the editorial but in the masthead for all futures as well. It's perhaps unsurprising that this new descriptor also parallels the period when the title of the periodical was in flux. I would agree with the use of the word 'zine' to describe this periodical, as its anarchic, and low-tech production, certainly displays all the features of a periodical published by enthusiasts and non-professionals. However, at one level Moore's original use of the term 'journal' is also appropriate as well. Journals have historically been the site where the activities, and research of specialized groups was communicated to their professional community. Moore, in his editorial for the first issue, describes the periodical as being just such a place, albeit comprised of an 'unprofessional' community, but with the same theme of sharing their research within this group. Moore writes that the periodical will provide a site for this community to address:

...magical issues that I for one have been hungry to talk about for a long time in the depths that it is possible with people who have committed their lives to going across the taboo border to effect evolutionary change. In future issues of TCR, I hope we will move far beyond the book, Cherotic Magic, and give one another aid and comfort on the edge by linking together, by announcing new findings in our hidden experiments [my emphasis] on nonlinear change."12

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #3, 1993
Inside the (r)Evolution
All nine issues of The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary present a smorgasbord of works by a variety of writers and visual artists, and the following overview includes the names of the more frequent contributors in different media. The periodical publishes a wide range of writings including poetry (Jessie Beagle, Robert Howington), reviews of the periodical, Moore's performances and other events (Kyle Griffith, Barbara Smith), texts related to shamanism (Kyle Griffith, Brenda Tatelbaum), personal stories about sex (Carol A. Queen, Veronica Vera), performance art (Annie Sprinkle, Karen Finley, Linda Montano), sex and spirituality (Chief Distant Eagle), and disability issues (Steve A. Brown). On the visual front the periodical is copiously illustrated (Michael LaBash, John Seabury, Brian Viveros), and throughout there are black and white photographs, and featured portfolios (Tony Ryan).

On the technical side, The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary was a photocopied periodical and beginning with the third issue was published by Frank Moore's and Linda Mac's Inter-Relations, their publishing arm that took over from the original publishers, S/R Press. Coinciding with this issue was their acquisition of a Mac computer, and with Michael LeBash as art editor, the quality of the overall design improves substantially, and would continue throughout the life of the periodical. However, even in the final issue (#8, 1999) where the design is at its tightest, there is still an element of the early anarchic quality that grounds the periodical within the larger history of zines. The periodical was an annual publication with the exception of #1 and #2, both published in 1992.

At the back of each issue is information about acquiring previous issues of the magazine as well as details about other products available from Frank Moore's assorted projects. Later issues also included a page that featured readers' and advertisers' works and products, as well as their contact information. The periodical ceased publication when Moore and Mac started their internet radio station LUVeR (Love Underground Visionary (r)Evolution, and "We were just too busy to do both...".13

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #4, 1994
Following from this brief survey of the periodical's contents, I want to examine a number of specific aspects of the periodical that play important roles in the periodical's nine-year lifetime. One theme that resonates powerfully throughout the periodical is censorship, in particular Frank Moore's experience of it during the 'culture wars' that were raging during the periodical's early years. I will also examine two other important elements of the periodical, specifically Michael LaBash' illustrations, and Moore's written contributions.

The theme of censorship appears in the first few pages of issue #0 (1991) by way of an article by Jack Helbig that first appeared in The Chicago News & Arts Weekly (Oct. 11 - 17, 1990) titled "Outlaw Artists, Porn? Play? Or Immoral Plot". In his article Helbig summarizes the recent conservative attacks on artists doing edgy performance works and the fact that they had all received grants with taxpayers' monies. Helbig concentrates on Annie Sprinkle, Karen Finley and Frank Moore, and he outlines the cases that Senator Jesse Helms and Representative Rohrbacher launched against what the late conservative art critic, Hilton Kramer, described as these "New Barbarians". The censorship wars of this period raged across the artworld and nobody in this community was unaffected by this controversy. Artists doing provocative works were an easy target for conservatives in whipping up hysteria about the use of public funds for this type of 'pornography'. Sadly, they were ultimately successful in changing the granting process in order give local communities a greater say, and control, over who did and who did not receive grants. Attempts to cut the amount of funds provided annually to the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) were ultimately not successful, but within this hostile climate there would be no move to increase the funding either.

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #5, 1995
Further into the above issue #0 (1991) Moore publishes an open letter to Jesse Helms and demands to have a dialogue with him writing "Why are you closing channels of expression and funding to me without due process of law?" claiming that this campaign is a way of smearing the artists' reputations and thus making them "...untouchable, unfundable, unbookable".14 Moore concludes his text with one final address to Helms stating "If you have anything to say to me or to ask me, come to talk to me man to man. Otherwise, get your Big Brother foot off my back".15 One result of this controversy is that in future issues Moore would feature the works and writings of both Annie Sprinkle and Karen Finley, and in issue #3 (1993) six pages and the cover are devoted to the work of Sprinkle, including also Veronica Vera's important Post Porn Modernist Manifesto (1989).16

Michael LaBash's Artworks
One vital and eye-catching feature of The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary are the illustrations that are featured in all the issues of the periodical by Michael LaBash. The artist was one of the intimates within the family group that formed around Frank Moore, and Moore always spoke very fondly of this indispensable member of the cherotic team. LaBash's drawings are powerful, humorous and slightly creepy works in which naked people couple and engage in all sorts of surreal ways. Hands and body parts couple with all sorts of real and imagined bodies, and their assorted orifices.

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #2, 1992 [Michael LaBash back cover]

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #5, 1995 [Michael LaBash back cover]
]The first two issues of The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary feature LaBash's works on the front covers, with all subsequent issues featuring his works on the back covers, and they provide powerful visual equivalents to Moore's eroplay teachings.17 LaBash's works are also found inside the periodical where they are published in a variety of page sizes, as well as being used as illustrations for different submissions. As one of the consistent features of the periodical they have a very powerful visual presence within the periodical, and they seem to merge with the periodical's larger project, becoming in the process visual talismans for the cherotic (r)evolution.

Frank Moore's Writings
It goes without saying that Moore's writings would form a key part of the periodical. Each issue includes an editorial by Moore about the contents of the current issue as well as other pertinent themes and subjects. There are three reviews by Moore of different printed matter publications, as well as his own writings which are represented by fourteen texts spread out over the life of the periodical.18

A good proportion of Moore's writings explain and expand upon his key concepts of the cherotic (r)evolution and eroplay. In "Nonlinear Bits" (#1, 1992) he writes that "The cherotic revolution is an evolutionary movement, an anarchistic way of change, in which the single person is the center of the creative force". In the second issue he examines a theme central to his practice under the title "Cultural Subversion" (#2, 1992) and he recounts his rejection of politics as "...a means of effective subversive change..." and how this led him to begin "...looking towards art and magic for an effective channel". Coupled with this vantage point he describes how, as an artist with very limited funds, he became a "no/low tech artist," and the important role his access to this personal technology played in his work, stating "This no/low tech form is vital to work which is culturally subversive by expanding the concept of sexuality and reality beyond the frame of taboos".

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #6,1996
]In another important text in issue #3 (1993) titled "Frank Moore's Philosophy of Art", he gives a very succinct account of his philosophy writing "I'm not interested in doing art that comforts, decorates, entertains...I'm trying to go back to the time when art was the magical, irrational, non-logical channel of active impact...". Further into this text Moore takes a personal turn when he writes "In this kind of art, my body gives me a definite advantage. It links me to the wounded healer, the deformed shaman. By combining this with performance tactics, I combine realities to create awake dreams".

Other articles detail different aspects of his philosophy including a text on the importance of the open mike as a democratic channel ("A Rant On An Open Mike," #6,1996), and with "Their Cuddling Cocoon" (#6, 1996) he describes the bodily sensations that are experienced during eroplay. Other articles deal with issues related to his practice, like ordinances regarding nudity in the town of Berkeley, the larger field of performance art, musings on the nature of fame, and an interview with his counter-cultural hero and journalist Paul Krassner, former editor of the Realist (#5, 1995).

A word that regularly appears in Moore's writings about his practice is the word "channel," and he uses it to describe his view that art and magic, are important channels in assisting the individual in their personal evolution. I would like to propose expanding the use of this term to include Frank Moore's own physical body, as the indispensable channel through which he developed his unique philosophy of art, and accompanying performance practice.  Furthermore, The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary can be understood as playing a very similar role in Moore's work, which is reflected in his editorial in #5 (1995) where he addresses his take on the functionality of the periodical, "i realize that i and this zine are just middlemen, just a pipe. when art goes through the pipe, that is when the pipe is important...not before or after".

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #7, 1997

Wrapping Up
After having been immersed in The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary over the past month, I have to conclude that the most extraordinary thing about this zine is, that it exists at all! With Moore's restricted mobility, it required a number of extra hands to design, publish and distribute the periodical, and this is what his dedicated family unit was able to provide him. However, the contents of the periodical were Moore's decision, and they reflect a savvy intelligence in propagating his philosophy, and teachings on the art and magic of living and loving. Despite his uncooperative body, Moore's sharp mind was laser-focused on achieving his cherotic (r)evolution, and the zine brims with this burning desire.

For the nine years of its life The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary would be a virtual home for Moore's "magical misfits", and it functioned exactly as he had hoped for in his first editorial in #0 (1991) as a place where this community could come together to "...give one another aid and comfort..."19 and also to "...know that we are not alone, that there are others out/in here/there feeling, thinking, trying, doing similar things."20

A powerful theme that runs through all of Moore's writings and activities is that of 'communication,' and the zine would be one of the many channels, or media, through which he was able to satisfy his desire to be seen and heard. From the seventeen-year old who devised his own low-tech pointer communication device and breaks out of his own personal isolation, there was no holding him back. A key philosophical, and practical strategy was his appropriation of the new personal technologies, all of which would become key elements in his role as a 'no/low tech artist' who was committed to using this 'anarchistic technology' for his own cultural subversion.21 A prime example of this approach was Moore's use of the photocopy machine to publish the entire run of The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary.

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol., 1, #8, 1999
As I have noted earlier, Moore understood The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary as being a part of the advance guard of the Cherotic Movement, a movement which he likened to the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. Within this larger context The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary can be seen as continuing the longstanding tradition of artists' periodicals that accompanied all the avant-garde movements of the 20th century, serving both as indispensable players in communicating avant-garde intentions, and in this case preparing the way for the cherotic (r)evolution.

The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary at its core, is about healing the body politic, about mending the "...fragmentation, isolation, personal helplessness..." of contemporary life and creating "...a more human, trusting, loving reality, full of fun and pleasure."22 It is not without irony that the messenger, and teacher of this healing message, was someone whose own body was so severely disabled, and yet it was this same body that was the channel
through which this "wounded healer...deformed shaman,"23 would develop his profound philosophy in which The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary would function as one of the spear tips of the cherotic (r)evolution.


1.         Moore, Frank, "Caves," Berkeley, 1987, no pagination.

2.         For links to Moore's activities:
            for his videos:
            The Cherotic (r)evolutionary archive:

3.         Some basic information about the periodical. All nine issues were photocopied, with the first 
            four issues printed in standard letter size and side stitched. The remaining five issues were 
            photocopied in the tabloid size and then folded, and saddle stitched. The page numbers for
            each issue vary from 24 - 38, with an average of 31. The covers of the first four issues were
            photocopied onto different colored papers with the insides the traditional white. The covers
            for the last five issues were printed on tabloid size white card stock, and coupled with the 
            saddle stitching, enhance the overall look and feel of the periodical.
            The first three issues (#0, 1991 - #2, 1992) were published by S/R Press (Luna and  
            Kyle Griffith) and from #3 (1993) onwards it was published by Inter-Relations, which   
            consisted of Frank Moore and Linda Mac as the publishers/editors. Print runs for
            #3 (1993) was 300 copies, and by #6 (1996) it was 500 per issue, and continued until
            the last issue #8 (1999). Extra copies of individual issues were printed on demand. There 
            were a few paid subscribers, and coupled with the contributors the readers were from 
            all over the world.

            Source for the above information was an email from Linda Mac (4.1.2019).

            Below is a listing of the issues and their publication dates.

            Vol. 1, #0, April 1991
            Vol. 1, #1, January 1992
            Vol. 1, #2, July 1992
            Vol. 1, #3, April 1993
            Vol. 1, #4, 1994
            Vol. 1, #5, October 1995
            Vol. 1, #6, July 1996
            Vol. 1, #7, May 1997
            Vol. 1, #8, April 1999

4.         Moore, Frank in The Cherotic Revolutionary, Vol. 1, #0, 1991, p. 2.

5.         Moore, Frank in The Cherotic Revolutionary, Vol. 1, #0, 1991, p. 2.

6.         Moore, Frank in The Cherotic Revolutionary, Vol. 1, #0, 1991, p. 12.

7.         Moore, Frank from his website (The Cherotic Revolutionary section),    
  , accessed 3.22.19.

8.         Moore, Frank, "Caves," Berkeley, 1987, p. 3.

9.         Moore, Frank, Editorial, The Cherotic Revolutionary, Vol. 1, #1, 1992, p. 3.

10.       In the interests of authorial integrity, I should state that I had an article of mine
            published in the final issue of The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary (Vol. 1., #8, 1999) titled 
           "Assembling Magazines," (1997).

11.       Moore, Frank, Editorial, The Cherotic Revolutionary, Vol. 1, #3, 1993, p. 3.
            It's interesting to note that further into this editorial Moore credits Kyle Griffith as the
            person "...who pushed for the publishing of the book [ed. note Cherotic Magic,
            1990]...and then strongly suggested we come out with a zine."

12.       Moore, Frank, Editorial, The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol. 1, #0, 1991, p. 2.

13.       In an email from Linda Mac (4.1.2019) she recounts the larger story around the periodical's 
            demise, writing:

TCR was going strong when we stopped publishing it and we loved doing it! What stopped it was our starting, LUVeR (Love Undergound Vision Radio, later changed to Love Underground Visionary (r)Evolution). And that is a story in itself! We were just too busy to do both, so we stopped doing TCR.

14.       Moore, Frank, "An Open Letter to Sen. Jesse Helms," The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary,
            Vol. 1, #0, 1991, p. 24. Other artists attacked by Helms & Co. were: Holly Hughes, 
            Tim Miller, John Fleck, Johanna Went and Cheri Gaulke.

15.       Ibid., p. 24.

16.       The text of Veronica Vera's Post Porn Modernist Manifesto (1989) is below:
            LET IT BE KNOWN to all who read these words or witness these events that a new  
            awareness has come over the land. We of the POST PORN MODERNIST MOVEMENT   
            face the challenge of the Rubber Age by acknowledging this moment in our personal sexual 
            evolutions and in the sexual evolution of the planet.

            We embrace our genitals as part, not separate, from our spirits.
            We utilize sexually explicit words, pictures, and performances to communicate our ideas 
            and emotions.
            We denounce sexual censorship as anti-art and inhuman.
            We empower ourselves by this attitude of sex-positivism.
            And with this love of our sexual selves we have fun, heal the world and endure.

17.       One commentator on LaBash's works is Barbara Smith, and in her review of Moore's
            book Cherotic Magic in issue #0 (1991) she points out the discrepancy between Moore's 
            definition of eroplay as an activity that does not lead to orgasm, and the fact that many 
            of the figures in LaBash's works do indeed illustrate this kind sexual activity. I too have this 
            reservation, but within the broader reaches of what this periodical is about can reconcile 
            their subject matter within Moore's larger philosophy.

18.       Below is a listing of Frank Moore's writings in the periodical:

            One in each of the 9 issues

            #5, 1995: Annie Sprinkles Post Porn Modernist
            #6, 1996: Barbara Golden Multimedia Package.
            #7, 1997: Tony Ryan Photobook.

            #0, 1991: An open letter to Sen. Jesse Helms
            #0, 1991: Museum of Lovemaking
            #1, 1992: Nonlinear Bits
            #2, 1992: Cultural Subversion
            #3, 1993: Frank Moore's Philosophy of Art (1987)
            #4, 1994: Tribal Performance (1992)
            #5, 1995: Interview with Paul Krassner
            #5, 1995: Magical Masks in dialogue with James Audlin (chief distant eagle)
            #5, 1995: In Defense of Bad Art (1993)
            #6, 1996: A Rant On An Open Mike (1995)
            #6, 1996: Their Cuddling Cocoon (1995)
            #7, 1997: Mainstream Avant-Garde (1996)
            #8, 1999: What Price Fame? (1998) first published in Performance Journal #16,
                             Spring 1998)
            #8, 1999: Out of Isolation (1986-1994) Insert in this issue as a small 8-page pamphlet.

19.       Moore, Frank, Editorial, The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, Vol. 1, #0, 1991, p. 2.

20.       Moore, Frank in The Cherotic Revolutionary, Vol. 1, #0, 1991, p. 2.

21.       Throughout his career Moore worked in a wide variety of media including: radio, video,
            zine publishing, TV, performance art, writing, and he was a musician, painter and 
            publisher of books.

22.       Moore, Frank in The Cherotic Revolutionary, Vol. 1, #0, 1991, p. 2.

23.       Moore, Frank in The Cherotic Revolutionary, Vol. 1, #0, 1991, p. 2.