Mark Bloch

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Mark Bloch (born 1956) is an American mail artist, performance artist, archivist and writer whose work combines visuals and text as well as performance and media[1] to explore ideas of long distance communication.[2]

Early years and education[edit]

Mark Bloch was born to American parents in Würzburg, Germany, in 1956 where his father was based as soldier of the US Army.[3] Bloch grew up in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Exposure in his youth to Robert Wyatt, the Fugs, Frank Zappa and Yoko Ono led to an interest in the fringes of art.[4] Coincidentally, Bloch later referred to his mentor Ray Johnson as the "fringe of the fringe."[5]

Bloch attended Kent State University, where he was influenced by faculty members Adrian DeWitt, a Jungian who taught in the Romance Languages department, Robert Schimmel and Robert Culley,[6] another Jungian, in the School of Art and visiting artists Joan Jonas from New York and Iimura Takahiko from Japan, both videographers. Bloch attended Kent in the aftermath of the 1970 Kent State shootings and was present during protests of a gymnasium that was built on the site of that incident.[7] Following his work with Jonas, and switching his focus from art to TV, Bloch received his B.A. degree in Broadcasting and was the creator of a "punk" performance art movement called The New Irreverence[8] and other avant garde provocations.[9] Bloch was part of the M'bwebwe group that began in Kent, Ohio in 1974.

After Kent, Bloch moved to Southern California, experimenting with performance,[10] studying with artist Rachel Rosenthal, and supporting himself as a maker of corporate communications for corporate clients from 1978 to 1982.

Bloch performed "Heart and Technology"[11] and "East Meats West" in Laguna Beach, California where he lived until 1981. On November 16, 1980, Bloch produced an early issue of his D.I.Y. zine, Panmag, numbered "451" in honor of the famed Fahrenheit 451 Books bookstore inviting visitors to create work which he later mailed and spending the day "in the window of the bookstore working on his postal art magazine," performing a work called "Artist for Sale," in which he made himself available to "buy or rent" for "$10,000 an hour." Bloch also typed on a typewriter in the window and gave a lecture on his "Postal Art Network" and its relationship to Laguna's status as an "art colony."[12]

After moving to New York City in 1982, he met many of the Sixties generation of avant garde artists whom he had long been studying in written form, artistic heirs to the legacy of Marcel Duchamp such as Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles, Jackson MacLow, Al Hansen, Nam June Paik and others.[13] Bloch also met Ray Johnson who had heard of Bloch's mailed performance art pieces and invited him into his New York Correspondence School.[14]

In 2012, after studying Digital Marketing, Bloch received a Master of Science degree from the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, City University of New York.[15]

Mail Art and Pre-Digital Networking[edit]

Since 1980, Bloch has published Panmag,[16][17] his mail art-related zine which documented much of the activity of the New York mail art scene in the 1980s and beyond including the visits of various mail artists to New York, his travel in Europe and opinions about the goings on in the fringes of the art world. Bloch's writings on Fluxus, performance, communication, Conceptual art, mail art and contemporary art are referred to on mail art-related blogs.[18][19][20][21][22]

In his "Open Letter to the Network," Bloch offered a "critique of mail artists’ relations with the existing gallery system, attempting to distinguish 'the differences… between mail art and certified art.' While calling on mail artists to 'ask the difficult questions' and 'digress from the backslapping that is so prevalent in mail art,' Bloch’s proposals are limited to an exhortation to 'pursue a more rigorous dialogue than exists right now.' Bloch asserts that 'we concentrate on content rather than appearance.'" [23]

In "Offener brief an jeden im netzwerk" (Open Letter to everyone in the Network) Bloch and visiting mail artist H. R. Fricker of Trogen, Switzerland created a six-point manifesto in English and German that highlighted the importance of person to person correspondence in the mail art network, as opposed to mail art shows, which were increasing in popularity at that time.[24] This focus on the "communicative processes arising from the exchanges between... artists" was shared by Bloch and Fricker and many of the other mail artists who entered the fray in the late 70s and early 80s.

Bloch participated in several "Tourism" mail art congresses of 1986 and attended the Neoist Festival of Plagiarism in Glasgow[25] and other events in 1989 but felt that two events of that nature were enough so he decided to "boycott the 1992 congress year" as well as the "incongruous meetings year 1998," opting, instead, for a "year of decompression" in 2004 that was eventually manifested in lieu of Congress participation.[26]

Bloch's work penetrated Neoist and related circles after his writings on Neoism, Stewart Home and the Festival of Plagiarism in his Panmag subtitled "The Last Word"[27] in which he proposed a Word Strike which put forth the oft-repeated motto of that period, "Don’t say art unless you mean money."[28] Bloch later pushed that emphasis in the Panscan area of the Echo Communication teleconferencing system.[29]

Bloch is a vehement defender in online communities of the purity of the Fluxus generation that preceded him, insisting that his contemporaries are free to be influenced by what he calls the Fluxus "movement" (as opposed to those who see it as an open-ended "spirit" or "attitude") but should not call themselves or their work "Fluxus" directly. "Mark Bloch’s views on the current situation of Fluxus in the mail art network (as well as newer generation artists who call themselves Fluxus) can and do generate heated debate."[30] Bloch calls the overuse of the word "Fluxus" by younger artists "misinformation" and a distortion of the historical record.

Early cyber-migration and Ray Johnson research[edit]

Bloch is recognized as being one of a handful of early converts from mail art to online communities.[31] In 1989, Bloch began his experimental foray into the digital space when he founded Panscan, part of the Echo NYC text-based teleconferencing system, the first online art discussion group in New York City.[32] Panscan lasted from 1990 to 1995.[33]

Following the death of Ray Johnson in 1995, Bloch left Echo and began a twenty-year research project on Communication art and Johnson[34] and wrote several texts on him that were among the earliest to appear online and were cited elsewhere in other media.[35] Bloch and writer/editor Elizabeth Zuba brought together "their distinct visual and literary perspectives to explore Ray Johnson’s innovative interpretations of 'the book'" at the Printed Matter New York Book Fair in 2014. [36] Bloch has since acted as a resource[37] for new generation of Johnson and Fluxus followers on fact-finding missions.[38]

It was Ray Johnson who introduced Bloch to Robert Delford Brown and his wife Rhett Cone Brown by bringing him in the 1980s to their home "that Mr. Brown called 'The Great Building Crack-Up'" in Greenwich Village which eventually led to Bloch becoming Brown's biographer, writing "Robert Delford Brown: Meat, Maps, and Militant Metaphysics," published by the Cameron Art Museum in 2007.[39]

Since 1980, Bloch has published a zine called Panmag and tried to use it a in various ways to push back the boundaries of what art can be. Bloch "situates his practices within the new expanded field of publishing. As the editor of Panmag, he has combined both digital and traditional media in his periodical… He presents an interesting case for the… periodical to be considered as performance art," said scholars Marie Boivent and Stephen Perkins, citing "his expansion of the traditionally static nature of the periodical into a new role as an active physical agent."[40]

Fine artist[edit]

Mark Bloch’s one man show "Secrets of the Ancient 20th Century Gamers" was presented at Emily Harvey Foundation in NYC March 18 through April 2, 2010[41] and received favorable reviews.[42] It featured paintings, collage works, assemblage, issues of his zine "Panmag" and other works.[43]

In 2014, Bloch curated a New York City arts festival celebrating the centenary of cult hero artist-collector Guglielmo Achille Cavellini,[44] at various venues around Manhattan including the Museum of Modern Art Library, Richard L. Feigen & Co., Lynch Tham, and the Whitebox Art Center on the Lower East Side where a 55 foot long wall covered with artworks from the mail art network and local artists and a 14 by 14 foot drawing of Cavellini by Bloch was revealed during a three hour-plus opening marathon of performances, spoken word and music.[45]

In 2016, Bloch and the granddaughter of Dada founder Marcel Janco, the Israeli art journaler and art therapist, Michaela Mende Janco, created "Dadawatch," a one-year communications project to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Dada and inviting public online participation.[46]

References[edit]

  1. ^ WNYC-FM "Artists in the City" radio broadcast transcript, March 1985 in Welch, Chuck. editor. Networking Currents: Contemporary Mail Art Subjects and Issues, Sandbar Willow Press, June 1986. pp. 68-80.
  2. ^ Zuba, Elizabeth. Not Nothing. Los Angeles: Siglio Press, 2014. p. 368
  3. ^ Wohlrab, Lutz. "Mark Bloch," Mail Artists' Index [1] May 2008.
  4. ^ Cecil Touchon (January 2009). Natural Born Fluxus - Childhood Event Scores by Fluxus Artists. Lulu.com. pp. 270–. ISBN 978-0-578-00333-7. 
  5. ^ Thaler, Lisa. Look Up, The Life and Art of Sacha Kolin. New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 2008. p. 164.
  6. ^ See "In A Box, In Garage, Artist Stores Lifetime," Associated Press article, Ocala Star-Banner - Apr 14, 1977, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1356&dat=19770414&id=A3lPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=oAUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4422,3177600
  7. ^ Retiring KSU President Glenn Olds mistakenly refers to Bloch's "The Sprout," a mimeographed art zine, as the "newspaper on the hill," referring to "Tentropolis...in front of Taylor Hall," where students occupied a construction site from May to July 1977. See Kobasky, Joan and Shane, Paul. "Farewell to KSU, Mr. & Mrs. Olds: reflections, aspirations" Daily Kent Stater, Volume L, Number 117, 3 June 1977. pg. 1.
  8. ^ Daily Kent Stater, Volume LI, Number 66, 28 February 1978. Page 3.
  9. ^ Schultz, Connie. "Presentation Reviews Unconventional Media." Daily Kent Stater, Volume LI, Number 102, 16 May 1978. p.3
  10. ^ Bloch, Mark. "Bloch Is Here" High Performance Magazine #10. 1979. Astro-Arts. Los Angeles, Ca.
  11. ^ "Bloch's 'Heart and Tech' show pleases," Panmag Issue 451 (November 16, 1980), p. 7, Laguna Beach, New York.
  12. ^ Bloch, Mark. "Why Am I Sitting in the Window of the Farehheit 451 Bookstore?," Panmag Issue 451 (November 16, 1980), pp. 1,2,8, Laguna Beach, New York.
  13. ^ "Secrets of the ancient 20th century gamers." [2], The Emily Harvey Foundation. 2010.
  14. ^ Zuba.
  15. ^ http://www.marketingedge.org/marketing-programs/collegiate-echo/challenge-history/winners-archive
  16. ^ See excerpts of Panmag 39 in "Networking Currents : Mail Art Zines from the 80's and 90's" https://printedmatter.org/tables/448.
  17. ^ See reviews of Panmags 1,2,4,6,8,12,13,15,16,21,22,22 and 37 in https://merzmail.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/the_museum_of_modern_art_library.pdf
  18. ^ Revich, Allan. Digital Salon. "Two Questions from Mark Bloch" http://www.digitalsalon.net/two-questions-from-mark-bloch/
  19. ^ Bennett, Catherine. Over the Sofa. "One for Violin Ensemble." https://cmehrlbennett.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/one-for-violin-ensemble/
  20. ^ Viv de Dada and Mary Campbell, editors. "Cavellini Festival – Parallel Events". https://daydedada.wordpress.com/tag/mark-bloch/
  21. ^ Lloyd, Ginny. Behind the Scene. "Cavellini Celebration in NYC" http://ginnylloyd.blogspot.com/2014/11/cavellini-celebration-in-nyc.html
  22. ^ Mobius. "The Art of Storàge by Mark Bloch." "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-02. Retrieved 2015-06-08. 
  23. ^ Ferranto, Matt, "Paradox and Promise: The Options of Mail Art," http://www.spareroom.org/mailart/mis_4.html
  24. ^ Röder, Kornelia "H. R. Fricker, Mail Art and Social Networks," HR Fricker: Conquer the Living Rooms of the World, Kunstmuseum Thurgau, Warth, Switzerland: Edition Fink, 2014, p. 38.
  25. ^ Home, Stewart. ASSESSING THE ART STRIKE, "Notes from a talk given at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 30 January 1993. in Yawn No. 38. page 1856.
  26. ^ György Galántai, Julia Klaniczay. p. 394
  27. ^ Schwartz, Hillel. The Culture of the Copy: Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles. MIT Press, Dec 27, 2013, pg 424
  28. ^ Huth, Geof, "Art Strike." Kostelanetz, Richard, editor. Dictionary of the Avant Gardes, 2nd edition . New York: Routledge; 2001. p 34.
  29. ^ Horn, Stacy. Cyberville: Clicks, Culture, and the Creation of an Online Town. Grand Central Publishing, Jan 30, 2010. pg. 120.
  30. ^ Sloan, De Villo. "MinXus Mail Bag: Pan-demonium from Mark Bloch (New York City, USA)." MinXus-Lynxus blog. https://minxuslynxus2.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/minxus-mail-bag-pan-demonium-from-mark-bloch-new-york-city-usa/
  31. ^ Starbuck, Madelyn Kim. Clashing and Converging: Effects of the Internet on the Correspondence Art Network, https://www.lib.utexas.edu/etd/d/2003/starbuckmk032/starbuckmk032.pdf. pp 253-258.
  32. ^ Janssen, Ruud. "Mail-interview with Mark Bloch."http://iuoma.org/blog_new_2015/2015/06/17/mail-interview-with-mark-bloch-usa/
  33. ^ Horn. pg. 338.
  34. ^ Robinson, Walter and Gleason, Mat, editors. Most Art Sucks: Coagula Art Journal and the Art of the 1990's. Los Angeles: Smart Art Press, 1998. See also "Ray Johnson Panel Discussion" on WBAI [3].
  35. ^ In Taylor, Michael R., Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés. Philadelphia Museum of Art. p. 200, Bloch was referred to as one of less than forty artists comprising a "new generation of artists to have made works in response to" Duchamp's final work and a story recounted by Bloch in his text, "Rayocide" is paraphrased but not cited in this volume. This is one of many topics Bloch discussed with Johnson by phone and the author, Taylor, included its source as having originated in a private conversation.
  36. ^ Siglio Press. "Ray Johnson: Nothing vs. Nothing at the New York Book Fair" [4] September 28, 2014.
  37. ^ Spencer, Amy. DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture. London: Marion Boyars. 2005. p. 132.
  38. ^ See Sloan.
  39. ^ Weber, Bruce. "Robert Delford Brown, ‘Happenings’ Artist, Dies at 78" The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/arts/design/05brown.html. Published April 4, 2009.
  40. ^ Boivent, Marie and Perkins, Stephen. "Introduction," The Territories of Artists' Periodicals. Editions Provissoires & Plagiarist Press, Rennes, France and De Pere, Wisconsin. pp. 8-9.
  41. ^ Press Release: "Secrets of the Ancient 20th Century Gamers" Emily Harvey Foundation, New York. [5]
  42. ^ "The Museum of Good Ideas." Tout-Fait: Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal http://toutfait.com/the-museum-of-good-ideas/ (previously http://www.toutfait.com/newsfulllist.php?id=489), June 17, 2010.
  43. ^ Yarbrough, John. White Hot Magazine. "Mark Bloch: The New Gamer" http://whitehotmagazine.com/articles/2010-mark-bloch-new-gamer/2070.
  44. ^ Winfield, Barbara. White Hot Magazine. "A Look Back at the NYC Cavellini Festival" http://whitehotmagazine.com/articles/back-at-nyc-cavellini-festival/3214.
  45. ^ Cavellini, Piero and Lillo, Marciano, editors. GAC 100. Il libro del centenario di Guglielmo Achille Cavellini. Magalini, 2015.
  46. ^ Announcement. http://www.dadawatch.com, 2016.

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