MANY SMALL THINGS OR ONE BIG THING
KOSUTH, Joseph; RAMSDEN, Mel. CHARLESWORTH, Sarah. et al.
The Fox. Volume One, Numbers 1-3 [all published].
New York: Art & Language Foundation, inc., 1975-1976.
3 vols. 4to (263 × 205 mm), pp. [vi], 144, . 13 black-and-white photographs (12 of which portray men sneezing); 4to (266 × 212 mm), pp. , 163, . 15 black-and-white photographs, reproductions from books and documents; 4to (277 × 213 mm), pp. [v], 186, . 17 black-and-white photographs, drawings, and reproductions of documents. Printed on newsprint. Printed card covers; endemic toning to pages, light wear and occasional toning to covers. A well preserved very good to near-fine set.
First editions. The Fox was started by several members of the New York faction of Art & Language. Art & Language was an artist group founded in the late-1960s by Terry Atkinson, Michael Baldwin, David Bainbridge, and Harold Hurrell in Coventry, England, who began publishing a journal called Art-Language in May 1969. The American wing, which included Joseph Kosuth, Mel Ramsden, and Sarah Charlesworth emerged in the early-1970s. In the first issue of The Fox they announced: 'It is the purpose of our journal to try to establish some kind of community practice. Those who are interested, curious, or have something to add (be it pro or con) to the editorial thrust…the revaluation of ideology…of this first issue are encouraged, even urged, to contribute to following issues.' The title refers to Isaiah Berlin's characterizations of knowledge, made after a line by the Greek poet Archilochus who wrote of the fox, who knows 'many small things', as opposed to the hedgehog, who knows 'one big thing'. Suggesting two forms of knowledge: one that is systematic and narrow and the other that is broad and more varied.
The Fox emerged out of 'frustration ... with the extremely oppressive nature of a very elitist and rather irrelevant (in terms of effective practice) theoretical debating society which was Art & Language," according to Sarah Charlesworth's "Memo for The Fox" in issue 2. Joseph Kosuth has claimed that he 'decided we had to break from [the Art-Language collective in] England... There were real questions to be asked, and frankly I wanted a larger social base to ask those questions.' To preserve a sense of continuity and collective identity it was decided that the name Art & Language would be used within the name of the publisher. The Fox was poorly received by the Art & Language group in England, who published a derisive review in Art-Language 3. no.2. 'It's generally agreed that after its third issue, "The Fox was killed entirely by conspiracy, not by a "naturally" democratic decision," in a series of confrontations termed the "Lumpen-Headache" meetings, during February and March 1976.' (In Numbers p.73). Transcripts from these meetings were published in the third and final issue of The Fox, laying bare the tensions between the two groups and the growing disharmony within the American faction who effectively imploded and closed down.
Artists' Magazines: An Alternative Space for Art 261-2; Aarons and Roth, In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955, 70-73, 77
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