UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Avalanche and file: the politics of alternative magazines in the field of cultural production 1968-1976 Belanger, Ashley


The expanding discourse surrounding the importance of magazines in the field of cultural production during the 1970s presents the alternative art press as a forum that contributed to the dematerialization of art and presented a more democratic space within which to encounter artworks. While discussion surrounding alternative art magazines has often revolved around the idea of the “museum without walls,” magazines have also been recognized as a site of contradiction within the artistic avant-garde. The alternative art press has come to be seen as a contributing factor in the failure of avant-garde movements trying to escape institutional power structures. Acting as a lifeline to the art market and institutions of art, alternative art magazines impeded artists from achieving the utopian goal of conflating art and life and escaping the confines and context of the institutional white cube. Drawing upon Pierre Bourdieu’s essay, “The Field of Cultural Production, or: The Economic World Reversed,” this thesis aims at articulating a new space within which to consider the contributions of alternative art magazines. Through case studies of the New York based Avalanche (1970-1976) and the Toronto based File (1972-1989) I argue that focus must be shifted to consider the medium of the magazine as a fertile ground exploited by artists, editors and publishers, in order to redefine and call into question how “the game” of cultural production was being played at the time. Instead of escaping the institution altogether artists took advantage of the medium of the magazine to erect their own institutional alternatives.

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