Aspen Magazine: Number 4 – The McLuhan Issue (1967)

02May15

Aspen was a multimedia magazine published on an irregular schedule by Phyllis Johnson from 1965 to 1971. Described by its publisher as “the first three-dimensional magazine,” each issue came in a customized box or folder filled with materials in a variety of formats, including booklets, flexidisc phonograph recordings, posters, postcards and reels of super-8 movie film. Many of the leading figures in contemporary North American and British art and cultural criticism were editors, designers or contributors to Aspen. The magazine has remained of interest to students of the artistic ferment of the late 1960s; extensive documentation of Aspen’s contents is available online at http://www.ubu.com/aspen/aspen4/index.html (Source: Wikipedia.org)

Aspen Magazine – The McLuhan Issue (#4)
New York City, USA: Roaring Fork Press, 1967
9.5 x 12.5 x .075″ – Hinged box containing 8 items.

The McLuhan Issue was designed by Quentin Fiore, who had then-recently collaborated with McLuhan on The Medium is the Massage, a book which Fiore had initiated and which went on to become McLuhan’s best seller. The issue came in a box illustrated with a diagram of an electrical circuit and text taken from their collaborative work. The contents included several posters, a flexi-disc record of electronic music, an article about a nature trail for the blind and John Cage’s Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse). The latter would also later be included in the SMS Portfolio (a publishing project not dissimilar to Aspen) and as a Great Bear Pamphlet, published by the Something Else Press. The advertisements (which include an early Something Else Press newsletter) were held in a magenta folder inscribed with McLuhan’s theory of effective advertising.
Of this publication McLuhan wrote:-
“Quentin Fiore tells me that Aspen Magazine is wild about putting me in one of their boxes.  I am the subject of their next issue, issue number 4, the McLuhan edition.  Corinne will be amused.  The graduate school – I am sure – will not.  This will give the Profs at Toronto University a fit.  I can hear them now.  Pure Commercialism! Undignified!  Not professorial!  

Well that’s their look out. For each issue Aspen’s editors assemble a mix of recordings, posters, essays and whatnot playing on a particular theme.  “Magazine” you know is a very interesting word.  It means a storehouse, a cache, typically for explosives.  This issue is undoubtedly going to result in fireworks.  The last one was on Warhol.  This one’s on me.    Haven’t seen it yet, but I will.  Perhaps next Sunday.” (1967) (Source: http://tinyurl.com/n2xr5xl )

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