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Morris / Trasov Archive

Notes on History & Performance

Founded in 1969 by Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov the Image Bank helped facilitate the exchange of ideas, images and information between artists through the use of the postal system. Image Bank compiled and printed address and image requests lists that were sent to participants through the mail creating an open ended decentralized method of networking. The possibilities inherent in this kind of activity are limited only by the imagination so it is not hard to draw parallels between the pioneering work of the Image Bank and the later development of e-mail and the internet. As the Image Bank acted as both a clearing house and depository Morris and Trasov realized the importance of creating an archive to document and preserve the material accumulated from their activities. The concept of an artist’s archive or artist’s museum accounting for the concerns of a lifetime exists, the most famous is Duchamp’s “Green Box”. Other important examples include Ray Johnson’s “New York Correspondence School”, Robert Filliou’s concept of an “Eternal Network”, Daniel Spoerri’s ideas as outlined in his “Ancedoted Typography of Chance”, Claus Oldenburg’s “Mouse Museum” and General Idea’s proposals for “The Miss General Idea Pavilion”. In 1973 Morris and Trasov helped found and direct the Western Front Society, Vancouver’s first artist run centre. The Western Front remains to this day a centre dedicated to the production and presentation of new art activity. The contribution of Morris and Trasov to the Western Front’s events and visiting artist program, the directory issues of General Idea’s File Megazine, the “The Miss General Idea Beauty Pageant” as well as Trasov’s entry into the mayoralty race for the 1974 Vancouver civic election as Mr. Peanut are legend. All these activities have helped create the climate of ideas that have contributed to the recognition of Vancouver today as a major centre for contemporary art activity. Morris and Trasov left their duties at the Western Front in 1981 to accept a DAAD residency in Berlin. While there they pursued their interest in performance and video, participating in numerous events and exhibitions in Germany and around Europe throughout the decade and beyond.

An invitation from the Banff Centre in 1990 to a residency dedicated to preserve and accession the accumulation of material comprising the the Image Bank legacy left in storage at the Western Front resulted in the creation of The Morris/Trasov Archive. Since 1993 the archive has been housed at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, The University of British Columbia, thanks to the support of Scott Watson, the gallery’s director. Numerous research projects, exhibitions and publications have resulted, including “How Sad I Am Today” a major survey exhibition and publication of the art of Ray Johnson and the New York Correspondence School , “Hand of the Spirit, Documents from the Seventies from the Morris/ Trasov Archive” and “Image Bank Colour Research” for the 1994 Sao Paulo Biennial. The archive as the lifelong project of Morris and Trasov has meant casting a large net. It is time to pull that net in and make the connections that will link all the items in it to each other.