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An Early History of Image Bank

(now known as Morris/Trasov Archive)


Ray Johnson sends Michael Morris a letter commenting on Morris’ painting “The Problem of Nothing” which had been reproduced in Artforum. Johnson informs Morris that he had done “Nothings” while everyone else had done “Happenings” and that now he is engaged in holding meetings of “the New York Correspondence School”.


Morris invites Johnson to participate in Concrete Poetry , Fine Arts Gallery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, curated by Alvin Balkind. Johnson agrees and makes the first of only two trips outside the United States. The exhibition is in four parts, including 19 collages by Johnson, 24 letter drawings by Morris, and a selection of recent concrete poems by international poets. Morris and Vincent Trasov discuss with Johnson their concept of creating an artist’s network under the working title Image Bank. The term “Image Bank” was used by William S. Burroughs in his novel “Nova Express”; Grove Press, New York, 1964. The term “Memory Bank” is from Claude Levi-Strauss “The Savage Mind”; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1966.

Vincent Trasov performs “Flammable”, a fire process event at the University of British Columbia. 16 combustible substances are ignited to observe and document how they burn. Related to the performance is a series of drawings using CUSO4 on paper exposed to heat.


Using the list of contributors to the Concrete Poetry exhibition, Johnson’s N.Y.C.S. addresses plus their own contacts, Morris & Trasov, calling themselves Image Bank, commence sending out regular mailings soliciting artists’ image requests, addresses & research information.

Morris & Trasov contribute to Dana Atchley’s accumulative project Notebook, a compilation of 250 correspondence items redistributed to artists on the mail-art network. Morris & Trasov add the names of the other contributors to their mailing list.

Morris & Trasov contribute “Star Bathing Cap for Rrose Selavy” to Ray Johnson: New York Correspondence School exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, curated by Marcia Tucker. The show consists of collages, letters, postcards and objects by 106 artists.

Morris & Trasov begin collaborations with Glenn Lewis of the “New York Corres-Sponge Dance School of Vancouver”; Eric Metcalfe & Kate Craig a.k.a. Dr. & Lady Brute of “Banal Beauty Inc.”; A.A. Bronson, Felix Partz & Jorge Zontal of “General Idea” Toronto; Chip Lord & Hudson Marquez of Ant Farm, San Francisco. The adoption of new personae and aliases becomes prevalent in the emerging network of artists from different disciplines and backgrounds. Morris chooses the alias “Marcel Dot” and Trasov becomes “Mr. Peanut”.

Chip Lord & Hudson Marquez of the architecture /media group Ant Farm, San Francisco, arrive with a porta-pac video.

Realism ‘70, Montreal Museum of Art, “Did You Ever Milk A Cow”. Michael Morris & Glenn Lewis propose that a live cow be installed in a room of the gallery hung with paintings of cows in the landscape from the museum’s collection.

“Alex & Roger”, Michael Morris. Light-on study is printed as booklet for B.C. Almanac, National Film Board, Ottawa, Ontario.

Morris & Trasov participate in Fluxus artist Geoffrey Hendricks’ ongoing celebration of the solstice sky event.

A Room with Props, Vancouver Art Gallery. Morris & Trasov create an installation of props and visual aids used as interventions to emphasize the variances of process in film and photo media.


AA Bronson of General Idea, Toronto, visits Vancouver and collaborates with Image Bank on “Fire Mirror Video”.

“Taping of the Critics / Mondo Arte”. Michael Morris and Glenn Lewis tie up members of the international art critics convention on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Morris & Trasov invite correspondents to send postcards for an exhibition of the artist’s use of the postcard for the exhibition Image Bank Postcard Show, Fine Arts Gallery, University of British Columbia, curated by Alvin Balkind. A boxed edition of 80 original artist postcards is printed to accompany the show, which commemorates the 100th. anniversary of the picture postcard. The exhibition is circulated across Canada by the extension department of The National Gallery, Ottawa.

Michael Morris is chosen “Miss General Idea”from a group of 16 contestants at a pageant organized by General Idea at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Morris accepts, changing his alias from Marcel Dot to Marcel Idea, an alias he uses until 1984.

Ken Friedman arrives from San Diego with his Fluxus archive and address lists. He stays in Vancouver for six months.

Ant Farm, the architecture & media group based in San Francisco, returns for a second visit, sharing ideas & their address list.

Morris & Trasov both contribute to Dana Atchley’s second assembling Space Atlas.

Image Bank helps compile a special Video Exchange Directory of people involved with porta-pack video for Michael Goldberg’s newly formed Video Inn, Vancouver.

In Victoria Anna Long adopts the name Anna Banana & begins corresponding with the artist’s network. Warren Knechtel & John Jack Baylin in Vancouver form Chicken Bank & Bum Bank. All of these artists go on to develop the “zine” scene.

Ray Johnson continues his N.Y.C.S. meetings. Many members of the network contribute to these events by sending material through the mail.

Vincent Trasov creates his Mr. Peanut costume out of papier mache.


Ken Friedman includes Image Bank and other members of the Western Front in an issue of Source: Music of the Avant Garde; Issue 11, Vol. 6, No. 1 (January, 1972). Editor, Lunetta et al with guest editor, “International Edition”, Ken Friedman.

Legal Tender Image Bank Annual Report published by Intermedia Press, Vancouver, defines activities & intentions.

Image Bank contributes to the Section Envoie, Paris Bienale, Paris, France.

General Idea publishes the first issue of File Magazine. Vincent Trasov a.k.a. Mr. Peanut is on the cover which appropriates the look of Life Magazine, which ceased publishing in the mid 1970s. News of Image Bank activities and the Image Bank artist’s address and request lists are featured.

“New Art School: Correspondence” Rolling Stone publishes the first of three articles by Thomas Albright, calling mail art a potentially revolutionary activity, thus giving wide publicity to Ray Johnson & the “mysterious” workings of the N.Y.C.S. & the mail- art network. Rolling Stone, April 13, 1972, p. 32.

Halifax Vancouver Exchange.
Roy Kiyooka organizes an exchange between artists from the Intermedia group, Vancouver, & artists from Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Halifax.

Michael Morris a.k.a. Marcel Idea, Vincent Trasov a.k.a. Mr. Peanut, Glenn Lewis a.k.a. Flakey Rose-Hips and John Jack Baylin a.k.a. Count Fanzini visit New York City meeting many members of Ray Johnson’s N.Y.C.S. for the first time, including May Wilson, Albert M. Fine, E.M. Plunkett (the N.Y.C.S. name is attributed to Plunkett) Dick Higgins, Geoffrey Hendricks and John Dowd. While in New York, the New York Corres- Sponge Dance School of Vancouver hosts a banquet at Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Food” Restaurant.

“Colour Research: The Endless Painting” 1972-74. Two sets of over 1000 pieces each of kiln dried yellow cedar are hand painted in both monochrome, full spectrum & grayscale combinations. Designed as interactive props or visual aids these small blocks of painted wood could be formerly arranged & rearranged or randomly scattered in the landscape or the studio. The work was a collaboration, including the inspiration for General Idea’s “Colour Bar Lounge” in the “1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion”. The endless painting was documented on film, slide, photograph & video. The images suggest a youthful paradise where the physics of light & ever-changing colour combinations merge into a vision of utopia. The dialogue between culture and nature remains the inspiration for this work which in 1994 was presented at the XX11 Bienal Internacional de Sao Paulo.

”1984” event. “Image Bank requests your image of 1984”. Responding to the themes of Utopia / Dystopia emerging from the correspondence network, Image Bank with a nod to George Orwell ponders what the future will bring in a little over a decade. Two major collaborative projects result from these speculations. The New York Corres-Sponge Dance School’s permanent work “The Great Wall of 1984”, begun in 1973, is a mural / calendar composed of 365 safety deposit boxes each representing a year between 1620 & 1984.Each safety deposit box contains an item sent by a different participant from the network for the National Research Council of Canada’s office in Ottawa. The other project is General Idea’s fantasy architecture project “The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion” in which themes & motifs current in the work of network participants would be incorporated into the design of the pavilion.

”Cultural Ecology” project. Image Bank requests “piss pics for Barbara Rrose”. This is a response to Ray Johnson’s” Marcel Duchamp Fan Club”. The project was designed to encourage reflection on Marcel Duchamp’s urinal as a readymade sculpture. The art critic Barbara Rose’s name is intentionally misspelled in reference to Duchamp’s alter ego Rrose Selavy. Two slogans “Don’t Drink Water” and “Aesthetics Determine the Cultural Ecology” are used. They refer to beauty, whose fleeting nature should not be thought of as superficial.

John Dowd, a N.Y.C.S. artist, visits Image Bank and collaborates with John Jack Baylin on the “John Dowd Fan Club” and subsequent publishing ventures.

Image Bank produces International Image Exchange Directory, published by Talon Books, Vancouver.

“Michael Morris and the Image Bank” contribute a correspondence section for White Pelican, a quarterly review of the arts from Edmonton, winter, 1972.


Image Bank contributes a video to “Aktion der Avant Garde”, Akademie der Kuenste, Berlin, Germany.

David Zack’s “An Authentic and Historical Discourse on the Phenomenon of Mail Art” is published by Art in America vol. 61, no. 1, pp 46-53.

The Western Front, an artist run center dedicated to the production and presentation of new art activity is founded by Michael Morris, Vincent Trasov, Kate Craig, Glenn Lewis, Eric Metcalfe, Mo Van Nostrand, Henry Greenhow and Martin Bartlett.

“Image Bank Excyclopedia Project” appears in IS 12/13 West Coast Issue; Coach House Press, Toronto.

“Image Bank Issue”, File Megazine, Special Double Issue, vol. 2 no.1 & 2 (May 1973).

Opal L. Nations arrives from the U.K. He makes the first effort to accession the Image Bank holdings in 1974 into an artist archive. He also introduces Image Bank to David Mayor’s Flux Shoe project, and the work of Genesis P. Orrige and COUM Transmissions, Phillipe Ehrenberg and others from the U.K. interested in networking.

Willoughby Sharp arrives from New York and prepares an article on “Art & Correspondence from the Western Front” for Avalanche Magazine. Sharp contributes the Avalanche address list to the Image Bank master list of artist addresses.

Lowell Darling (Fat City School of Finds Arts) & Dana Atchley ( Ace Space Co.) propose a major event bringing everyone on the network together in Los Angeles in 1974.

Image Bank sets up an image request bureau as part of a major summer exhibition of contemporary Canadian art Trajectoires Canadiennes ‘73 at Musee D’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Robert Filliou makes his first visit to the Western Front sharing news and contacts concerning his vision of an Eternal Network & La Fete Permanente. The discussion plans for a major network event to take place in Los Angeles, celebrating Art’s Birthday, to be hosted by Lowell Darling & Willoughby Sharp.

The playwright & producer team of Ron & Harvey Tavel arrives from N.Y.C. with protégé Harvey Fierstein. They collaborate at Morris & Trasov’s summer residence “Babyland” on the play Gazelle Boy.

Dr Wibke von Bonin films a documentary on Image Bank & the Western Front for German television, Cologne.


”Art’s Birthday: The Decca-Dance” is inspired by Robert Filliou’s idea of a celebration for the birth of art. It was the largest event involving the correspondence network. The event, hosted by Lowell Darling and Willoughby Sharp, was staged as a parody of Academy Awards ceremony similar in strategy to the General Idea beauty pageant. The event was well documented on film & video by Ant Farm. The Mondo Artie script by AA Bronson and EE Claire and accompanying ephemera were published by Image Bank as a multiple edition. This event marked the end of the pioneering days of networking and the beginning of what has become known as “Mail Art”.

The last & most comprehensive special art and artist directory issue of File Megazine, “Annual Artist Directory Issue,” vol. 2, no. 5 (February 1974), cover photo by Robert Cumming of Ben Vautier’s letter “A” These lists became the basis for the Flash Art Diary.

General Idea’s “Blocking,” a rehearsal for the 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant is staged at the Western Front. A film of the event is produced by Vincent Trasov and Byron Black.

”Mr. Peanut for Mayor: The 1974 Vancouver Civic Election”. Vincent Trasov, encouraged by fellow artist John Mitchell, entered civic politics on the PEANUT platform; P for Performance, E for Elegance, A for Art , N for Nonsense, U for Uniqueness and T for Talent. This landmark event helped to define a generation of artists who helped put the Vancouver art scene on the map and has gained recognition as a major work of twentieth century performance art .

Image Bank contributes to Clemente Padin’s mail art exhibition, Montevideo, Uruguay.