Ulises Carrión (San Andrés de Tuxtla, Veracruz, México, 1941-Ámsterdam, 1989) was, as Javier Maderuelo notes in the book Ulises Carrión, escritor (Ediciones La Bahía, 2016), «an artist only if we consider him “an artist of writing” and if we consider writing as Art (with capital letter). A «new art» that is not only to make books, but to bring together thousands of people to write letters, with or without words, and to write them in new ways (rubber stamps, audio and videotapes). It is not because writing acquires new plastic qualities, but because the new writing can cause cultural situations that become strategies to link the world of ideas with life, as proposed by the artists of the avant-garde».
The fonds dedicated to his activity, which encompasses a significant part of the first Other Books and So Archive, comprises around 12,000 items which enable the reconstruction of his multifaceted career, first as a writer, later as an experimental poet, theoretician, manager and performer and, finally, as a project artist. The documentation has been structured into two large sections corresponding to the two main aspects of his activity: his own artistic creation, and management of the space he called Other Books and So (OBAS), an alternative bookshop and venue for exhibitions and events which Carrión subsequently transformed into the Other Books and So Archive (OBASA). The aim of this organizational differentiation is solely to facilitate access to and study of the documents; in fact the Archive could well be considered one of Carrión’s works, and his own pieces could easily be contained in the Archive.
The first section brings together the work of which Ulises Carrión was author: theoretical texts, interviews, critiques, essays, notes, translations, poetry, narrative, “bookworks”, projects, drawings, sound performances (which combined experimental poetry, sound art and conceptual theater) and videos. It encompasses 24 years’ production and documents his first experiences with writing, his initiation into narrative, his drift into experimental poetry, his invention of the “bookwork” concept (contextualized and defined in the influential 1975 essay “The New Art of Making Books”), and magazine publication, as well as the materials he collected while planning and elaborating the projects created in the 1980s, together with the videos he made of those projects.
The second section contains documentation related to management of the alternative spaces in which Carrión participated after settling in Amsterdam: the In-Out Center (1972-1974), the OBAS bookshop (1975-1979) and the OBASA archive (1979-1982/1989). It also includes a part of collections that he integrated into his archive over the years, the fruit of intense exchanges with artists together with the activities of OBAS and OBASA: a collection of artist’s books and “bookworks”, numerous examples of mail art, multiples, magazines and correspondence accumulated during the years he managed these different spaces. This section features the catalogs and leaflets of exhibitions curated by Ulises Carrión, displays devoted to OBAS and those which showed his art, and a number of materials related to mail art and stamp art from the Stempelplaats space (1978-1981), a project by Carrión’s partner, Aart van Barneveld, with whom he published the magazine Ephemera and conceived many other projects.
The set of personal papers is completed with an abundant bibliography on mail art, re-editions of Ulises Carrión’s books published following his death, and the catalogs of exhibitions dedicated to him as from 1989.