Image Bank was founded in 1970 in Vancouver, Canada, by artists Michael Morris (born 1942 in Saltdean, GB), Vincent Trasov (born 1947 in Edmonton, CA) and Gary Lee-Nova (born 1943 in Toronto, CA). A model for a utopian, alternative system of art distribution operating outside institutions like the museum and the market, Image Bank engaged in an international exchange of images and correspondence by mail. Among the artists participating in the ever-growing network of exchange were (besides Morris, Trasov, and Lee-Nova) Dana Atchley, Robert Cumming, Dick Higgins, Geoff Hendricks, Glenn Lewis, Eric Metcalfe, Kate Craig, Willoughby Sharp, General Idea and Ant Farm. Image Bank maintained close ties with Ray Johnson’s New York Correspondence School as well as Robert Filliou and his concept of the Eternal Network. Using frequently changing Duchampian, gender-crossing aliases, and appropriating and reworking images and texts from mainstream media was both a subversive take on post-war individualism and consumer culture, and a way of partaking in an accelerated flow of data. At the same time, Image Bank’s production affirmed the mythological and libidinous power of mass distributed visual imagery and puns. Its interest in the idea of the fetish—which it shared with General Idea in Toronto—in rituals, and in archives shaped the collective’s manifold activities until 1978, when, due to a copyright challenge, it was renamed the Morris/Trasov Archive.
The archive is comprised of more than 10,000 files of ephemera (correspondence, postcards, stationery, notes, collages, and concept drafts) as well as photography, film and props. In collaboration with the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, CA), KW Institute for Contemporary Art presents the most comprehensive retrospective of Image Bank to date. The exhibition gives an overview of the collective’s most important projects emerging from a moment of collaborative production that fundamentally questioned the boundary between art and life and anticipated topics relevant today, such as networks, tagging/keyword indexing, collective authorship, and UGC (user generated content). The exhibition will travel to the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia in Summer 2020.
A catalogue will accompany the exhibition, featuring texts by AA Bronson, Zanna Gilbert, Krist Gruijthuijsen, Angie Keefer, Maxine Kopsa, Hadrien Laroche, Felicity Tayler and Scott Watson.
Curators: Krist Gruijthuijsen, Maxine Kopsa, Scott Watson
Assistant Curator: Kathrin Bentele