TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT May 2013

INFORMATION SOCIETY: THE ART OF LES LEVINE

Les Levine with his All-Star Cast (A Place), 1967, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1967. © Les Levine/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

TWO MEN PEER THROUGH the glass panes of a revolving door, the lights of a nocturnal Manhattan street visible behind them. The man on the right, sporting a fedora and a blank expression, is instantly recognizable as Andy Warhol. The man on the left, looking through horn-rimmed glasses directly at the camera, is less familiar. But back in February 1969—when this photograph appeared in New York magazine, illustrating the article “Plastic Man Meets Plastic Man” by David Bourdon—many readers would have recognized Warhol’s bespectacled double as Les Levine.1 In fact, between 1967 and 1970, Levine was one of the most visible artists in New York. A soft-spoken provocateur and self-proclaimed “theoretic artist,” he issued press release after press release, occasionally sported a white vinyl suit, and produced work at a feverish clip.2 And like Warhol, he had no qualms about mass media, eventually going so far as to found his own short-lived gossip-centered tabloid, Culture Hero: A Fanzine of Stars of the Super World, 1969–71. He appeared in publications ranging from Time and Life to Der Spiegel, looking boyish and rather straitlaced (“one of an IBM multitude,” said Robert Pincus-Witten), usually posing with one of his more photogenic artworks.3 In Life, for example, he was pictured gazing thoughtfully through the translucent orange hull of a vacuum-formed acrylic pod—one of fifteen such structures, in various hues, that together composed the work Body Color, 1967.4

Some pundits circa ’69 felt it was only a matter of time before Levine would be on an equal footing with the progenitor of Pop art. Peter Schjeldahl dubbed Levine “the most entertaining and unsettling art maker hereabouts since middle-period Andy Warhol.”5 Even Warhol seemed to think Levine might inherit his mantle. In Bourdon’s New York article—which drolly recounts an exceedingly awkward meeting between the two artists—Warhol tells the author: “He’s gotten more creative than I have. Everything he does, it’s so big and simple, and it works. But nobody thinks he’s that good . . . uh . . . but then nobody thinks I’m that good. Maybe we should work together.”6

It’s so big and simple, and it works: Warhol’s compliment was certainly backhanded and would later be disclaimed by his dismissal of Levine’s achievement as “just nothing.”7 And the sentiment can hardly be contradicted, for many of Levine’s works were indeed based on deceptively straightforward ideas. “I think all art of importance can be summed up by simple thoughts,” he declared.8 But if Levine’s individual works were often immediate or direct, his oeuvre as a whole is dizzyingly complex, evincing a thoroughly eclectic, willfully multifarious approach to artmaking. From the beginning, he defied categorization: A long-unsung pioneer of work in and around video, television, information, ecology, architecture, and cybernetics, this “media sculptor,” as he called himself, failed (or refused) to be an outright Minimalist, Conceptualist, or post-Minimalist, though he moved in and out of these contexts both socially and artistically.

Given Levine’s varied activities, it is not surprising that the critic John Perreault likened him to “an artistic Think Tank consisting of one person with many interests and often contradictory outlooks.”9 But collaboration was not high on Levine’s list of interests. If anything, he paradoxically matched the versatile, intellectually ambitious, streamlined innovation of the think tank with the quixotic idiosyncrasy of the individual artist—troubling both categories in the process.

As it turned out, 1969 marked the height of Levine’s fame—and infamy. He did not, of course, go on to become anywhere near as well known or lauded as Warhol. He did have friends and supporters in the art world, among them Gordon Matta-Clark and Dennis Oppenheim, while writers such as Gregory Battcock, Bourdon, Jack Burnham, and Jill Johnston looked on his work favorably. But he also had many vociferous detractors who felt, in Perreault’s words, that he was “a threat to art as we now know it,” “a science-fiction artist out to destroy Western Culture.”10 Today, Levine himself is quick to concede that he was seen by the New York art world as an “upstart,” a “brat,” a “prank,” an “enfant terrible.” He recalls himself as “hated,” considered untrustworthy, though he makes these quite devastating observations without an iota of regret or self-pity, as if his outcast position were an integral and ultimately productive element of his self-perception as well as of his public persona.11

In any case, as space-age Pop optimism began to fade into the more austere and politicized attitudes of the ’70s art world, Levine’s notoriety began to fade too. Though works such as The Troubles, an Artist’s Document of Ulster, 1972, a documentary installation on the conflict in Northern Ireland, and We Are Not Afraid, 1982, which entailed the distribution of thousands of posters in the New York subway, were certainly innovative, they no longer attracted the critical and institutional attention his earlier production had received, nor did his many subsequent forays into public art via “media campaigns” involving billboards and the like. And whether because of his fraught reputation or the sheer heterogeneity of his work, Levine has not been integrated into histories of postwar and contemporary art. He has been notably excluded from the narratives that coalesced around a post-Greenbergian idea of critical modernism and that served to contextualize the hermetic seriality of Minimalist sculpture and the dematerializations of Conceptual information—each of which either extended or militated against modernist formalism.

Les Levine, Body Color, 1967, mold-blown Plexiglas, aluminum. Installation view, Loeb Student Center, New York University, 1969. © Les Levine/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

However, in the past few years, interest in Levine’s art—and especially in his work of the late ’60s—has been growing. Tellingly, he was recently included in the revisionist “Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Haus der Kunst, Munich. Major museums such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris have been acquiring his work. And an exhibition at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia University in New York is tentatively scheduled for 2014.

Any curator or writer who seeks to take stock of Levine’s oeuvre, even within a circumscribed time period, faces a formidable task. But there is a formulation that provides a frame for Levine’s works as they evolved throughout the 1960s. It was offered by Burnham, who in 1968 proposed that Levine was the “most consistent exponent” of what the critic famously called a “systems esthetic.”12 Through the lens of Burnham’s phrase, Levine’s wildly profuse and diverse activities acquire a powerful internal logic that links them to one another and underscores their significance to any historical understanding of the art of the past fifty years.

BORN IN DUBLIN IN 1935, Levine studied in London at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and emigrated to Canada in 1958, settling in Toronto. There, he worked as a designer at a jewelry company and began to exhibit works such as Silver Environment, 1961, an installation of canvas and fiberglass objects in the titular (and, later, Warholian) metallic shade. In the early ’60s, he moved to New York. He made a forceful appearance on the New York scene toward the end of 1966 with his first solo show at Fischbach Gallery. His “Plug Assists,” 1964, awkward-looking silvery relief sculptures vacuum-formed from Uvex plastic sheets, protruded in groupings of six from the gallery walls. In the middle of one of the rooms, in a continuation of the show’s aesthetics of bulging and protrusion, was Star Machine, 1965, a giant bubble of steel and clear acrylic. Max Kozloff “walked through this transparent uterine space obsessed by the uncanny feeling that its side walls were quite accessible, and yet being able to demonstrate that they were tantalizingly out of reach.”13 Here, the critic closely followed Levine’s own comments on Star Machine as a peculiar variation on Minimalism’s phenomenological project: “The idea [is] that you sense space and you feel it the way you feel cloth or any textural thing like space.”14

Levine would elaborate the Star Machine model in works such as All-Star Cast (A Place), 1967, shown at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and The Star Garden (A Place), 1967, which was installed in the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden. Such explorations of spatial perception and participatory environments found their most extravagant expression in Slipcover, 1966, an immersive, multisensorial installation filling the rooms of Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario and, later, those of the Architectural League of New York. The work comprised wind machines, closed-circuit TVs, and slide projections. These elements were enveloped in metallized, vinyl-covered Mylar sheets and intermingled with huge silvery pillows that inflated and deflated. Slipcover was an exemplar of what Levine termed “environmental art”—a “new art form” centered on participation and affecting the viewer-participant “through all his senses, even his skin.”15 Such all-encompassing atmospheres had been realized as totalizing mise-en-scènes in a number of diverse arrangements, from those of Allan Kaprow to Warhol’s own Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which happened the same year as Slipcover. Yet Slipcover echoed neither the makeshift settings of Happenings nor the dissonant, chaotic environs of the EPI. Instead, it took on the character of a pulsing, textural shell, one that imbricated the biomorphic with the televisual, the body faced with its own recursive surveillance and playback.

Another environmental work, The Clean Machine, 1968, was as controlled as Slipcover was expansive: It took the form of a long and winding passageway, its walls composed of some sixty identical white plastic units. In a review of the exhibition at Fischbach in which the work appeared, Perreault found himself wishing he could take off all his clothes and walk naked through the corridor-like space, “to get the full charge of its ambiguous tactility.”16 As the comment suggests, what fascinated Perreault and others about Levine was not only his provocative image, which could be exploited journalistically, but also his apparent shift toward a practice dedicated to creating cognitive, affective, and somatic (often sensual, even synesthetic) experiences for the viewer-participant. To enable the kind of perceptual breakthroughs he was after while minimizing “artistry,” he preferred the physical components of his works to be as inconspicuous as possible.

Photo from New York magazine, February 10, 1969. Les Levine and Andy Warhol. Photo: Ben Lifson.

The notion of disposability was crucial to this attitude—he thought of all of his plastic works, which were professionally fabricated and relatively inexpensive to make, as things that could be thrown away or destroyed. Levine’s predilection for plastic—the tendency that garnered him the nickname Plastic Man—can’t be separated from his concern with value and exchange, for he was interested both in the physical properties of this material and in its status as a throwaway, constantly upgraded commercial product, an avatar of mass production. This was especially evident with his “Disposables,” 1966, groupings of small, geometric molded-plastic reliefs, which he typically displayed in grids (as at both of his Fischbach shows and a 1967 exhibition at Toronto’s Isaacs Gallery) and which were sometimes sold in unlimited editions for about a dollar each. With these works, Levine aimed to undermine the logic of the art market via an entrepreneurial gesture that amounted to the “wholesaling” of product. In an essay published in Artscanada in 1968, he explicated the theoretical underpinnings of the reliefs, observing that disposable products like “paper dresses or Kleenex” are “industrial one cell organism[s], having no connection with craftsmanship.”17 In the context of art, the disposable object not only short-circuits market operations but also transfers agency to the viewer: “The disposable in fact does not become art until arranged by someone. Prior to that it is merely a component. Given enough components, the viewer can create a complete and total environment.”18 The discrete disposable object is environmental art writ small. As an extension of this logic, he refers to environmental art itself as “transient”—it isn’t meant to last.

But for Levine, the “greatest advantage of environmental art is that it can be free from the so-called visual . . . and related much more to something that is devoid of content per se, but is completely charged with experiential vitality.”19 Typically, he writes, the visual address of art, and especially of painting (whether abstract or representational), jars us out of real time and plunges us into a contemplative reverie. In the case of environmental art, however, there is no distinction between “life time” and “art time” and, by inference, no distinction between the hoi polloi and a class of educated art appreciators. Privileging “consciousness” and experience over “referential matter” and “knowledge,” the new art “of importance” would be dynamic and immersive.20 In form, it might tend toward the imperceptibly ambient, its presence as subtle as that of the artist’s clear bubbles, and it might be as disposable, and as accessible, as paper dresses or Kleenex. Reconfiguring the contexts in which art is traditionally perceived—indeed defying the notion of high culture as such—Levine pursued a mission of antiheroic egalitarianism, attacking art’s perceptual conditions, economic exclusions, and social hierarchies.

Increasingly, the vanishing point of this post-object-oriented, environmental, and largely antivisual practice became video and television. Levine resolutely affirmed the processual open-endedness of television, where “nothing finishes and nothing really begins either,” and applauded its effects on the subjects of the cybernetic revolution: “[Television] is the true micro-organism, a cross between technology and biology. . . . Communication and cerebral activity is the real architecture of our time.”21 McLuhanesque musings of this kind appear to have been harbingers of a new phase of production, commencing in September 1968, when, at a press conference held in his loft, Levine unveiled the groundbreaking closed-circuit video sculpture Iris. In many ways, Iris is a Warholian machine of technologically aided self-creation (though more directly a precursor of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider’s Wipe Cycle and Bruce Nauman’s Video Corridor for San Francisco [Come Piece], both 1969, or Dan Graham’s own work with closed-circuit video). It consists of a box with a reflective bronze-plastic exterior containing six TV monitors; each screen is covered with vacuum-formed bubbles of colored acrylic sheets. Three cameras record footage of viewers, who may then watch themselves on all six monitors, filmed from different angles and through different kinds of lenses, as the images skip from one screen to the next. Quoted in Vogue, Levine spoke of Iris as “an art creator,” rather than “existing as an art object”; the media sculpture is considered “a sort of soft-ware superstar” that is “possessed with an active energy and personality of its own.”22

Around 1968, the term system—which Burnham and artists such as Mel Bochner and Hans Haacke had imported from systems theory and cybernetics into the vocabulary of art criticism—took on great importance for Levine. The artist in turn served as an inspiration for Burnham, who held Levine up as the exemplar of “systems esthetics” in a seminal essay of that title published in Artforum in September 1968. In this text, Burnham takes issue with notions of disciplinarity, object-based art, the artist’s agency, and the traditional role of the spectator. In the postindustrial era, he asserts, art resides not in objects but in relations among people, information, and things, and “the most important artist best succeeds by liquidating his position as artist vis-à-vis society.”23 Burnham advocates an interdisciplinary “environmental sensibility on a larger than room scale,”24 quoting a 1968 statement by Haacke: “A ‘sculpture’ that physically reacts to its environment is no longer to be regarded as an object”; instead, it “merges with the environment in a relationship that is better understood as a ‘system’ of interdependent processes.”25

Les Levine, We Are Not Afraid, 1982, six thousand posters. Installation view, subway car, New York. © Les Levine/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Like Burnham and Haacke, Levine was convinced that any received notion of art’s ontology should be revised to accommodate an expanded notion of its capabilities and function. The artist, in Levine’s opinion, should get “right into the life style and in some way having something to do with the total technical ambience that exists around us.”26 From a systems-aesthetics perspective, the “places” he created in his own environmental work spur an expanded understanding of “environment,” ultimately exceeding the confines of physical place-making and perhaps even presaging the contemporary sociological notion of an absolute symmetry or dehierarchization between subjects and objects. Accordingly, Levine said that he wished to get involved with, for example, education or transportation, while considering himself
a creator of “totally open system[s].”27 Yet if both Burnham and Haacke established essentially oppositional relationships to “the system,” for Levine it was never so neat. His use of the term life style to describe the ideal nature of such involvement is telling: He acknowledges the flexibility, the desires, the surfaces that constitute the “total technical ambience” that envelops us, the confluence of systems that are shifting, malleable, fundamentally multiple—hence, perhaps, the diversity of his works. It was only via such fluidity that art might actually engage the new environment. Maybe this accounts for his wry humor as well—the sense that for him artistic production was not about technological utopia, or determinism, or fatalism, but about dealing with a given situation, one riven with contingency and absurdity.

As he pursued the implications of an art of “open systems,” Levine became increasingly ambivalent toward the very nomenclature that had helped define his practice—the term environment itself. This ambivalence would come to a head when, working as a freelance writer for the Aspen Times, he reported on the legendary 1970 International Design Conference in Aspen, which was disrupted by the protests of students and environmental activists. In this charged atmosphere, Levine concluded that environment, used excessively by politicians, urban planners, and designers toward the end of the ’60s, had turned into a “word of avoidance.” Considering the war in Vietnam and global economic inequality, he asserted that the term had become “the surrogate sub-conscious for war” and “guilt”—i.e., the word now signified nothing more than hollow progressivist phraseology.28

ALWAYS DECISIVE and unsentimental when moving on to the next paradigm, Levine abandoned the particular and limited systematicity of environmental art and began producing works that engaged more directly with technological and social apparatuses. After holding his first “television” show, “The Big Eye,” at the Architectural League (playing documentary videos such as Clothing and the Law, 1967, a one-hour videotape of a conversation between Johnston and James Lee Byars, while the audience’s reactions were shown on a separate monitor), he produced Contact: A Cybernetic Sculpture, 1969, which featured a grid of video monitors covered with colored acrylic gels, each displaying a closed-circuit feed of the gallery and the viewer. If Iris had been conceived as a subject in its own right—a “superstar”—Contact was “a system,” Levine stated, “that synthesizes man with his technology,” in which “the people are the ‘software.’”29

Around the same time he presented “The Big Eye,” Levine issued a press release announcing the opening on St. Patrick’s Day 1969 of the Irish-Canadian-Jewish eatery Levine’s Restaurant.30 Initiated by Mickey Ruskin, proprietor of Max’s Kansas City, and designed by John Brockman, the restaurant could nonetheless be considered another instance of systems aesthetics from Levine’s artistic menu, this time using his name and biography as the conceptual backdrop to a “relaxing, pleasant environment”—albeit one where closed-circuit television had been installed to monitor each table. The place, contemporary with Allen Ruppersberg’s similarly conceptual Al’s Café in Los Angeles, was a total failure and closed after only a few months. Looking on the bright side, Burnham, ever a champion of the artist’s endeavors, found the work successful in terms of its further radicalization of the concept of the environment and in its direct engagement with the art world. He hailed Levine’s “ability to reify art as social context, that is, to create art out of whatever concerns art.”31

Levine continued to “create art out of whatever concerns art” with his remarkable Systems Burn-Off X Residual Software, 1969, first presented at the Phyllis Kind Gallery in Chicago and later shown in Burnham’s ill-fated if renowned 1970 show at the Jewish Museum in New York, “Software: Information Technology: Its New Meaning for Art.” In winter 1969, while traveling to the opening of Willoughby Sharp’s “Earth Art” exhibition at the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York, Levine took numerous photographs of the artists, critics, dealers, and curators in his company. He subsequently printed thirty-one thousand copies of a selection of these photos—thirty-one of them, a thousand copies each—gluing some to the wall with chewing gum and throwing others on the floor, where he mixed them with Jell-O. The art system is here conceived as entirely mediatized. Desublimating the “Earth Art” opening, he transforms the event into information inseparable from the critical and social infrastructure that surrounds it, just as his press releases and indeed his entire persona were inseparable from his artworks. Paint, 1969, at the Molly Barnes Gallery in Los Angeles, was another such second-order observation. Levine had assistants pour thirty gallons of paint into a trough on the gallery floor; this process was photographed by cameras set to function automatically, and the images of the action were displayed while the trough remained. “The experience of seeing something first hand is no longer a value in a software controlled society,” Levine stated, casting aside any notion of the authentic aesthetic experience and embracing the simulacrum.32 Here both entropy and order were held at a remove. The real-time index of the action was not the point; something like a social network, an aggregation of information and connections and experiences, was.

Les Levine, The Star Garden (A Place), 1967, mold-blown Plexiglas, aluminum. Installation view, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Dan Budnik/Woodfin Camp & Associates. © Les Levine/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The wry brand of critique evident in works such as Systems Burn-Off and White Sight, 1969—which entailed nothing more than the installation of extremely unflattering sodium lighting at a museum or gallery opening—grew all the sharper with Levine’s 1970 launch of the Museum of Mott Art Inc., a still extant “consultation service organization” named for the street on which he lived at the time. Tracing its origins to a precursor project called NIL (Negotiable Intelligence Logistics), “an art-world version of the RAND Corporation,”33 and targeting “the fine arts professions and their associates,” the museum offers services such as an “art viewing escort” and “wire tapping,” plus advice on “how to marry an artist” and other topics, all presented in a catalogue with a price list.34

However acerbic such works might seem, they demonstrated that Levine’s hopes and expectations rested on the “residual software” of the social itself. “Once we know that the purpose [of art] is to influence the social software we can do away with art and start influencing the social software directly,” he wrote. At that point, “the artist will probably dissolve, cease to exist in our society as a separate heroic figure.”35 The artist’s lack of distinctness—his or her antiheroic imbrication in the systems that embroil all of us—was brought to the fore with his second contribution to the “Software” exhibition, A.I.R., 1968–70, eighteen television sets arranged at eye level on concrete pedestals, all connected to his studio by microwave transmission. Like Wire Tap, 1970, an installation consisting of twelve speakers and six tape recorders playing calls to the artist’s studio, A.I.R. suggested that technological monitoring and control had infiltrated the intimate precincts of artmaking, for better or worse. Rather than rejecting this state of affairs as dystopian, Levine embraced it. Putting himself under constant surveillance, he hinted that, in a mediatized environment, the creative process cannot be separated from self-exposure—a thesis he put into practice via his own relentless courting of publicity.36 Placing himself and his art on display, Levine made his professional existence available as an object.

Subsequently, he abandoned the mythology of the individual artist—a mythology that, far from being dispelled, was in some ways heightened and reinvented with the rise of Warholian celebrity culture. Of course, Levine had always written his own software for the program of the famous artist—as the polarizing, ubiquitous Plastic Man, he had turned himself into a living glitch in the system—but now, as if he were trying to escape that persona along with any trace of a signature style, his one-man shows became increasingly heterogeneous, eventually coming to resemble group exhibitions. Thus “Body Control System and John and Mimi’s Book of Love,” a 1970 exhibition at the Isaacs Gallery, assembled a typically incongruent range of works. There was a video of a couple making love and talking about it (John and Mimi’s Book of Love, 1969); a group of mechanical shredders busily digesting documents (Fecaloids, 1970); a series of drawings for proposed disposable plastic monuments (Monuments, 1970); a wooden chamber with three air conditioners embedded in the walls, so as to engender “thermoshock” in the visitor entering the space (Thermotaxis, 1970); and, hanging from the ceiling, four bottles filled with different kinds of liquid and equipped with compressors to dispel vapor (Nebulizers, 1970).

Yet out of this determined inconsistency, an underlying consistency emerges: an art premised on relationships among people and the elements of their environment. At the core of this enterprise is Levine’s search for a way to address the artist’s ultimate liquidation within the “total technical ambience” of post-industrial societies—a quest that necessarily holds up a mirror to the more general conditions of subjectivity today. He has continued to work to progressively enlarge the cognitive and affective possibilities of those subjects participating in art as producers, viewers, dealers, curators, and critics. Art, he says, has always been a way of “model-making” to him. And in many ways, he has acted as a model himself, offering his practice and persona to the world as epistemic and perceptual devices. For Levine, the artist becomes something like a heuristic, a tool that we may only understand how to use in the future.

Tom Holert is an art historian and critic based in Berlin.

Les Levine, A.I.R., 1968–70, TV monitors, concrete blocks, microwave transmitter. Installation view, Jewish Museum, New York, 1970. Roy Chapin and Jack Burnham. Photo: Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

NOTES

1. David Bourdon, “Plastic Man Meets Plastic Man,” New York, February 10, 1969, 44–46.

2. Quoted in Marjerie Meyer, “Profile: Les Levine,” Aspen News, July 27, 1967.

3. Robert Pincus-Witten, “New York,” Artforum, May 1968, 59.

4. See David Bourdon, “The Plastic Arts’ Biggest Bubble,” Life, August 22, 1969, 62–67.

5. Peter Schjeldahl, “New York Letter,” Art International, April 20, 1969, 62.

6. Bourdon, “Plastic Man Meets Plastic Man,” 46.

7. Quoted in Bourdon, “The Plastic Arts’ Biggest Bubble,” 65.

8. Les Levine, “The Disposable Transient Environment,” Artscanada, April 1968, 29.

9. John Perreault, “Plastic Man Strikes,” Art News, March 1968, 37.

10. Ibid., 36.

11. Les Levine, interview with the author, Munich, October 9, 2012.

12. Jack Burnham, “Systems Esthetics,” Artforum, September 1968, 34.

13. Max Kozloff, “New York,” Artforum, January 1967, 56.

14. Quoted in Elayne Varian, “Schemata 7,” in Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock (1968; repr. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 368.

15. John Perreault, “Stars,” Village Voice, May 4, 1967, 14.

16. John Perreault, “Plastic Ambiguities,” Village Voice, March 7, 1968, 19.

17. Levine, “The Disposable Transient Environment,” 30.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., 29.

20. Ibid.

21. Les Levine, “For Immediate Release,” Art and Artists, May 1969, 48.

22. Quoted in John Gruen, “The Underground: Iris, ‘Dynamic Change,’” Vogue, November 1, 1968, 130.

23. Burnham, “Systems Esthetics,” 31.

24. Ibid., 34.

25. Hans Haacke, artist’s statement, in Hans Haacke, exh. cat. (New York: Howard Wise Gallery, 1968); quoted in Burnham, “Systems Esthetics,” Artforum, 35.

26. Quoted in Thelma R. Newman, “The Artist Speaks: Les Levine,” Art in America, November/December 1969, 93.

27. Ibid.

28. Les Levine, “Comments on the IDCA,” Aspen Times, June 25, 1970.

29. Quoted in John S. Margolies, “TV—the Next Medium,” Art in America, September/October 1969, 49. The same year, Levine produced the wholly immaterial Profit Systems One. He bought five hundred shares of Cassette Cartridge Corporation on March 27, 1969, for $4.75 per share, and sold them one year later. The (considerable) profit from the transaction was the work. The press release stated that the artist was concerned with “dealing with a ‘real’ societal system,” while the work was “about process.”

30. See Les Levine, “Levine’s Restaurant” (press release, 1969).

31. Jack Burnham, “Les Levine: Business as Usual,” Artforum, April 1970, 41.

32. Les Levine, “New from Les Levine: ‘Paint’ and ‘Signature Print Outs’ at the Molly Barnes Gallery” (press release, October 1969).

33. See Newman, “The Artist Speaks: Les Levine,” 92.

34. Levine took a different but equally pointed tack with Red Tape: To Engage the University in a Useless Task Which Will Allow It to Expose a Working Model of Its System, 1970. When he was invited to participate in a group sculpture show at the University of Toronto in the summer of 1970, he proposed a work that would consist of an assortment of randomly selected building materials suspended from a nylon cord in the quadrangle of the student center. This “architecture without function or design” or “software architecture,” as he called it, and documentation of the university administration’s resistance to the idea, constituted the work. Chronicled soon thereafter in an issue of Design Quarterly that focused on “Conceptual Architecture,” the piece testifies to Levine’s maverick sense of nonpartisan quasi politics. See Les Levine, “Red Tape,” Design Quarterly, no. 78/79 (1970): 37–41.

35. Les Levine, “The Information Fall-Out,” Studio International, June 1971, 267.

36. Moreover, Levine stressed “the non-physical aspects of art activities” and the “mental process or software involved with art production.” See Les Levine, “Wire Tap: News from Les Levine” (press release, 1970).