At the end of each quarter, Zachary Cahill’s Art Theory and Practice students are tasked with producing a short-run publication, compiling and curating their past few months’ work into a record of where the course has taken them, and a souvenir of their shared intellectual labor.
This year, instead of producing a few hundred copies of something, the Department of Visual Arts class elected to create a single, lovingly fussed-over object entitled V2.1K, which will be on display at a release party at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, in the Great Hall of the Logan Center for the Arts, before being displayed in venues around the world.
“Support from the Department of Visual Arts and the UChicago Arts Grant is a big part of what’s allowing the traveling exhibition component to happen,” said Cahill, a lecturer and Open Practice Committee coordinator. But Cahill is quick to add that, though the scale of the project owes much to the institutional generosity of the University, the DoVA students decided upon that scale. “[The students] worked incredibly hard to produce this thing. The scope and ambition of the project was their call.”
And why a single object? “At [UChicago], there’s sort of a glut of just stuff that people have done,” V2.1K contributor Ethan Tate said, and his classmate Gene Lee nodded in agreement: “The noise of fliers and paper.” Tate, Lee and the rest of the undergraduate students behind V2.1K found themselves unable to escape the nagging feeling that a run of 500 frugally produced magazines, regardless of their content or design, would be inexorably, disconcertingly disposable.
Such a zine, in Tate’s words, would be scattered to the breeze. “The wind would just blow them everywhere, and people would forget about them in a week. So we were trying to think of a way to combat that.”
Part of the class’ solution was to embrace materials and aesthetics antithetical to those of the now-familiar photocopied, punk-inflected zine. V2.1K announces itself as an art-object and its presence as an event for reasons well beyond its luxuriant ink-and-paper selections—from the Duchampian pseudo-epigraphs that Grete Gruebelich has scattered throughout the text to the sculptural exoskeleton that UChicago Arts’ Hannah Givler has designed for the world’s only copy of V2.1K.
“We wanted to sort of buck what our generation has wrought,” Tate said, by creating a stubbornly singular object that could be lost neither “in the ether of blogs,” nor “in the foyer of the arts building.” Lee added: “The book itself, being a physical object and not being on Tumblr, is also countercultural, because everything today is produced with a need for accessibility [in mind]. What we’ve created is something that has to be walked to, has to be seen in person, in a specific space.”
And indeed, Lee continued, sheathing any object in the aura of the original solves the disposability problem “regardless also of how much you spend on the object. You could release 200 of a magazine that costs 25 cents to make, or you could release one magazine that costs 25 cents to make, and those would be very different things. You would pick up the one object and you would know that it’s the only one of its kind on Earth.”
V2.1K will appear this summer at the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, and then in September at the E-flux Reading Room and Library in New York City. Stints will follow at the Granoff Center at Brown University, and at the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London, as well as at San Francisco State University and in Beijing.
But before that journey—and again at the end of it— V2.1K will debut on the UChicago campus, for the academic community that made its production possible.
“There’s only one magazine, and right now it’s here with you,” V2.1K ’s introduction implores the reader. “Explore it while you have the chance.”