Scope and Content of Collection
Title: David Antin papers
Date (inclusive): 1954-2006
44.0 linear feet
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
The papers of performance artist, experimental poet, curator, and critic David Antin include extensive correspondence, forty
years of diaries, published and unpublished manuscripts, working notes, teaching files, and over 300 audiotapes and videos
of lectures and performances. In particular, the archive documents Antin's "talk pieces" which were his unique means of fusing
spoken poetry with academic lectures.
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Language: Collection material is in
Equal parts poet, critic, philosopher, and performance artist, David Antin (b. 1932) does not fit easily within any standard
category of artistic or academic production. Originally trained in languages, mathematics, and science, the first ten years
of Antin's career (1955-1964) were spent as a translator of both scientific texts and fiction. By the late 1950s, Antin had
begun to experiment with writing fiction and poetry, with his first published work appearing in
Kenyon Review in 1959. By the early 1960s, Antin had developed significantly both as a poet and as an art critic, and his 1965 articles
about Andy Warhol and Robert Morris could be said to be among the first truly analytical writings about either artist.
By the later 1960s, Antin was becoming a key figure in New York art and literary circles. His dynamic and charismatic speaking
style became a basis for spoken-word performances that fused elements of Fluxus and Cagean aesthetics with vanguard trends
in fiction and poetry - a practice that shared many sympathies with artists such as Jackson Mac Low and the earliest works
of Vito Acconci. Following a brief period as curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Antin took a teaching
position at the University of California, San Diego in 1968, where he continued teaching for the rest of his career. Early
on in San Diego, Antin was curator, and then director, of UCSD's Mandeville Art Gallery, where he organized exhibitions by
Joan Jonas, Richard Serra, Nancy Spero, Keith Sonnier, and a large group show of Fluxus artists. Antin also helped to inaugurate
the UCSD library's Special Collections Poetry Archive, which today has grown to be one of the most significant such collections
in the country. Antin eventually became chairman of UCSD's Department of Visual Studies. Among the many innovations of this
department, and primarily at Antin's urging, UCSD's was the first art department in the country to begin a program in video
art (1971), and the first to begin a program in computer and new media art (1974).
As an art historian, critic, and theorist, Antin's contributions have been significant, but by no means systematic. Just as
likely to write about Alex Katz as about new directions in computer art, Antin covers an extremely broad area in his writings,
including pieces about Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Martha Graham, Piet Mondrian, Robert Morris, Yvonne Rainer, Mark Rothko,
and Andy Warhol, as well as important pieces about video art, performance, technology, and general notions of the avant-garde
and post-modernism. Antin has written presciently about the art market throughout his career, and his writings contain one
of the most sustained arguments for the role of narrative in the visual arts. Antin has also continued to be an extremely
prolific and esteemed writer of fiction and poetry up to the present day.
Antin's unique contribution to all of his fields of interest has been the development of the "talk piece," a sort of spoken-word
academia that fuses poetry, performance art, and criticism into a single, persuasive form of discourse. When listened to,
the talk piece would seem to be performance art; transcribed in Antin's unique grammatical style, it reads as poetry; and
when analyzed for its intellectual content, the talk piece exists solidly as art or literary criticism. Since developing the
talk piece in 1970, Antin has continued using it as his primary means of public discourse, both as live performance and as
written (transcribed) material. Looking at Antin's career as a whole, it is certainly this form of discourse that ties his
practice together, and which reveals the main focus of his life's project to be an extended interrogation of how and why we
make meaning in any form, visual, verbal, or otherwise.
Open for use by qualified researchers, with the exception of unreformatted audio tapes, video tapes and computer files.
David Antin Papers, 1954-2006, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2008.M.56.
Acquired from David Antin in 2008.
The David Antin papers were initially processed by Emmabeth Nanol in 2008. In 2009 with grant funding from the Council on
Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Clare Denk further processed the collection and made a complete inventory under
the supervision of Ann Harrison, while Annette Leddy helped devise the arrangement and wrote the descriptive notes. In 2012,
Annette Leddy processed and cataloged ADD 1, two boxes of audio cassettes, and integrated them into the collection as Boxes
102 and 103.
The processing of the collection is preliminary. Certain materials in the collection should be monitored periodically by Conservation.
Boxes 9 and 11 include diaries needing mold intervention and Box 76 includes water damaged photographs. Boxes 73 and 75 include
materials on faded thermofax paper.
Digitized Audio and Video Recordings
Four publications were separated to the library.
Scope and Content of Collection
The David Antin papers include diaries, extensive correspondence, published and unpublished manuscripts, working notes, and
over 300 audiotapes and videos of lectures and performances. Privileging spontaneity and informality, Antin's work had a strong
influence on performance-based artists in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, the archive documents Antin's "talk pieces"
which were his unique means of fusing spoken poetry with academic lectures.
The diaries and notebooks of Series I disclose Antin's recorded daily thoughts over the past 48 years, including notes on
what he is reading, drafts of writings, notes from meetings and phone conversations, as well as mundane material (addresses,
driving directions, etc.). The notebooks progress semi-chronologically, although in no easy order, since Antin would purposefully
abandon a half-finished notebook and return to it years later in order to make sure he was following up on earlier lines of
thought. The notebooks also contain extensive sections chronicling Antin's and his wife, Eleanor Antin's, dreams intermittently,
though persistently throughout their lives.
Antin has a well-deserved reputation as an epistolary master, and the correspondence in Series II is dense and rich. Found
within this archive are many long and theoretical exchanges of letters that go on for years. Simple invitations to give a
lecture would receive several page answers from Antin, and would receive similar responses in return. Antin would send out
passionate and unsolicited critical responses to recent work by artists and poets, thus initiating long series of letters,
many of which would culminate in heated, if not downright nasty, exchanges. Through the correspondence, one finds Antin giving
extraordinary and honest readings of the motivations behind his own work, while eliciting the same from his correspondents,
all of which results in a snapshot of Antin's artistic circle throughout his career.
The audio recordings of Antin's talk pieces in Series III document the true core of his career since 1970. Since every talk
piece is "site specific" in that it is an act of extemporaneous speaking in response to a particular environment, the talk
pieces provide a picture of Antin's thinking in a form that exists somewhere between notes and finished writing, an area of
thought that has rarely been documented by other figures. Given that only a fraction of Antin's talk pieces have ever been
published, these recordings, along with their written transcripts, are a particularly valuable portion of the archive. The
series also includes documentation of visual works such as "Skypoem," as well as manuscripts of writings on art, literature,
and an otherwise unpredictable range of topics.
Series IV and V contain materials related to the creation and reception of Antin's work. Research materials, such as notes,
clippings, and photocopies, form Series IV. Also included here are examples of work sent to Antin by his colleagues - writers,
artists and critics. Series V comprises reviews and analyses of Antin's work.
The final section of the archive, Series VI, draws together miscellaneous papers from David Antin's professional life, including
materials relating to his position at UCSD, financial records, conference materials, computer files, and printed ephemera
for a variety of exhibitions and readings.
Arranged in six series:
Series I. Notebooks and diaries, 1959-2006, undated;
Series II. Correspondence, 1959-2004, undated;
Series III. Talk pieces and written works, 1963-2006, undated;
Series IV. Research materials, 1961-2004, undated;
Series V. Works about Antin, 1966-2003, undated;
Series VI. Miscellaneous professional papers, 1954-2002, undated.
Subjects - Topics
Art criticism -- United States -- 20th century
Literary criticism -- United States -- 20th century
Performance Art--United States--20th century
Poetry, Modern--20th century
Genres and Forms of Material
Diaries--United States--20th century
Diaries--United States--21st century
Sound recordings--United States--20th century
Sound recordings--United States--21st century
Video recordings--United States--20th century
Mac Low, Jackson
Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931-