Douglas Huebler

[also known as the ‘Xerox Book’]
Siegelaub/Wendler, 1968
Republished in 2015 by
Roma Publications
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
De Appel arts centre
Stichting Egress Foundation
ROMA 260
ISBN 9789491843525
372 p
211 x 279 mm
EUR 29,50

FLTR: Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner

Participants of January 5–31, 1969, Seth Siegelaub Gallery. Photo: Seth Siegelaub, 1969.

Variable Piece #70 : 1971 (In Process) Global 1975

Douglas Huebler

“Throughout the remainder of the artist’s lifetime he will photographically document, to the extent of his // capacity, the existence of everyone alive in order to produce the most authentic and inclusive representation of the human species that may be assembled in this manner.”

Early example of completism- and of the single-subject blog-
desire to ‘capture’ an impossible data set, a method of aggregation which  predicts a statistical conception of the individual in relation to the collective


Current Residence

Brooklyn, NY

What is your favorite art book?

Store days: documents from The store, 1961, and Ray Gun Theater, 1962, by Claus Oldenburg

What are you currently reading?

Protocol by Alexander R. Galloway

What is your favorite art book title?

Just Another Asshole

What is the first book you read that was influential to you?

The Living Underground: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (edited by Hugh Fox)

I came across this book by accident when I was twenty, but it gave me a whole new perspective on bookmaking and in particular the midwestern working class poetry/bookmaking movement of the 1960s. It inspired me to become a publisher and a writer/artist at the same time. Nothing was the same after that discovery: I made my first artist book shortly thereafter and I started publishing poetry just a few years later.

What books, magazines, or art ephemera do you keep in the space where you work?

My workspace doubles as a studio and a small library, which can accommodate only a year’s worth of book collecting at any given time (the overflow goes into storage). However, there are some staples that stay in the studio at all times for inspiration … this stash includes: “Hollywood Babylon 2,” “Poems” by Aram Saroyan, anything by Charles Willeford or Richard Stark, loose issues of The National Enquirer, David W. Mauerer’s “Language of the Underworld”, “Everybody’s Pixillated” by Russel Arundel, “Original Xerographies” by Bruno Munari, a few photocopied articles by Edit DeAk from Art-Rite and Cover Magazine, the “Oulipo Compendium,” “Geisha This” by Destroy All Monsters and “Smoke” by Lutz Bacher.

If you could only live with one art book what would it be?

Flux Year Box 2

This gem of a book could definitely keep me occupied for a lifetime given the multiple and open-ended readings / experience its provides.

What is your favorite item in the MoMA Library Collection? Why?

Secrets: Variable Piece 4 by Douglas Huebler (Printed Matter, 1973).

I consider this often-overlooked publication a quintessential artist book. Simply put it is a collection (or as I like to think of it, an archive) of individuals’ secrets, which the artist culled throughout the Software Exhibition (1970, Jewish Museum) by asking audience members to write down personal secrets and drop them into a box. Visitors participating in the work also received a photocopy of a previously submitted admission.

American proponents and pioneers of the artist book form, folks like Lucy Leopard and Dick Higgins, believed that the artist book as a medium had the potential to be bestsellers and sit among romance novels on books racks at the checkout line in grocery stores. This dream has never been truly realized, but speaks to the ambitious vision that many from the 1960s had for art books to truly become accessible to all, thus democratizing contemporary art.

While many publishers and artists went on to produce publications that looked and felt like your average pedestrian paperback or hardcover, few were able to capture the content appeal contained within the bestseller. However, Humbler’s “Secrets” breaks through this boundary without sacrificing his overall project, which is to say, that he gives us what every beach reader wants (short concise stories that reveal seemingly spontaneous tawdry, banal or illegal admissions) under the umbrella of a rigorous conceptual framework.

Formally more Novalis than Christie, Huebler has given us the answer key up front and in real life. We don’t need to read the dailies, the gossip rags, or the true-crime books to find out that one participant “took $5,000 in black market money in Europe,” or that another makes his/her money “by acting in porno films.” Each fragment cuts to the chase without the burden of an extended form. Thousands of secrets (many of which double as wishful thinking or social commentary) are here in aggregate, creating a work that is both titillating and formulaic, or rather, entertaining and conceptual.


Duration Piece #11, Bradford, Massachusetts, 1969
Douglas Huebler (American, 1924–1997)
Gelatin silver prints

the artist shot a single photograph in the direction of a birdcall, then walked toward the source of the sound until he heard another, at which point he turned and made a picture facing the new birdcall, until twelve photographs had been created. With disarming simplicity, Huebler slyly redrew the parameters of the work of art, effacing both the subjective experience of the artist and the reified status of the art object in favor of an elegantly conceived and simply communicated idea which exists fully only in the viewer’s mind—a participatory aesthetic that is quintessentially of the late 1960s.