In November 2020 Jonathan and Yoshi Hill described a copy of Dan Flavin: Pink and 'Gold' / Dec. 9th thru Jan. 14th 1968
in their Catalogue 234: Art Books, Artist' Books, Book Arts and Book Works
(New York City 2021) item No. 33. This exhibition catalogue was a print-out from punched cards on eight sheets of continuous feed green bar computer paper with perforated margins from a rented IBM 1401 computer
at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
during an exhibition by the American minimalist artist Dan Flavin
Mary Richardson, Director of Library and Museum Services at the Museum of Contemporary Art, provided these details in an email she sent to me on April 6, 2022:
"Visitors paid $1 to purchase the catalogue. In exchange for their dollar, they received punch cards which they fed into the machine. The machine read the cards and printed the catalogue. Visitors were given a pre-printed envelope for the catalogue.
"Flavin requested that cards be available for visitors to share their feedback and then have those comments programmed into the computer and added to the catalogue throughout the exhibition. Comments from visitors were collected, but they were not added to the catalogue. The exhibition was a bit controversial – some visitors didn’t care for/weren’t prepared for Flavin’s minimalism. The comments skewed negative, and Flavin declined to have any comments added.
"Both the idea of adding the comments and Flavin’s original card catalogue concept reflected Flavin’s interest in getting the visitor to participate in some way and his interest in interchangeable parts. Despite Flavin’s interest in interchangeability, he was not always thrilled with the outcome of the catalogue. Sometimes the punch cards would be fed into the machine incorrectly resulting in the catalogue printing out of order; there were mis-punches on the cards leading to spelling errors; the machines would jam; etc. He did not care for these variations."
This exhibition catalogue was undoubtedly the first art museum exhibition catalogue ever printed out on demand by computer, and it is very possible that it was also the first "print on demand book" of any kind. It is also a peculiar landmark in the history of printing and computing, as it may be one of the first documented "books" that exists solely as a computer print out rather than the more typical form of book produced during this decade of a computer print out pasted up and printed by offset.
The Hills described their copy as follows:
"The catalogue contains Acknowledgments and a Foreword from the museum’s director, Jan van der Marck (1929-2010); an introduction — consisting of quotes from Flavin, Donald Judd, and Roland Barthes — compiled by Dan Graham; statement by Flavin, dated 6 December 1967; a primitive Wall Plan recreating the layout of the exhibition; Biography of Flavin; and finally a selected Bibliography by the Artist.
"From the MCA’s website: “Holding interesting parallels to the usage of commercial iBM technology by members of the Fluxus movement like George Maciunas, the application of the computer in Pink and ‘Gold’ functioned in line with Flavin’s other conceptual aspirations. As a piece of standardized commercial technology often used in banal, corporate settings (like florescent light tubes) the catalogues produced by the machine were meant to be equally interchangeable, commodified, and serially produced. one reason Flavin may have never ventured to use similar technology in his work again is the fact that he was so disappointed with the production quality of the catalogues themselves. unlike the pristine, identical appearances of his light installations, the catalogues were often irregular in appearance—containing unique attributes like different orientations, paper types, spacing errors and missing words.”
"A nice and textually complete copy with a fine association. two-inch tear to the final blank leaf and some soiling to the envelope."
Thanks to David Nathan-Maister for calling this to my attention in November 2020.