Friday, July 08, 2011


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The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York recently staged a small exhibition entitled ‘Access to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog (1968-1974)’.

Curated by David Senior, this bibliographic tribute to the ‘Whole Earth’ phenomenon – the publication itself, the works by McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller. Norbert Weiner which whole earth2938 influenced the thinking behind it, other notable publications of the time which championed radical thinking in Structures, Communications and other fields, and various spin-off publications that picked up where the Catalog left off.

Fortunately the exhibition is available to view in an on-line form here.

Front and Back cover of ‘The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog’, with an excellent Robert Crumb original [THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE]

The Generalist is hoping to correspond with the curator as there are factual errors in the piece to do with Friends  magazine.

Copy reads: ‘This Rolling Stone–like rock magazine issued four pages of content biweekly that editors described as the “British Whole Earth Catalogue.” Products listed were sourced from manufacturers and booksellers in the United Kingdom. Readers were instructed to cut these pages from each issue of Friends to compile the whole publication.’

Friends  began life as a British Rolling Stone, with swish offices in London’s West End. After a falling-out, the magazine was set-up under the company name T.F. Much and the magazine was re-launched as Friends, based in offices at 305 Portobello Road

whole earth4940 Issuse 1 was published 22nd Nov 1969. It had two pages on the Whole Earth Catalog. These were written by Colin Moorcraft. A further two pages on the same topic appeared in Issue 2. Subsequently it evolved into a 4pp pull-out or cut out supplement. [Friends was published approx. monthly, not fortnightly)

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[Left: first pull-out supplement I can find. Frendz Issue 6.]

Colin was a lovely, far sighted man, who pioneered the British Whole Earth Catalog. His name and work should be more widely known. Colin took me to see Buckminster Fuller give a talk at the US Embassy in London – an unforgettable experience.

Friends later became Frendz (run by a new company, Echidna Epics), which petered out in 1972. During the last two issues, myself, Mike Marten, Jon Trux and others, revived the concept of the British Whole Earth Catalogue, producing two 4-page supplements.

When Frendz folded, we joined together to form a company to produce such a Catalogue in book form. This project transmuted into An Index of Possibilities.






Thanks to Mike Marten for sending me an article about this exhibition entitled Holistic Browsing’ by D. Graham Burnett [Nature/Vol 474/30 June 2011]

Burnett reports that Steve Jobs ‘suggested in 2005 that this counter-cultural handbook should be properly understood as a forerunner of Google.’

Burnett concludes: ‘Perhaps the Whole Earth Catalog really was the forerunner of the internet and its tools in that it represented a transmutation of a whole cosmos of radical ideas, crazy stuff and possible lives, all returned to us as little more than an alluring opportunity to sit down and browse. We’ve been browsing ever since.’

SEE ALSO: ‘Sea Change’ by Michael Marten, an essay with images about his interesting photographic project, featured on the excellent Camera Obscura site, a blog/magazine dedicated to photography and contemporary art

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