By Vito Acconci: “Bernadette and I needed an outlet for what we did; at the same time we wanted a context for what we did (I’m not sure which came first). On the one hand, the magazines by and with New York School poetry weren’t publishing us. On the other hand, we didn’t want to be in those magazines, we didn’t want to be two more New York School poets (again, I’m not sure which came first.) One thing we were sure of: we needed a first issue--we needed pages, stuff, mass, that a first issue could be made of.”
By Bernadette Mayer: “We based the name of the magazine after Jasper John’s 0 Through 9. The publishing of 0 to 9 also bypassed the saga of trying to get work, including one’s first book, published by an established press. We found a mimeograph machine in my boyfriend Ed Bower’s father’s office in New Jersey. We had to buy paper, stencils and ink from the A.B. Dick company. For each issue we drove there with the typed stencils when the office closed at 5. p.m., and by the time they reopened at 8 a.m., we would have an issue of 0 to 9 run off and collated.” 
Selected Subject Headings
- American poetry - 20th century
- Artists’ writings
- Choreography - instructions
- Conceptual art - works
- Concrete poetry
- Eskimos - folklore
- Fluxus (group of artists)
- Folk songs, Andamanese
- Gruppo 63 (literary group)
- Hippies - United States
- Literature, Experimental - United States
- Love poetry, English
- Murzu (African people) - folklore
- New York (N.Y.) - intellectual life - 1960s
- Romanticism - Germany
- Seneca - Indians - poetry
It is by reading Bernadette Mayer and Vito Acconci’s candid retrospective account of how 0 to 9 came into being that one can begin to fathom one of the reasons for the quasi-mythical status this almost marginal periodical currently enjoys. It is their blatant DIY attitude--We can’t get in, We don’t want to be in, We create our own space--that has endeared this product of the “mimeograph revolution” to generations of artists and writers. Audiences, it appears, were minimal then, but alas, a precise and timely facsimile edition by Ugly Duckling Presse spearheaded by Ryan Haley and James Hoff in 2006, made accessible the documents to a renewed readership.
A thorough secondary literature already exists on this “little magazine;” for the most part, in relation to Vito Acconci’s role in it, and how this publishing adventure eased, according to standard art history accounts, his shift from being a writer to being an artist working with language, from experimenting with the space of the page to that of the ‘real world’ with his performances and ulterior engagement with architecture; despite Acconci’s editorial role, published words in the magazine and pervasive presence in surrounding bibliography, we are inclined to believe that not only Acconci’s protean oeuvre makes this publishing venture worthy of our attention.
Ultimately, it is the polyhedral eclecticism that fuels 0 to 9 we find compelling. Not that this was an extraordinary occurrence, but rather, it appears to be, from our hindsight, a zeitgeist. Extensions, another contemporaneous poetry magazine indexed in ccindex, also combined poetry and the work from some of the same New York artists included in 0 to 9, even Acconci; what is specific to 0 to 9 though is that the above combinations are layered with excerpts from cultural mainstream’s ‘otherness’: unusual translations, ‘folk’ songs and poetry, snippets of knowledge. 0 to 9 carried these with the inclusion of words and songs from the Seneca, Eskimos, Murzu, Tillamook, Andamanese, Semang, or aboriginal “Australians.” Or even a fragment from Robert Greene’s 1592 The Defence of Conny-Catching. In conjunction with these odd combinations, literary antecedents were also sought, and one can find works from Gertrude Stein and Novalis, two stanzas by Hans Christian Andersen, poetry by Guillaume Apollinaire or an essay by Robert Walser on Kleist.
As the magazine matured and peers were found, 0 to 9 branched out to concurrent experiments in literature, poetry and art. A selective list of published contemporary poets and writers would include Acconci and Mayer, but also John Giorno, Clark Coolidge, Aram Saroyan, Jack Anderson, and John Perreault; from Oulipo, we have the words of Queneau and the elusive Harry Mathews; dancers, choreographers and musicians, Yvonne Rainer, Morton Feldman and Steve Paxton; of artists, a list would read like this: Sol LeWitt, Adrian Piper, Les Levine, Robert Smithson, Douglas Huebler, Michael Heizer, Dan Graham, Robert Barry and Lawrence Weiner, but also Jasper Johns, Arakawa, Hanna Weiner, Rosemary Mayer, and Judy Schiff. Artists’ work--essays, sketchbook notes, drawings--can be found throughout all the issues, interspersed with poetry and literary texts, but also in the supplement published with its sixth and last number, “Street works.”
Being such a hands-on, small operation, it is also remarkable how visually appealing 0 to 9 is. Color was seldom used, and mostly for the covers, but the format’s limitations, their desire to ‘work with the space of the page,’ and concrete poetry’s visual exuberance brought about an inventiveness that remains fresh to this day.
It has been intimated by some authors that nostalgia has fueled a lot of interest in magazines like 0 to 9; most likely there’s something true to this perspective, but no matter what desires or lacks are being fulfilled by the publication in our present, 0 to 9 remains a remarkable document for a proper understanding of a moment that not only gave us new ways to re-imagine what poetry, literature, and art could be, but enacted the important insight that language is yet another material from which one can weld reality, occupy its space.
Our reality, we are told, is heading towards a network of interconnected things and devices engaged in protocolarian conversation; language-based, even if a new one, or a digital poetics if you will, of which 0 to 9 is an important precursor. Conceptually.
Aware of this direction, we’d like to esoterically end our notes with sacred words from the Seneca included in the magazine, as they do point out where we now stand, thanks to intellectual adventures like 0 to 9:
- It’s off in the distance
- It came into the room
- It’s here in the circle
To peruse the indexed contents of 0 to 9, please log into the database.
Vito Acconci. “10: a late introduction to 0 to 9,” in 0 to 9: the complete magazine. Ed. by Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer. Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006, p. 8.
Bernadette Mayer. “Rock, paper, scissors,” in 0 to 9: the complete magazine. Ed. by Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer. Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006, p. 13.
For example: Gwen Allen, "Art on and off the page: 0 to 9, 1967-1969,"in Artists' magazines: an alternative space for art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011; Victor Brand. "0 to 9," in In numbers: serial publications by artists since 1955. Ed. by Philip E. Aarons and Andrew Roth; research and entries by Victor Brand. Zurich: JRP|Ringier; PPP Editions, 2009, pp. 33-37; Craig Dworkin. “Fugitive signs,” October (New York), no. 95 (Winter 2001): 90-113, and his introduction “Delay in verse” in Language to cover to page: the early writings of Vito Acconci. Ed. by Dworkin. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006: x-xviii; Marjorie Perloff, “Vito Acconci. Conceptual poetry, old and new,” Parkett (Zurich), no. 78 (2006):168-171. An online version of this article can be read here.
As noted in Dworkin’s introduction: “The entry from a dictionary of idées reçues would read: Before shifting his attention to performance and video, Vito Acconci began his career as a poet, working with the movement of language over the self-enclosed performance space of the printed page.” Ibid., xi. Dworkin’s edited volume of Acconci’s early writings is aimed at complicating this idea.
In 2006, while enumerating the elements included in 0 to 9's first issue, Acconci provides yet another reason, a pragmatic one, for the inclusion of such disparate materials: "Out-of-print writings, with no copyright, mostly from previous centuries. We might have wanted to be without family; but we were discovering distant relations, we were making up imaginary friends." Ibid. 1, p. 9.
”A song of my song, in three parts.” From Shaking the pumpkin, a sacred ritual of the Seneca Indians. English version by Jerome Rothenberg and Richard Johnny John, 0 to 9 (New York), no. 5 (January 1969), p. 6.