VH 101

Title VH 101
Location Paris
Publisher Editions Esselier
Periodicity Quarterly
ISSN 0257-6481
URL VH 101 Worldcat
Published Since 1970-1972
Indexed Holdings 1970-1972


The Library of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University Libraries, New York; Frances Loeb Library, Harvard College Library, Cambridge, MA

Periodical's Overview

    "VH 101: Revue trimestrielle.

  • Direction: Otto Hahn et Françoise Esselier.
  • Secrétaire de rédaction: Brigitte Devismes.
  • Editions Essellierv
  • 40, Ottenbergstrasse, 8049
  • Zurich.
  • Prix du numéro: 14 F / 11,50 FS / 135 FB
  • Prix de l'abonnement annuel (4 números): 48 F / 40 FS / 470 FB.
  • Pour toute correspondance rédactionnelle et pour les abonnements,s'adresser à F. Essellier, 101, rue de Vaugirard,Paris (6e). Tél.: 222-30-76."

Selected Subject Headings

  • Avant-garde (aesthetics) - Soviet Union
  • Avant-garde (music) - France
  • Communism and culture - Soviet Union
  • Communism and architecture - Ukraine
  • Conceptual art - works
  • Experimental fiction
  • Fiction, Theory of
  • Gnosticism - influence
  • Groupe Dziga Vertov
  • Information theory in aesthetics
  • Intellectuals - interviews
  • Maoism - France
  • Musicians as authors
  • Semiotics and art
  • Soviet Union - cultural policy
  • Structural linguistics
  • Supports-Surfaces (group)
  • Tel quel (periodical)
  • Theory (philosophy)
  • Visionary architecture - France


The first issue of VH 101: revue trimestrielle appeared in Paris in the spring of 1970. Edited from Paris by Otto Hahn and Françoise Esselier, and published from Zurich by Editions Esselier, this very interesting cultural magazine appeared without an editorial statement.[1] The first VH 101 article one encounters though is “Littérature et mystification,” and it’s signed by Hahn.

Otto Hahn was a French art critic and writer of Hungarian descent, and had previously been involved with Sartre’s literary journal, Les temps modernes; as the journal’s art critic, Hahn featured the French artists grouped under the banner of Nouveau réalisme but also, American Pop art.[2] His ongoing interest in American art prompted some accusations of Hahn being an “agent de l'impérialisme culturel américain,” which gives an indication of the polarized late 1960s and early 1970s French cultural scenes, a milieu still recovering from the aftermath of the May 1968's social revolt and the ongoing engagement of French’s intelligentsia with Maoism and other anti-imperialist struggles.

It is in this lively intellectual landscape that VH 101 appeared as a non-specialized magazine covering all aspects of culture; with a compelling typographical layout and an eye-catching graphic cover with shifting acid colors, VH 101’s run was not a long one: only eight issues were published between 1970 to 1972, one of them a double one; although the first and last VH 101 did not have a monographic theme, the rest did.

These monographic issues were:

  • Issue 2: La théorie
  • Issue 3: Art conceptuel
  • Issue 4 Musique contemporaine
  • Issue 5: Supports/Surfaces
  • Issue 6: Cinéma d’avant-garde
  • Issue 7-8: L’architetecture et l’avant-garde artistique en URSS de 1917 à 1934

With hindsight, one of the most remarkable features of VH 101 is to give us a glimpse to a rare moment of effervescent cultural cross-fertilization taking place in France.

This cross-fertilization is made evident in VH 101’s issue dedicated to “La théorie;” in its pages, one encounters interviews with figures like Roland Barthes, Claude Levi-Strauss, Jean-François Lyotard, J.-B. Pontalis or André Martinet, among other representatives of the French structuralist and theoretical heyday; but what is significant is that artists, architects and writers were too included: Yona Friedman, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Phillippe Sollers or Victor Vasarely are also interviewed in the issue; their inclusion suggests an editorial understanding of the role of art, architecture, and literature as practices able to be theoretical purveyors. Importantly, this understanding translates into the kind of artistic practices featured in VH 101

From France, the highly theoretical Supports/Surface group was given a whole dossier, ample attention was dedicated to GREM, Groupe d’étude et de realization musicales, an experimental music outfit, and Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin’s Groupe Dziga Vertov is featured in their issue dedicated to avant-garde cinema.

From the United States, the focus was on conceptual art and its related critical apparatus; in fact, VH 101 reads as an important vehicle for the dissemination of conceptual practices in France; Catherine Millet’s seminal essay on conceptual art, “L’art conceptuel comme semiotique de l’art,” was first published in VH 101 pages, and the roster of featured artists throughout the magazine's history reads now as a canonical list: Mel Bochner, David Lamelas, Lawrence Weiner, Sol Lewitt, Robert Barry, Victor Burgin, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth and so on; these artists’ interventions took different forms, aligned with what have become conceptual art tropes: from artists’ pages to artists’ statements to theoretical texts.

If there’s another feature that we’d like to highlight about this periodical is its function as a bridge between the U.S. and French intellectual and artistic scenes, as not only American conceptual artists were given space in its pages; for example, Carl Andre, Michael Heizer, and Jasper Johns were also featured, and Andy Warhol’s a: a novel is excerpted; in addition, in the special issue dedicated to contemporary music, VH 101’s other editor, Françoise Esselier, conducts a rare interview with Morton Feldman; Phillip Glass and Steve Reich are too interviewed, and contribute their writings to the magazine, as do John Cage and LaMonte Young, who brought to this preeminently Francophone and Anglo-Saxon cultural context, "le chant de Pran Nath."

Despite the magazine’s emphasis on American practices and influences, France’s intellectual and artistic milieu is too well represented, also with an emphasis on conceptual practices: writings by art critics such as Michel Claura, or Yve-Alain Bois, the latter on Duchamp; contributions by artists Daniel Buren, Jacques de la Villeglé, Alan Kirili, Bernar Venet, or the group Support/Surfaces; and in terms of music, the special feature dedicated to GREM and its composers.

And lastly, VH 101 was not only engaged with its contemporary moment; their scholarly issue on the Soviet Union’s avant-garde contributions to art and architecture from 1917 to 1934 is an essential addition to the then-ongoing international reassessment of the early Soviets legacy;[3]in this issue, essays by architecture historians Manfredo Tafuri and Francesco dal Co are interspersed with early 1920s Soviet primary documents’ translations, contributing to the recovering of an early-20th century utopian moment which had been buried under the Stalinist excesses.

Theory, art, music, theater, film, performance, literature, and architecture, VH 101’s riches are many.

According to Anne Rorimer, “no one label can satisfactorily classify the rhizoidal activity of a period involved in the aesthetic reevaluation, not only of painting and sculpture, but also of theater, poetry, dance, music, performance, and film. From the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s, these once self-contained disciplines, each with its own methodology and history, were first opened to cross-fertilization.”[4]

To read now VH 101’s pages might be the closest one can get to a sense of how that “rhizoidal activity” might have felt, then, in Paris, but also in New York and the United States of America.

To peruse the indexed contents of VH 101, please log into the database.


[1]Surprisingly, there’s a dearth of secondary literature on VH 101. The magazine is briefly reviewed in Gwen Allen’s Artists’ magazines: an alternative space for art. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2011, p. 308, and Clip stamp fold: the radical architecture of little magazines, 196X to 197X. Ed. by Beatriz Colomina and Craig Buckley. Barcelona: ACTAR, 2010, p. 129. ccindex has also located a French thesis featuring VH 101, Les Revues d’art contemporain en France de 1967 à 1979 by Sylvie Mokhtari, but we have been unable to access it.

[2]For this brief account of Hahn’s biography and work, we have relied on Archives de la critique d’art’s feature on him. Hahn's Wikipedia entry expands on his family's Jewish ancestry and their predicament in a Germany occupied France.

[3]VH 101's issue on Soviet aesthetic avant-garde is aligned with other concurrent efforts at recovering this earlier 20th century revolutionary moment. Other 1960s and 1970s journals indexed in ccindex dedicated to this effort would include Form (Cambridge, U.K.), Oppositions (Cambridge, Mass.), and Architecturas bis (Barcelona). To attest to the importance of this VH 101's special issue, we quote Yve-Alain Bois in a conversation about little magazines with Hal Foster and Rosalind E. Krauss: "I see VH 101 here, and I remember this was the issue on the Russian avant-garde, which was basically organized by Tafuri. It was an extraordinary source of documents." Clip stamp fold, ibid., p. 43.

[4]Anne Rorimer. New art in the 60s and 70s: redefining reality. London: Thames & Hudson, 2001, p. 11. Rorimer’s rigorous history of conceptual art is purposely focused on American and European practices. For a more international view of this artistic development, please read our Art margins's infoweb record and its related references.