Tellus – New York City’s Art Scene on Tape (1983-93)

With the Walkman and boomboxes, sound becomes portable in the early eighties. “I could give New York City a certain soundtrack depending on my emotional needs,“ recalls visual artist Joseph Nechvatal. “The idea of launching the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine was that we lived in a new sort of sonic vibratory environment and it was interesting to address that as a possibility for contemporary art.” The kick-off party for the subscription-only series took place in December 1983 at the Paradise Garage, a discotheque popular with the LGBT scene and nightclubbers.

Initially started by Nechvatal, curator Claudia Gould and composer Carol Parkinson, each issue would be curated by different artists. Parkinson was also the director of Harvestworks, a not-for-profit organization focussed on giving the visual art community access to making audio art; their studios turned out as the technical backbone when producing the Tellus releases. On 27 releases, the cassette magazine features a wide range of New York City’s Downtown art scene – its noise, radio art and DIY experiments, no wave dance music, and happenings. 41-minute mix with Gretchen Bender, Jonathan Borofsky, Live Skull, Marjorie Van Halteren, and others.

Listen as well to Paul Paulun’s 48min interview with Joseph Nechvatal from 2021 at the bottom of this post. Nechvatal talks about the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine as part of the legacy of Marcel Duchamp and conceptual art, the Downtown bar scene, fluxus, and his art that’s inspired by the nature of viruses.

Featured cover art by Jane Bauman: Tellus #10 – All Guitars!

George Brecht & George Maciunas with James Tenney – Entrance 

Tellus #24: Flux Tellus, 1990

Rais Mahamad Ben Mohammed and Ensemble – Aouda Trio

Tellus #23: The Voices of Paul Bowles, 1989

Jonathan Borofsky – The Standard Chant Pt. 2

Tellus #21: Audio By Visual Artists, 1988

Jamie Daglish and George Elliot – In the 80s

Tellus #2, 1984

Gretchen Bender – Artificial Treatment

Tellus #21: Audio By Visual Artists, 1988

Glenn Branca – Acoustic Phenomena

Tellus #10: All Guitars!, 1985

Live Skull – Corpse

Tellus #1, 1983

Marjorie Van Halteren – Dead of Summer

Tellus #11: The Sound of Radio, 1985

David Blair – Wax (or The Discovery of Television Among Bees)

Tellus #17: Video Arts Music, 1987

Carol Parkinson – Ramp

Tellus #2, 1984

Joseph Nechvatal – How to Kill

Tellus #13: Power Electronics, 1986

Wolfgang Staehle and Steve Pollack – Voice of the President

Tellus #3, 1984

John Fekner – 2-4-5-7-9-11

Tellus #2, 1984

Peter Chamberlain – Five Minutes Up

Tellus #17: Video Arts Music, 1987

Blackhouse – One Nation under God

Tellus #13: Power Electronics, 1986

Liquid Liquid – Grove To Go

Tellus #12: Dance, 1986

On the occasion of Joseph Nechvatal’s cassette release Selected Sound Works (1981-2021), Paul Paulun spoke with the noise musician and visual artist. Nechvatal talks about the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine as part of the legacy of Marcel Duchamp and conceptual art, the Downtown bar scene, fluxus, and his art that’s inspired by the nature of viruses. 

Jospeh Nechvatal, from Tom Warren’s series Photo Portfolio COLAB Artists Portraits, taken at ABC No Rio 1981-84

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