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Variable Piece 4 : Secrets
A facsimile edition of Douglas Huebler’s classic artist book, co-published with Primary Information.
The publication collects 1,800 secrets submitted anonymously by visitors to Huebler’s Variable Piece 4 at the Jewish Museum’s 1970 Software exhibition. In the piece, the artist asked audience members for “an authentic secret never before revealed” – each entry was then photocopied and given to another participant as part of an ongoing exchange. Several years later, the artist compiled the secrets into a book that was published by Printed Matter in 1978.
As with his other Variable Pieces, Variable Piece 4 showcases the artist’s open-ended approach to art making, which sought to undermine object-oriented practices in favor of a text-driven conceptualism that relied on ‘variables’ outside of the artist’s control, particularly those relating to an outside public. The result is a fleeting glimpse into the cultural, political, and social preoccupations and anxieties of the era.
Pioneers of the artists’ books medium, of which Huebler was one, predicted that one day artists’ books would be sold next to detective and romance novels in drugstores and supermarkets throughout America. While this dream was never realized, Variable Piece 4: Secrets could easily find its place amongst these popular genres; a true page-turner that delivers the whodunit in succinct statements, ripped from real life, without the hassle of narrative arcs, prefaces, or chapters.