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David Antin papers, 1954-2006

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Antin (David) Papers

Scope and Content of Collection

The David Antin papers include diaries, extensive correspondence, published and unpublished manuscripts, working notes, and over 300 audiotapes and videos of lectures and performances. Privileging spontaneity and informality, Antin's work had a strong influence on performance-based artists in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, the archive documents Antin's "talk pieces" which were his unique means of fusing spoken poetry with academic lectures.

The diaries and notebooks of Series I disclose Antin's recorded daily thoughts over the past 48 years, including notes on what he is reading, drafts of writings, notes from meetings and phone conversations, as well as mundane material (addresses, driving directions, etc.). The notebooks progress semi-chronologically, although in no easy order, since Antin would purposefully abandon a half-finished notebook and return to it years later in order to make sure he was following up on earlier lines of thought. The notebooks also contain extensive sections chronicling Antin's and his wife, Eleanor Antin's, dreams intermittently, though persistently throughout their lives.

Antin has a well-deserved reputation as an epistolary master, and the correspondence in Series II is dense and rich. Found within this archive are many long and theoretical exchanges of letters that go on for years. Simple invitations to give a lecture would receive several page answers from Antin, and would receive similar responses in return. Antin would send out passionate and unsolicited critical responses to recent work by artists and poets, thus initiating long series of letters, many of which would culminate in heated, if not downright nasty, exchanges. Through the correspondence, one finds Antin giving extraordinary and honest readings of the motivations behind his own work, while eliciting the same from his correspondents, all of which results in a snapshot of Antin's artistic circle throughout his career.

The audio recordings of Antin's talk pieces in Series III document the true core of his career since 1970. Since every talk piece is "site specific" in that it is an act of extemporaneous speaking in response to a particular environment, the talk pieces provide a picture of Antin's thinking in a form that exists somewhere between notes and finished writing, an area of thought that has rarely been documented by other figures. Given that only a fraction of Antin's talk pieces have ever been published, these recordings, along with their written transcripts, are a particularly valuable portion of the archive. The series also includes documentation of visual works such as "Skypoem," as well as manuscripts of writings on art, literature, and an otherwise unpredictable range of topics.

Series IV and V contain materials related to the creation and reception of Antin's work. Research materials, such as notes, clippings, and photocopies, form Series IV. Also included here are examples of work sent to Antin by his colleagues - writers, artists and critics. Series V comprises reviews and analyses of Antin's work.

The final section of the archive, Series VI, draws together miscellaneous papers from David Antin's professional life, including materials relating to his position at UCSD, financial records, conference materials, computer files, and printed ephemera for a variety of exhibitions and readings.


Arranged in six series:
Series I. Notebooks and diaries, 1959-2006, undated;
Series II. Correspondence, 1959-2004, undated;
Series III. Talk pieces and written works, 1963-2006, undated;
Series IV. Research materials, 1961-2004, undated;
Series V. Works about Antin, 1966-2003, undated;
Series VI. Miscellaneous professional papers, 1954-2002, undated.

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