Franklin Furnace and the Spirit of the Avant-Garde: A History of the Future

Franklin Furnace and the Spirit of the Avant-Garde: A History of the Future

by Toni Sant


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Franklin Furnace is a renowned New York–based artsorganization whose mission is to preserve, document, and present works of avant-garde art by emerging artists—particularly those whose works may be vulnerable due to institutional neglect or politically unpopular content. Over more than thirty years, Franklin Furnace has exhibited works by hundreds of avant-garde artists, some of whom—Laurie Anderson, Vito Acconci, Karen Finley, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Jenny Holzer, and the Blue Man Group, to name a few—are now established names in contemporary art.

Here, for the first time, is a comprehensive history of this remarkable organization from its conception to the present. Organized around the major art genres that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century, this book intersperses first-person narratives with readings by artists and scholars on issues critical to the organization's success as well as Franklin Furnace's many contributions to avant-garde art.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781841503714
Publisher: Intellect, Limited
Publication date: 02/15/2011
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Toni Sant is a lecturer in performance and creative technologies at the University of Hull's School of Arts and New Media.

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Franklin Furnace and the Spirit of the Avant-Garde

A History of the Future

By Toni Sant

Intellect Ltd

Copyright © 2011 Intellect Ltd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84150-371-4


Franklin Furnace: A Timeline

April 1976

The Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc., is founded to serve artists who choose publishing as a democratic artistic medium and who were not being supported by existing artistic organizations.

September 1976

Franklin Furnace receives initial funding of its programs from both the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

June 1979

Exhibition of In the Shadow of Duchamp: The Photomechanical Revolution and the Artist's Book at the Grolier Club, New York City. Works selected by Weston J. Naef and Martha Wilson.

September 1979–June 1980

Exhibition of The Page as Alternative Space (1909–1980) with curators Clive Phillpot, Charles Henri Ford, Jon Hendricks, Barbara Moore, and Ingrid Sischy. This exhibition inaugurates Franklin Furnace's commitment to presenting the historical antecedents of the contemporary artists' book-publishing movement.

February 1981

Eric Bogosian's Men Inside premieres at the Franklin Furnace performance space at 112 Franklin Street.

August 1983

Franklin Furnace wins an Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to promote institutional stability through development and publicity plans.

October 1983

Exhibition of Cubist Prints/Cubist Books begins national tour at Franklin Furnace, making stops at the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Center for the Fine Arts, Miami; and the Marian Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas. The tour ends at the Galerie Berggruen, Paris, France.

February 1984

Franklin Furnace is reprimanded by the NEA and dropped by several corporate sources for presenting Carnival Knowledge, an exhibition and performance extravaganza that questioned whether there can be such a thing as "feminist pornography." Annie Sprinkle makes her debut as an artist during the performance of Deep Inside Porn Stars.

May 1985

Franklin Furnace creates its Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art, which allows emerging artists to produce major work in New York. The panel selects three of the "NEA Four" artists before they were so identified (Karen Finley, Holly Hughes, John Fleck) along with many others who have gone on to make their mark: Papo Colo, Kaylynn Sullivan Two Trees, William Pope. L, Jennifer Miller, Andrea Fraser, Peggy Pettitt, Kim Irwin, Keith Antar Mason, Murray Hill, Pamela Sneed, Tanya Barfield, Deborah Edmeades, Patty Chang, Stanya Kahn, and others. The fund has been supported by the Jerome Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation.

September 1985

Franklin Furnace initiates its Sequential Art for Kids education program, which places professional artist bookmakers, performers, photographers, filmmakers, animators, and videographers in New York City public schools.

June 1986

With Lily Tomlin presiding, Franklin Furnace celebrates its tenth birthday with the Arties Awards to avant-garde achievers: Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Eric Bogosian, Richard Foreman, Tehching Hsieh and Linda Montano, Allan Kaprow, the Kipper Kids, Lydia Lunch, Lisa Lyon, the Mastfor II Co, Leo Lionni, F. T. Marinetti, Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman, Pat Oleszko, Yoko Ono, Robert Rauschenberg, Michael Smith, Redy Story, William Wegman and Man Ray, and Paul Zaloom.

February 1987

Andy Warhol dies after serving on Franklin Furnace's board of directors for 21 days.

October 1987

Celebration of Marcel Duchamp's 100th birthday with a performance art extravaganza, The Avant-Garde Breaks into Midtown, inaugurating the Equitable Center's new state-of-the-art auditorium on Manhattan's Seventh Avenue.

February 1988

Franklin Furnace and Thought Music produce Teenytown, a multimedia performance by Jessica Hagedorn, Laurie Carlos, and Robbie McCauley with film by John Woo and choreography by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, which examines how racism is embedded in popular culture and entertainment.

February 1989

Exhibition of The Avant-Garde Book: 1900–1945 opens, containing rare Eastern European examples of avant-garde works. John Wilson's troupe reenacts a Dada performance for a benefit evening.

April 1990

Governor Mario Cuomo of New York halves the budget of NYSCA. Franklin Furnace's NYSCA funding drops from $144,000 to $40,000 in one year.

May 1990

The New York City Fire Department closes Franklin Furnace's performance space in response to a call claiming Franklin Furnace was an "illegal social club."

June 1990

Franklin Furnace is demonized for presenting Karen Finley's installation, A Woman's Life Isn't Worth Much. During the Summer of 1990, inquiries and audits are conducted by the Internal Revenue Service, the New York State Comptroller, and, at the request of Republican U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, the U.S. government General Accounting Office.

July 1990

Franklin Furnace refuses to limit the expression of artists it presents and funds, holding Franklin Furnace Fights for First Amendment Rights at the Joseph Papp Public Theater. It features an all-star cast, including Eric Bogosian, Cee Scott Brown, Karen Finley, Allen Ginsburg, Leon Golub and Nancy Spero, the Guerrilla Girls, Frank Maya, Pauline Oliveros and Ione, Nicky Paraiso and Jessica Hagedorn, RENO, Annie Sprinkle, Lynne Tillman, Diane Torr, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.

September 1990–June 1991

First performance season of Franklin Furnace in Exile mounted at Judson Memorial Church in Washington Square Park.

October 1991

The board of directors makes the decision to transfer Franklin Furnace's collecting, cataloging, and conservation responsibilities to another public institution in order to "do the right thing" for the care of the field it helped to create.

January 1992

Franklin Furnace's Visual Artists' Organizations grant from the NEA is rescinded by the National Council on the Arts because of the sexually explicit content of a 1991 performance by Scarlet O. The Peter Norton Family Foundation replaces this $25,000 grant. Eric Bogosian's benefit concert for Franklin Furnace fills every seat in Cooper Union's Great Hall.

May 1992

Franklin Furnace purchases its historic Italianate loft in TriBeCa with the proceeds of a Fifteenth Anniversary Art Sale mounted at the Marian Goodman Gallery.

June 1992

Franklin Furnace presents Too Shocking to Show at the Brooklyn Museum with performances by Holly Hughes, Tim Miller, Sapphire, and Scarlet O, with introductory remarks by Robert T. Buck and Carole S. Vance.

October 1993

Fluxus: A Conceptual Country, organized by curator Estera Milman, begins an international tour at Franklin Furnace.

November 1993

The Museum of Modern Art acquires Franklin Furnace's collection of artists' books published internationally after 1960, the largest in the U.S., to form the Museum of Modern Art/Franklin Furnace Artist Book Collection.

September 1995

Challenge Grant awarded by the NEA. While planning to transform 112 Franklin Street into a downtown arts emporium, Martha Wilson realizes that Franklin Furnace will never be remembered for its renovated real estate, but for the importance of its programs, and that the capital campaign is raising money for the wrong reasons.

October 1996

In the Flow: Alternate Authoring Strategies, the final exhibition in the Franklin Street gallery, brings together a selection of work that treats content as flowing information rather than property.

February 1997

Franklin Furnace launches its website at as the board determines that access to freedom of expression and a broader audience for emerging artists through new media will be a prime program focus.

September 1997

Sale of the 112 Franklin Street loft; a cash-reserve account is established with the proceeds, matching the NEA Challenge Grant.

January 1998

Franklin Furnace's first netcasting season, featuring ten artists, is mounted in collaboration with and is documented with the eventual publication of Franklin Furnace's first CD-ROM in collaboration with the Parsons School of Design.

March 1998

Franklin Furnace moves to 45 John Street, in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan.

August 1998

Franklin Furnace is invited to join the Conceptual and Intermedia Arts Online (CIAO) consortium to help develop electronic and vocabulary standards for the cataloging and accessibility of contemporary avant-garde works. CIAO is a collaborative project designed to create networked access to educational and scholarly material on the broad theme of conceptual and intermedia art. Members include: The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at the University of California, Berkeley; the Getty Research Institute; The Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College; the National Gallery of Canada; Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts, University of Iowa; and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

September 1998–July 1999

Franklin Furnace's second netcasting season with, The Future of the Present, presents twenty-two artists.

January–December 2000

The Future of the Present 2000 is redesigned as a residency program in collaboration with the Parsons School of Design in order to give artists access to the full range of digital tools. Franklin Furnace's website receives 79,000 hits per month.

January–November 2001

Franklin Furnace's Twenty-fifth Anniversary Season is saluted by a MoMA library exhibition, the Whitney Museum of American Art's Artport site, a special issue of TDR: The Drama Review (Spring 2005), and Rhizome Remix at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Franklin Furnace makes its $25,000, twenty-fifth anniversary McMartha award to artist/architect Kyong Park for his Adamah project in Detroit, a vision of a new society built upon the xeric urban space left as the affluent population moved out of the city and into the suburbs.

July 2004

On 15 July 2004, Franklin Furnace applies for the first time to the National Endowment for the Humanities to publish the first ten years of its event records online in order to embed the value of ephemeral art practice in art and cultural history.

October 2004

Franklin Furnace moves from Manhattan's Financial District to 80 Arts – The James E. Davis Arts Building in the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Cultural District at 80 Hanson Place in Brooklyn. Collegial organizations in the building include Bomb magazine and the Bang on a Can music festival.

November 2004

Franklin Furnace celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art and announces its 2005 Fund for Performance Art Awards in Celebration of the Jerome Hill Centennial (founder of the Jerome Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota) at SculptureCenter, Long Island City. Performances by 2004–05 awardees Gary Corbin, Nicolas Dumit Estevez, Melissa Madden Grey, and Lance Horne are complemented by video of works by awardees Cave Dogs, Ex.Pgirl, Red Dive, and Alexander Komlosi. These artists were selected in June 2004 by a peer-panel review of 300 proposals received from around the world.

November 2004–January 2005

An exhibit of artists' books entitled The C-Series: Artists' Books & Collective Action, is mounted at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, New York. Curated by Courtney J. Martin, these works were selected from among the third, or "C" copies of artists' books returned to Franklin Furnace after its collection of artists' books published internationally after 1960, the largest in the United States, was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1993. A symposium, "Day Without Art," held on December 1, 2004, includes presentations by artists Jon Hendricks, Conrad Gleber, Edmonia Lewis, and Clarissa Sligh.

May 2005

Franklin Furnace holds an Alumni Art Sale at the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, raising over $60,000 for its programs by selling works of art by artists who started out at Franklin Furnace.

June 2005

The History of Disappearance, an exhibition drawn from the archives of Franklin Furnace, opens at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, U.K. This major exhibition includes a symposium on June 18 and concluded on September 3, 2005, with performances by Billy Curmano, Andrea Fraser, Tehching Hsieh, and William Pope.L.

May 2006

Franklin Furnace receives notification of a two-year grant of $124,030 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize and publish on the Internet records of performances, installations, exhibits, and other events produced by the organization during its first ten years. This project will create electronic access to what are now the only remaining artifacts of these singular works of social, political, and cultural expression.

July 2006

ARTstor and Franklin Furnace announce a collaboration agreement, ARTstor's first with an alternative organization. Digital images are fast replacing slides and slide projectors in the teaching of art and art history. To respond to these changes, Franklin Furnace agrees to work with ARTstor to digitize and distribute images and documentation of events presented and produced by Franklin Furnace, with the goal of embedding the value of ephemeral practice into art and cultural history.

July 2008

Franklin Furnace receives new and welcomed support from the Starry Night Fund of the Tides Foundation, matching increased and long-standing funding from the Jerome Foundation and enabling Franklin Furnace's peer-review panel to award $70,000 to 11 artists selected from among 465 proposals to the Franklin Furnace Fund.

March 2009

Martha Wilson: Staging the Self opens at Dalhousie Art Gallery, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. This exhibition of Martha Wilson's artwork from 1971 to the present is complemented by a selection made by Peter Dykhuis, director of the Dalhousie Art Gallery, and Wilson herself, of archival documentation of works by artists presented by Franklin Furnace during the last three decades, including Eric Bogosian, Jenny Holzer, Tehching Hsieh, Ana Mendieta, Shirin Neshat, and others.

Spring 2009

As the Sequential Arts for Kids program approaches its twenty-fifth year of activities in integrated arts education in New York City public schools, it is rebranded as SEQ ART.

August 2009

The online version of the Franklin Furnace Database is launched. This database, which contains information about every performance art work, temporary installation, exhibition, or benefit presented by Franklin Furnace also contains, thanks to major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Booth Ferris Foundation, and the Digitization Initiative of the New York State Council on the Arts, images of events presented during Franklin Furnace's first ten years, from 1976 to 1985.


A Long Conversation with Martha Wilson

Franklin Furnace celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2001. In preparation for the celebrations, Toni Sant had a series of conversations with Martha Wilson about how and why Franklin Furnace was created, its mission and programs, managing an alternative artists' space in New York, the institution's legal and political battles, and the move from 112 Franklin Street to the Internet. Recordings of the conversations were transcribed by Amante Sant. An edited version of these talks appeared in TDR: The Drama Review (Spring 2005). The version presented in this book is updated with material from a follow-up interview held in December 2009. This version of the interview is also interspersed with brief documents and first-person accounts by people closely associated with Franklin Furnace during significant points in its history.

SANT: Franklin Furnace gets its name, in part, from a place: 112 Franklin Street in New York City. From the very first day that you and I started planning the celebration of Franklin Furnace's first twenty-five years, we agreed to address not just the place but also the spatial dynamics that have determined the organization's modus operandi and aspects of the events presented by the Furnace. How did this decision to put so much emphasis on real estate come about


Excerpted from Franklin Furnace and the Spirit of the Avant-Garde by Toni Sant. Copyright © 2011 Intellect Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Intellect Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Part I
Chapter 1: Franklin Furnace: A Timeline
Chapter 2: A Long Conversation with Martha Wilson
    Art and the Loft Law in Downtown New York City Paul M. Gulielmetti
    Money and Art at Franklin Furnace in the Early Years Barbara Quinn
    Some of My Performances in Retrospect Annie Sprinkle
    When Franklin Furnace Went Virtual Robert Galinsky
    Exemplary Quality Irreverence Adrianne Wortzel
    You Can't Say Avant-Garde David S. Perlmutter
Part II
Chapter 3: Broadcasting Artists’ Ideas
Chapter 4: Virtually Live
Chapter 5: Preserving the Avant-Garde

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