Andrew Molitor may be my favorite photo theory blogger. If you’re not a regular reader of Photothunk, do yourself a favor and get started now. Most anything Molitor writes is likely to be largely superior—theoretically—than anything you’re likely to read here. Vigilante is his most recent zine, and I like to think I may have had something, in some small way, to do with it…

Vigilante: Not Everything Needs to be in a Gallery chronicles Molitor’s short-lived entry into the graffiti/street art/public art sphere, during which he made little 8 1/2″ x 11″ signs of the type commonly used to locate a lost pet, or sell a car, or whatever, with a photo at the top, some text, and a row of tear-off tabs at the bottom. He put them up exclusively in his neighborhood, documented the slow disappearance of the tabs and overall decay of the signs, wrote a bit of text (and commissioned some from Jonathan Blaustein), and made the zine.

It’s ingenious and, actually, regularly hilarious. Several of the signs had me laughing out loud every time I flipped through it, and, like his Clematis zine, it has an internal consistency and level of simplicity that works all the way around. There’s even a 1/2 size “sign” for “Book” on the last page. It’s really brilliant.

Molitor mentions the intellectual ground for the project: “For reasons that I no longer recall, except that there were reasons…. The phrase ‘Dada humor’ figured large in my imagination, despite the fact that I am honestly pretty vague about the details of Dada.”* Well, I (used to) know something about Dada and Fluxus, and Vigilante seems definitely in the same spirit as, or to come from a similar place, as, for example, Alison Knowles’ Identical Lunch (which I saw performed live during a panel discussion on Fluxus and Duchamp at the 2002 CAA conference) or some of Yoko Ono’s scores. Basically, Step 1: take some bit of very normal everyday activity or detritus; then, Step 2: do it with purpose, document it, and call it Art, more or less. There’s a very serious and intellectually grounded humor and silliness to Fluxus art that Molitor’s project has in spades.

Good stuff.

Molitor ran a GoFundMe to produce the zine, and wrote about the whole process on his blog. If you read closely, it seems he ended up with 60 extra books (60 copies that weren’t pre-ordered). He doesn’t list them for sale on his Sale page (at time of writing), but I bet he’d be happy to shift a few.

Now. At the top, I mentioned perhaps playing a small role in the production, and one beyond my contribution to the GoFundMe. If you recall, I presented most of a roll of long-expired Lomo 800 (Ferrania Solaris FG800) film that I shot on Eid al Adha in a downloadable zine. Some weeks later, Molitor surprised me with a very thoughtful review, and used my zine as a springboard to talk about small-a art and Big-A Art, largely advocating for the small-a variety. (The Vigilante signs were super-small-a Art.) At the end of that review, Molitor writes “If you want people to see your photos, staple them to lampposts.”

If you check the dates, he was really doing some foreshadowing, giving readers a hint. He hung and photographed the signs from June to September, 2021; his review of my zine appeared on September 2; there’s no way my arguably crappy zine had any real influence on his absolutely excellent project… A man can dream, sure, but should he?

Anyway. Hopefully Molitor puts his 60 copies up for sale somewhere—I could check his Twitter for clues, but I already have a copy, so I’ll leave that to you—and sets up an open edition through Blurb or some place. It’s a great zine and should probably have a few more eyes, as should his blog. If you’ve read all the way to the end here, do yourself a favor and flip over to Molitor’s blog (or maybe do me a favor and buy me a coffee at the link way way way down below here first). He’s engaged with some deep and rather refreshingly rational photo theory over there, and I’m a fan.

*Molitor, Andrew. Vigilante: Not Everything Needs to be in a Gallery. self published, 2021. unpaginated.

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  1. This is very wonderful to read, thank you so much!

    I have been philosophically aligned, in some vague sense, with the idea of small art
    for quite a while. Make art for yourself, for your neighbors, for 3 friends, whatever.

    That said, your zine absolutely crystallized some things for me. I had just started talking
    to Jonathan about writing something for me when I read and wrote about your zine, so
    I remember I was *very* *much* in the middle of trying to make sense out of these photos
    I had made of these signs. Up until right around there I had been completely just following
    my nose and wondering if anything was going to happen. Right around this time I was
    pretty sure there was a pony in here *somewhere* but I couldn’t quite…. and then your
    zine was the clue, the trigger, that got me to the pony.

    I actually wrote a fairly high-falutin’ essay, which was very very clever indeed, a few
    days after I wrote about your zine. Most of that essay (mercifully) was tossed. It
    is, however, recognizably derived precisely from the ideas your zine prodded out of
    my little brain. In the end (with, let us be honest, some help from Jonathan, who
    is not merely a good writer, but a good editor, and a really excellent advisor) I saw
    that all those fancy words were actually obvious in the structure of the book anyways.
    Jonathan hit some of the points, in a much less florid fashion, in his essay, and
    here we are.

    It is really really nice when someone *gets* a thing you’ve done, especially when it’s
    kind of a weird-o thing like this.