Founded and edited by David Mayor, Felipe Ehrenberg and Martha Hellion, and serving as the in-house magazine of the prolific Beau Geste Press, Schmuck aimed to foster international relationships between artists, and to "circumvent the conventional strictures of good taste that had been imposed upon artistic production."
Ehrenberg described his motivations in a letter to artist Paul Brown, then editor of the magazine Transgravity:
"The main reason we (anybody) set up our press was to cut out all the grievous bullshit about submitting work "for consideration"...the act of submitting work of any sort for the approval of any editor carries implicitly a series of concessionary attitudes, detrimental to the work".
With this democratization in mind, Mayor would issue a call for for submissions, which would be collected in preparation for mimeographing, printing, and rubber stamping. After a couple of months the collating would take place, often aided by their friends, visitors and even children.
The name Schmuck is the Yiddish word for penis, or North American slang for a foolish or contemptible person.
Eight issues were produced over a five-year span, including six which were dedicated to a particular country (Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland and Japan). The issues were always at least co-edited by an artist or artists from the country highlighted. Plans for a Latin American and Los Angeles issue were never realized.
Several artists affiliated with Fluxus contributed works, including Robert Filliou, Dick Higgins, Milan Knizak, Takehisa Kosugi, Takako Saito, Mieko Shiomi, Ben Vautier and Wolf Vostell. Other contributors include Carolee Schneeman, Tibor Gayor, Endre Tót, Jiri Valoch, Henri. Chopin, Marcel Broodthaers, Christian Boltanski, Wolfgang Feelisch, etc.
The labour-of-love periodical featured hand-pasted covers, object-inserts and printed multiples. Originally distributed through the mail, copies now sell for a few hundred dollars, with complete sets asking as much as ten thousand.
An exhibition of Beau Geste Press publications opened in February at the CAPC in Bordeaux, France. It continues until the end of this month. The eight issues of Schmuck will be featured here between now and then, along with some other publications from Beau Geste.