Perfect Ten

An art mag has big ideas but a tiny circulation

Ten issues. Ten copies per issue. One hundred percent cool. This is the formula for creating what is called artificial demand. According to this theory, you'll be scrambling for artist W.T. Burge's art magazine, 10 Copy. The magazine, like some episodes of Sesame Street, is brought to you by the number ten. In addition to the ten-month run of ten copies a pop, each issue is ten pages long and is released on the tenth of the month. Why? "It's a good round number," explains Burge.

An exhibit fabricator at the Children's Museum of Houston, the self-taught artist makes his living creating enormous interactive displays for kids. Outside of work, he can be seen driving about in an old Pontiac muscle car with a full-body, spray-painted American flag design. Then there's his snowplow, Unexplained Bacon. Some of his robotic designs have fought on Comedy Central's BattleBots.

Despite the limited run of his latest project, this is no Mickey Mouse operation. Printed on thick, glossy paper stock, each copy costs about $40 to produce. For the first issue, "September 10," page one is a soft-spoken homage to 9/11. A full-size photo of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, manipulated to create a zoom effect, is fronted by the large red statement "I can't remember what I did September 10th." In the left margin, a short poem reads, "Tomorrow someone will die. Their family will go to their funeral and talk about how much they miss them and how much they love them." The second page describes the premise behind Burge's publication.

Burge explains the minimal quality of 10 Copy this way: "I tend to do things that are inconvenient." The magazine is an "experiment in material interpersonal relationship -- in other words, sharing." Hence the method of circulation. He personally hands out each issue of 10 Copy for people to read, copy anything that interests them, sign the back and pass it on. As with a message in a bottle, a note passed during study hall or an e-mail forward, the possibilities are limitless. 10 Copy becomes another source of support for the theory of six degrees of separation.

The issue also contains contributions from and about Houston's underground art world. A letter from Orange Show enthusiast Natali Leduc addresses the Queen of England, encouraging her to enter her golden carriage in an art parade; an interview with Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre founder Joel Orr answers the question he's incessantly asked, "Where did you get the name?"; the final two pages begin the first installment of "The Art Car Chronicles," an account of the misadventures of artists and axles.

The publication is open to anyone interested in contributing to Houston's artistic voice. Don't worry over your credentials as an art writer. Prestige and acclaim are neither what 10 Copy is about nor what will keep it in circulation. "We're having fun with it," Burge says. "I don't see any problems with us keeping it going." And it's looking like the first issue could be a sellout.

Story ideas should be sent to W. T. Burge at tencopy@hotmail.com.

 
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