Skip to main content

     MANUSCRIPTS and ARCHIVAL MATERIAL

Petra Vogt and Ira Cohen papers

 Unprocessed — Multiple Containers
Identifier: ViU-2020-0084

Content Description

This collection contains journals, artworks, correspondence, and photographs that illuminate the life and work of Petra Vogt a poet, actress, artist, and model, known for her involvement with the Living Theatre, Ira Cohen, and Bardo Matrix Press during the 1960s and 1970s. Of particular interest are 34 journals by Petra Vogt, with poetry, prose works, diary entries, and intricate rapidograph drawings along with collage, paintings, and other artworks within; about 150 artworks by Vogt, as well as handmade books of Ira Cohen's photographs and collage, 850 photographs by Ira Cohen, including those from his Mylar photography series and 60 pieces of correspondence addressed to Vogt and Cohen. Materials arrived organized into the following four series and additional subseries: Series I. Correspondence; Series II. Petra Vogt files; Subseries II.1 Notebooks; Subseries II.2 Artworks and artist files; Subseries II.3 Collage files Series III. Ira Cohen and Bardo Matrix; Subseries III.1 Ira Cohen materials; Subseries III.2 Bardo Matrix publications; Subseries III.3 Flyers, ephemera, broadsides; Series IV Photographs. Biographical and historical information: Petra Vogt was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1943, during a particularly devastating year of World War Two airstrikes on the city. She took acting classes in Munich and then returned to Berlin, where she saw The Living Theatre for the first time and decided to join in 1962. She traveled and performed extensively with The Living Theatre, including in the performance Paradise Now, where she met Ira Cohen at its New Haven show (phone conversation between Ira Cohen and Carey Loren, transcribed on Blastitude, Eternity Blast Special, no. 13. Aug. 2002). In 1971, Vogt and Cohen finally landed in Kathmandu, after extensive traveling through Morocco, Tunisia, Afghanistan, and India. Living in Kathmandu from approx. 1972 to 1978, Vogt was artistic, photographic, and social muse to partner Cohen, as well as Nepali hippies including Jimmy Thapa and Trilochan Shrestha. There, she wrote numerous notebooks of poetry, diaries, and artworks, while illustrating Bardo Matrix Starstreams publications, as well as Cohen’s work, including Poems from the Cosmic Crypt. While Vogt is peripherally featured in the archives of Ira Cohen, Angus MacLise, Dana Young, and other Bardo Matrix collaborators; her contributions to this important facet of the countercultural poetics scene are significantly understudied. While Mark Liechty’s Far Out: Countercultural Seekers and the Tourist Encounter in Nepal (University of Chicago Press, 2017), acknowledges her centrality to the scene and describes her role in organizing events, performances, and generally contributing to the dramatically-dressed scene in Kathmandu, no further articles or monographs solidify the contributions of her writings, artworks, or aesthetic. During the 1970s, Vogt was known for her foreboding dark outfits and makeup; her aesthetic marks her as an unheralded progenitor of goth style, which began to be codified in music scenes around the same time. Photographs of her from her time in Nepal in the 1970s were featured in a recent Photo Kathmandu festival in 2018. She continues to write and make art under a different name in Germany. Ira Cohen (1935–2011) was a noted poet, publisher, filmmaker, and photographer, known especially for his Mylar photographs, which he created between 1968 and 1971 in New York City. These works were inspired by Jack Smith and Bill Devore’s black light experimentation, and required subjects to enter his “Mylar Chamber,” a makeshift room comprised of the reflective film, which Cohen would then photograph to produce distorted and psychedelic images of his subjects. This produced iconic images that Life magazine in 1969 said captured the “euphoric distortions of hallucinogenics” during the countercultural era, with participants such as Jimi Hendrix, William Burroughs, Jack Smith, Brion Gysin, Angus MacLise, Paul Bowles, and Petra Vogt, among many others. These photographs have been exhibited in the 2006 “Summer of Love” exhibition organized by the Tate Liverpool and featured at the Whitney Museum, and are the subject of a new book, Ira Cohen: Into the Mylar Chamber, published by Fulgar Press in 2019 with text by Ira Cohen, Timothy Baum, Ian MacFadyen, Alice Farley, Ira Landgarten, and Thurston Moore, edited by Allan Graubard. Kathmandu, Nepal, held a vibrant expatriate community of poets, musicians, artists, and spiritual seekers in the 1970s, in large part due to the Bardo Matrix collective—a group that began in Boulder, Colorado as The Experimental Cinema Group, and initially included Angus MacLise, John Chick, Dana Young, and Ira Cohen. Bardo Matrix Press, and especially the Starstreams Poetry Series, created collaborations with Beat and countercultural poets and local artisans to produce books informed by traditional Nepali and Tibetan traditions, sharing new poetic ideas. Before 1971, when Ira Cohen and Petra Vogt arrived, a small group of expatriates had already become involved making woodblock prints to sell to tourists. Cohen recounts the presence of Ian Alsop, Francis Brooks, and Simon White, who “were to play an important role in the development of small press publications by myself, my old friend and comrade, poet-calligrapher, Angus MacLise, and other poets who quickly formed a community in the Kathmandu Valley.” MacLise’s work with Piero Heliczer on Dead Language Press, “making unique books from tree bark or fashioning long horizontal handmade books after the Tibetan or Indian style,” proved influential: it was Angus who, “working with local craftsmen and woodblock artists, really began the great rice paper adventure.” (Ira Cohen, “The Great Rice Paper Adventure: Kathmandu, 1971–1977.” New Observations no. 106, May/June 1995. Online at Big Bridge, no. 5.) In Kathmandu, on so-called “Freak Street” or Jhocchen Tole, John Chick opened a bookshop named The Spirit Catcher. The shop was open approx. 1972–1979, and provided a weekly forum for poetry readings, music, and community. This shop cemented the centrality of Vogt, Cohen, Chick, and MacLise’s roles in the countercultural community abroad, and became both a tourist and local destination (Prawash Gautam, “How a used bookstore in Kathmandu’s Jhochhen captured the spirit of the hippie movement,” The Kathmandu Post, Dec. 18, 2018).

Acquisition Type

Purchase

Provenance

Puchased, 21 September 2020. The collection was stored in Nepal after Voght and Cohen left in the late 1970s and was brought to the United States with permission from the estate by Shiv Mirabito of Shivastan Press.

Restrictions Apply

No

Access Restrictions

This collection is unprocessed but is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Handle gently; many delicate materials and easily crumbled pigments.

Dates

  • 1966 - 1978

Creator

Extent

4.09 Cubic Feet (2 cubic boxes, 2 letter document boxes, and 2 oversized boxes)