PROJECT SIGMA. A broken run of 20 issues of the Sigma Portfolio (London: c. 1963- 1966). Formats vary.
Project Sigma, which grew out of Alexander Trocchi's involvement with the Situationist International (he was expelled by Guy Debord in 1963), was an ambitious attempt to establish an international network of countercultural activism focused on institutions Trocchi perceived as limiting free expression, including the media, universities and workplaces. The Sigma Portfolio, circulated on a subscription basis, was the concrete manifestation of his project, an invitation to recipients (artists, writers and intellectuals) to participate with their own contributions, as well as acting as an exemplar of underground self-dissemination.
Several issues were mimeographed by Jeff Nuttall, sometimes assisted by Bob Cobbing, and Trocchi's neighbour in the flat below him in Notting Hill, Marcus Field, helped in its organisation and collation (insofar as this was necessary, since some issues consisted of a single sheet).
It has never been clear exactly how many issues were produced, though it's been claimed there were as many as 39 (other reports suggest 37). It seems likely that several were never printed, possibly as many as 12 or 13, and thus the run offered here, though incomplete, constitutes a substantial body of the Portfolio.
#1 - The Moving Times. Broadsheet poster of The Moving Times, edited by Trocchi and featuring texts by William Burroughs, Kenneth White, Trocchi and Artaud. No date (c. late 1964). 75.5x49.8cm. Designed to resemble a newspaper and intended by Trocchi "as an advertisement for project sigma" and "to have it posted in all the subways of the world" (London Transport refused to accept it), as well as in coffee houses, bookshops and art galleries, "wherever it can conveniently be exposed". Its title originated from the magazine edited by Burroughs which appeared in Jeff Nuttall's My Own Mag #6 earlier in 1964, and Nuttall is listed here as an associate editor. It was mailed to subscribers and also offered for sale separately for a shilling. Fine (folded in three, as issued).
Together with: the second issue, printed in two halves on both sides of a single sheet. 33.7x43.5cm. Near Fine.
#2 - "The Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds" by Alexander Trocchi. 4 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. The most comprehensive articulation of the Sigma experiment. In it, Trocchi argues "that a cultural revolution is already happening, that techniques can and are being invented for transcending conventional functions which are not appropriate to any imaginable future. Amongst other ideas is that of the 'spontaneous university', a fertile and experimental ambiance designed to equip men and women with those inner resources without which they will be unable to contend with LEISURE… a dominant fact of the future." Originally published in New Saltire magazine in June 1962, and subsequently printed in Internationale Situationniste (in January 1963, as "Technique du Coup du Monde"), and elsewhere. Very Good.
#3 - "SIGMA: A Tactical Blueprint" by Alexander Trocchi. A development of the thesis outlined in the previous issue, including an explanation of the reasons behind the choice of the word 'sigma'. 3 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. Very Good plus.
#4 - Potlatch (growing interpersonal log). An attempt to set up a non-elitist
inter-personal log that would collect "an international underground body of opinion beyond conventional limits". The name 'Potlatch' had been used by the Lettristes in Paris, a concept they borrowed from anthropology that Trocchi found "interesting and very relevant to the present experiment." 4 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. Near Fine.
#5 - Sigma General Information Service Existential Consultants London Paris New York (stated 'second impression sept. 1964'). A text written by Trocchi in August 1964 dealing "with the development of Sigma up to that date", and a further articulation of the theory behind the project. 4 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. Near Fine.
#6 - "Practice and Theory - The Present Situation" by RD Laing. An important essay on psychotherapy, delivered at the Sixth International Congress for Psychotherapy in London, August 1964, in which Laing argues that psychotherapy must involve the "pairing down of all that stands between individuals, patient and therapist, all the props, the masks, the roles, the lies, the defences." 3 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. Near Fine.
#10 - Letter from Stan Brakhage to Robert Kelly. Introduction states: "We consider the letter (e.g. the Lettristes of Paris of the early fifties) a very contemporary medium." 2 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. Near Fine.
#11 - Joan Littlewood Presents. A broadsheet produced by Joan Littlewood in collaboration with the architect Cedric Price (ie. The Fun Palace Project, though it is not named as such on the broadsheet). Printed offset litho. 36x59.4cm. (unfolded). Near Fine. Together with: single mimeographed sheet listing the Sigma Portfolio's contents to date and a brief note to subscribers (though not itself a numbered part of the portfolio). Near Fine.
#13 - THE MOVING TIMES… special supplement. A critical report by Marcus Field on John Calder's inaugural Writers Night, held at Better Books in November 1964. Single foolscap sheet, mimeographed, printed recto only. Very Good plus.
#14 - Sigma Portfolio contents list (cumulative). Includes a brief note to subscribers. This copy, listing the first 24 issues of the Sigma Portfolio, has the details of the last six issues completed in ink holograph by Trocchi, who has added his address along the upper edge and his Sigma stamp to the lower edge. Single foolscap sheet, mimeographed, printed recto only. Slightly soiled along upper edge, with some signs of wear, o/w Very Good. Together with: a later version, listing the titles of the first 30 issues, though nos. 29 and 30 have been left blank. Quotes from RD Laing, Colin Wilson, John Arden and Norman Mailer printed to verso (the latter probably a spoof). Single foolscap sheet, mimeographed, printed on both sides. Very Good plus.
#15 - Letter to potential sigma subscribers. Single foolscap sheet, mimeographed, printed recto only. Very Good plus.
#16 - Letter to Universities. Single quarto-size sheet, mimeographed, printed recto only. Very Good plus.
#21 - Revolt. An essay by Michael McClure, reprinted from "Meat Science Essays".
4 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. Near Fine.
#22 - project "Projects": The Holding Company. Concerns the various activities of Project Sigma other than the portfolio itself. Single foolscap sheet, mimeographed, printed on both sides. Very Good plus.
#23 - Jargon Paper No. 1 by Kenneth White. A reprint of a paper read by the author in December 1964 to the Jargon Group in Glasgow. Two foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. Near Fine.
#25 - Project Sigma: Potlatch continued by Neil Hellawell. Prints chapter three from "The Breakfast People", an unpublished novel. 3 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. Very Good plus.
#26 - "An American Sense", a previously unpublished essay by Robert Creeley. 3 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed on both sides, stapled at top corner. Near Fine.
#28 - "Experiential Workshops" by the Castalia Foundation (Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner). A handout printing details of the workshops run at Millbrook designed to simulate the LSD experience by means of Hindu and Buddhist yogic traditions, Gestalt therapy, Gurdjieff's self-awareness training, and Psychedelic Theatre techniques. Trocchi, who first took LSD in America sometime in the late 1950s, was in contact with Leary's Castalia Foundation. Single sheet, folded to make 4pp. Printed offset litho, with cover design by Allen Atwell. Very Good plus.
#30 - Project: Projects (contd.)… International Collection. Lists an inventory of publications, paintings and other items by John Latham, Jeff Nuttall, Joan Littlewood, Constant, Brian Barritt, Trocchi and others, envisaged by Trocchi (presumably while in a state of narcotic reverie) as evolving "into the most important collection of cultural artifacts of all times". 2 foolscap sheets, mimeographed, printed rectos only. Very Good.
#32 - "The Invisible Generation" by William Burroughs (December 1966). Broadside sheet featuring the text of "The Invisible Generation" and a photograph by Antony Balch of Burroughs on the telephone. An offset reprint from International Times #3, produced and distributed by International Times after Trocchi's request for a contribution from Burroughs to his Sigma Portfolio was not forthcoming. No Sigma issue number stated, but probably #32 (Miles has stated that only about 100 copies were distributed by Sigma). Single sheet, printed offset litho recto only. 42.8x29cm. Old central horizontal fold. Very Good plus.